Bertolt brecht centenary essays
This was the first of Brecht's plays to be performed, and his theatrical theories had, apparently, already begun to take shape, for he filled the auditorium with banners instructing the audience not to become too emotionally involved in the proceedings.
Drums in the Night , which premiered at the Munich Kammerspiele in , drew rave reviews from Herbert Ihering, and even earned Brecht the Kleist Prize, Germany's highest award for dramatic writing. Thus Brecht, from the very beginning, found himself in the spotlight. That same year, the promising young dramatist married the opera singer and actress Marianne Zoff. Their daughter, Hanne Hiob, born in , would become a famous German actress.
The following year saw a production of Baal , the play Brecht had written for Arthur Kutscher's theatre seminar. John Fuegi paints a picture of Brecht's mindset during this early production: "Typical of Brecht's working method in Leipzig, and indeed of what was to become a lifetime practice, were his individual sessions with actors outside the formal rehearsal period and his disregard for the original text of the play. Each day the text would be viewed afresh as Brecht the director denounced half in jest but half seriously Brecht the playwright. So changing would the chameleon be, that Brecht the theorist would openly fight with Brecht the director, Brecht the poet, Brecht the playwright and Brecht the blatant womanizer.
No one could predict which Brecht would predominate at any given moment. But somehow, out of the cacophony of the Brechts arguing with one another would come a production that worked as a unified artistic whole as each contributed a valuable piece to the final mosaic" Bertolt Brecht: Chaos, According to Plan. He goes on to describe the overall atmosphere of the production, saying "At the first run through of Baal and this would be the case in virtually all subsequent Brecht productions chaos reigned.
Totally swept up by the brutal Bohemian atmosphere of the play, the cast behaved as if they all were drunk. Many in fact were drunk and liquor bottles piled up in every corner backstage.
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During the next few years, Brecht produced a string of well-received plays, the most popular of which was probably The Threepenny Opera , which he adapted from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera along with composer Kurt Weill. In fact, The Threepenny Opera would go on to become the biggest theatrical hit in Berlin during the s and helped lead the way in a worldwide resurgence of the popularities of musicals in general.
It would also do much to fatten the playwright's checkbook! Brecht also published his first book of poems, Hauspostille Domestic Breviary , which won a literary prize. However, even as his literary fame was soaring, Brecht found his interests shifting towards politics. His solidifying political beliefs would soon become evident in his plays as well. The new couple also had a daughter, Barbara, who was born shortly after the wedding and who, like Brecht's other daughter, would go on to become an actress she would also inherit the copyrights to all of Brecht's literary work.
Meg Mumford | Arts & Social Sciences - UNSW
During this period, he also formed an influential writing collective which aspired to create a new theatre for participants rather than for passive audiences. In he worked on a script for a semi-documentary feature-length film about the suffering caused by the then-rampant mass unemployment that was plaguing Germany.
This film, Kuhle Wampe was effective in its subversive humor and still provides a vivid insight into the final years of the Weimar Republic. In February , however, Bertolt Brecht's career was suddenly and violently interrupted as the Nazis came to power in Germany. The night after the Reichstag German parliament building was burned down, Brecht wisely fled with his family to Prague.
His books and plays were soon banned in Germany and those who dared stage his plays found their productions unpleasantly interrupted by the police. In May of , Brecht finally received his U. His only comparitively successful Hollywood film was Hangmen Also Die , an apocryphal version of the assassination of Nazi leader and "Hangman" Reinhard Heydrich, who died from the bullets of unidentified resistance fighters.
Unfortunately, Brecht's stay in America would not be as successful or as lengthy as he might have hoped. In , during the years of the "red scare," the House Un-American Activities Committee called the playwright to account for his communist activities. Originally, Brecht was one of several witnesses who had refused to testify about their political affiliations. But on October 30, , he appeared before the committee, wearing overalls, smoking a cigar, cracking jokes, and making constant references to the translators who transformed his German statements into English ones he could not comprehend.
Although he outwitted his investigators with half-truths and skilful innuendo, Brecht feared the irrational political climate, and shortly after his testimony took a plane to Switzerland, not even waiting to see the opening of his play Galileo in New York. On October 22, , after 15 years of exile, Bertolt Brecht returned to Germany, settling in East Berlin where he was welcomed by the Communist cultural establishment and immediately given facilities to direct Mother Courage at the Deutsches Theater.
The following year he founded his own company, the Berliner Ensemble, and in he was rewarded with his own theatre--the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. Brecht quickly discovered, however, that the German Democratic Republic was not quite his ideal brand of Communism, and he was often at odds with his East German hosts.
He did not care to keep up appearances, and because of his scruffy, unshaven appearance, East German security guards once excluded him from a Berlin reception being held in his own honor. Brecht wrote very few plays in his last years in Berlin, none of them as famous as his previous works, although he did make some attempts at a play following the careers of Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, and he was said to be contemplating a play in response to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the time of his death. Brecht is buried in the graveyard next to the apartment building where he and Weigel lived during his last years.
Brecht was a prolific writer and innovative modernist thinker committed to collaborative artistic practices, which he coordinated throughout his life. In his short fifty-eight years, he wrote forty extraordinary plays, created an exemplary body of some two thousand poems and songs, and authored numerous essays on art and politics, in addition to his diaries and journals, media analysis, extensive correspondence, film scripts, and countless notes and sketches for unfinished projects.
Similarly tensions between theater practitioners and academic or scholarly critics inside and outside the German-language cultural sphere, both in the East and West, contribute to the image of this iconoclastic artist. Divided into General Works English and General Works German the selected secondary sources provide an overview of distinct developments in Anglophone and German-language research.
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