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Conversation with Bert Brecht (1926)

(not in Brechts own words. First expression of epic theatre)

In plays, doesnt just give private mood the whole worlds. Objective view. Doesnt let feelings intrude. Aims at extremely classical, cold, highly intellectual style of performance. Im not writing for the scum who want to have the cockles of their hearts warmed . . . [but] for the sort of people who just come for fun and dont hesitate to keep their hats on in the theatre. (14) Treat people as intelligent. Appeal to the reason. Give events badly (not clear) so audience can think for itself. Quick-witted audience that knows how to observe & gets enjoyment from setting its reason to work. Brechts guarantee: absolute correctness and authenticity of what happens in his plays. Banks on his knowledge of human beings. But leaves maximum of freedom of interpretation. Sense of his plays is immanent have to fish it out for yourself. Three approaches: 1) Simply set down what happened 2) Also give a theoretical explanation as separate element 3) Aim at mutual fusion of live material and conceptual analysis First approach suits dramatic form. Modern theatre plays material for its mystic meaning. Director as well as author responsible for making sequence of events intelligible. Proper plays can only be understood when performed. (15) For epic theatre; production has to bring out material incidents in sober and matter-of-fact way. Meaning blurred by actors playing to audiences hearts. Figures portrayed foisted on the audience falsified in the process. Ought to be presented coldly, classically and objectively. Not a matter for empathy there to be understood. Feelings are private and limited. Reason is fairly comprehensive and reliable. Confines plays to raw material; but shows only what is typical (selects) Character behaves by contradictions nobody can be identically same at two unidentical moments. Changes in exterior lead to interior reshuffling. The continuity of the ego is a myth. A man is an atom that perpetually breaks up and forms anew. We have to show things as they are. (15) Confused state of the world reached by using head; an imperfect instrument. Beyond it, the irrational. Opinions interest him more than feelings; latter usually product of former; opinions are decisive. Only experience sometimes ranks higher. Though not every opinion stems from experience. Every act comes from a realisation. Theres really no such thing as acting on impulse. There again the intellect is lurking in the background. (16)

Working on Man Equals Man: about a man being taken to pieces and rebuilt as someone else for a particular purpose. Three engineers of the feelings do the rebuilding. Successful experiment theyre all much relieved.
Joe Fleischhacker in Chicago at this time. Complicated subject impels towards new form. Hauptmann quoting Brecht: workings of wheat market not dramatic. Modern world not reconcilable with drama and vice versa. Develops epic drama out of contradiction. Formula for Epic Theatre:

Playing from memory (quoting gestures and attitudes) Portrayal of new and complex processes Detached, unemotional style Just before serious study of Marxism, Brecht is close to Neue Sachlichkeit (matter of fact). Bauhaus, Grosz, Schlichter, Beckmann; Hindemiths early music; reportage and documentary and (in typography) abolition of uppercase letters. New realism bearing a socialistic flavour. But Brecht said its reactionary. Flabby; keeps bourgeois theatre standing.

7. Shouldnt we Abolish Aesthetics? (1927)

A letter to a sociologist both involved in Piscators theatre at the time.

Look at drama from sociological perspective proves: no justification for continued existence of this drama and no future for work based on assumptions that made drama possible. No sociological space for it (Marx) Satisfies eternal human urges? the urge to see a play (others change) Shakespeares great playsthe basis of our dramano longer effective. Individual turned into a capitalist. Capitalism killed it (not just its consequences). Aesthete improve drama better construction in the old sense; better motivation for spectators used to old motivation. But sociologist knows improvement no longer does any good. His judgement not good/bad but correct/false. Will remain deaf to aesthetic appeal of false. Aesthetic point of view ill-suited to new plays. Aesthetic vocabulary doesnt give convincing arguments in support. But new plays have served the old theatre postpone the collapse on which their future depends. To understand new plays, need to understand present generations active hostility to all thats preceded it doesnt want to capture theatre & perform good or contemporary plays in same theatre to same audience. A duty and chance to capture theatre for a different audience. New works leading to epic theatre (which corresponds to sociological situation) Wont satisfy old aesthetics will destroy it.
Same time as Mahagonny . Weill turn to audience that goes to the theatre navely and for fun.

8. The Epic Theatre and its Difficulties (1927)

When new plays performed, witness a battle: THEATRE vs. PLAY - theatre victorious if avoids risk of play transforming it (generally wins) Need new style capable of lending new force to whole section of theatrical repertoire that is still capable of life. Radical transformation of theatre cant be an artistic whim - has to correspond to whole radical transformation of mentality of our time. [I]t is precisely theatre, art and literature which have to form the ideological superstructure for a solid, practical rearrangement of our ages way of life. (23) Epic theatre is style of our time. Cant expound principles in a few catch phrases. Include: Representation by actor Stage technique Dramaturgy Stage music Use of film Essential point: appeals less to the feelings than to the spectators reason. Sharing an experience / coming to grips with things But wrong to deny emotion (emotion in science!)
Began reading Capital in 1926 understood his plays. Marx as his spectator. A world and a kind of Drama where Philosopher fares better than Psychologist .

