Thursday, February 10, 2011

“What Happens to the Hole When the Cheese is Gone?”

The German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, was born on this day in Augsburg, Germany on this day in 1898. An entry in Theatre Database (also rich in detail on many aspects of Brecht’s life) brings his childhood state of mind into focus:

He drifted towards the literary arts at an early age, writing poetry as a boy and even had a few poems published in 1914. He was an indifferent student, however, and was very nearly expelled from Augsburg Grammar School for taking a dismissive, anti-patriotic tone when given an assignment to write an essay with the title “It is a sweet and honourable thing to die for one's country.”

The Wikipedia entry on Brecht takes a very strong stand on the writer’s contributions to modern theater:
Along with his contemporary Erwin Piscator, Brecht created an influential theory of theatre -- the epic theatre -- that proposed that a play should not cause the spectator to identify emotionally with the characters or action before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the action on the stage. Brecht thought that the experience of a climactic catharsis of emotion left an audience complacent. Instead, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the world outside. For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to communicate that the audience's reality was equally constructed and, as such, was changeable.
Brecht died of a heart attack in Berlin in 1956. He was 58 years old.
“For time flows on, and if it did not, it would be a bad prospect for those who do not sit at golden tables. Methods become exhausted; stimuli no longer work. New problems appear and demand new methods. Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must also change. Nothing comes from nothing; the new comes from the old, but that is why it is new.” -- Bertolt Brecht



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