10. A Dialogue about Acting (1929)

Ought to act for audience of scientific age. Act to demonstrate their knowledge of human relations, of human behaviour, of human capacity. Demonstrate it consciously, suggestively, descriptively At present by means of hypnosis go into trance and take audience with them Put themselves in a mood induce mood in audience If sance successful no one sees any further, no one learns any lessons. At best, everyone recollects; everyone feels. Already has audience of scientific age only hang up brains with coats. Ought to be witty, ceremonious, ritual. Spectator and actor move apart (not approach one another) Each moves away from himself. Otherwise, element of terror necessary to all recognition is lacking. Scientific? Amoeba doesnt offer itself to observer. Cant empathise. But tries to understand. - Tries to bring it into some relationship with the other things he has seen. Not to make the man understandable, but what takes place. - dont want to feel myself to be Richard III but to glimpse phenomenon in all its strangeness and incomprehensibility. Not qualitative improvement but adaptation to an entirely different purpose (new purpose perhaps badly at first) (Jarring element; self-conscious element) new acting hallmarks. Weigel in Jessners Oedipus - didnt abandon voice to horror, but face painted white to show impact a death makes on those present. - Unemotional and penetrating voice for Jocasta has died fact of death carried more weight than her grief could have generated.
First reference to audience of scientific age Wissenschaft in German is broader than English science embraces Marxist view of history as well as natural science.

13. The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre (1930)

Notes to opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

renovating opera without changing its culinary character. democratise give new rights without chance to appreciate them. (avant-garde innovations) but no discussion of its function. modesty of innovations has economic grounds. Great apparati like the opera, the stage, the press, etc., impose their views as it were incognito. (34) take handiwork of intellectuals (who share profit economically committed to prevailing system but socially near proletarian) and process it to make fodder for public entertainment machine. judged by apparatis standards, guided into own channels. intellectuals go on supposing business concerned only with presenting their work has no influence over it, just wins influence for it For by imagining that they have got hold of an apparatus which has in fact got hold of them they are supporting an apparatus which is out of their control (34) an obstacle to their output if follows a new and original course that apparatus finds awkward or opposed to own aims output becomes delivering the goods. values evolve based on fodder principle. And this leads to a general habit of judging works of art by their suitability for the apparatus without ever judging the apparatus by its suitability for the work. (34) Yet this apparatus is conditioned by the society of the day and only accepts what can keep it going in that society. (34) free to discuss any innovation that doesnt threaten social function provide evenings entertainment. change its function: fusing with educational system; or with organs of mass communication Society absorbs via the apparatus whatever it needs in order to reproduce itself. (34) innovation pass if calculated to rejuvenate existing society, but not if going to change it irrespective of whether form of society is good or bad. avant-garde dont think of changing apparatus imagine it serves up whatever they freely invent, transforming itself spontaneously to match their ideas. but not free inventors. apparatus goes on without them, fulfilling its function absorb what it needs a given amount of stuff. intellectuals completely dependent on apparatus, socially and economically. only channel for realisation of their work. The output of writers, composers and critics comes more and more to resemble raw material. The finished article is produced by the apparatus. (35) yet to restrict artists freedom is progressive act individual drawn into enormous events changing the world. no longer simply express himself can fulfil more general tasks.

The trouble, however, is that at present the apparati do not work for the general good; the means of production do not belong to the producer; and as a result his work amounts to so much merchandise, and is governed by the normal laws of mercantile trade. Art is merchandise, only to be manufactured by the means of production (apparati). (35) existing opera is culinary opera. means of pleasure before became merchandise. furthers pleasure even when includes education education of taste. adopts a hedonistic attitude towards every object. it experiences and ranks as an experience Mahagonny does all this a piece of fun. pays conscious tribute to senselessness of operatic form. irrationality: rational elements employed, solid reality aimed at, but all washed out by the music A dying man is real. If at the same time he sings we are translated into the sphere of the irrational. (If the audience sang at the sight of him the case would be different.) (35-6) pleasure grows in proportion to degree of unreality more unreal and unclear music can make reality, the more pleasure intention that Mahagonny introduces a certain unreality, irrationality and lack of seriousness strikes with a double meaning. this limited aim didnt prevent element of instruction or from basing everything on the gest. The eye that looks for the gest in everything is the moral sense. In other words, a moral tableau. A subjective one, though (36) content is pleasure. fun not only as form but as subject-matter. enjoyment as object of inquiry, even if inquiry intended to be object of enjoyment. Enjoyment here appears in its current historical role: as merchandise. (36) power to provoke introduces reality once more. may not taste agreeable, but is culinary still. opera needs to be brought up to technical level of modern theatre the epic theatre table of changes of emphasis not absolute antitheses but shifts of accent. e.g., in communication of a fact, may choose whether to stress element of emotional suggestion or plain rational argument.

plot implicates spectator in a stage situation wears down his capacity for action provides him with sensations experience spectator is involved in something suggestion instinctive feelings are preserved spectator is in the thick of it, shares the experience the human being is taken for granted

narrative turns spectator into observer, but arouses his capacity for action forces him to take decisions picture of the world he is made to face something argument brought to the point of recognition spectator stands outside, studies the human being is the object of the inquiry

he is unalterable eyes on the finish one scene makes another growth linear development evolutionary determinism man as a fixed point thought determines being feeling DRAMATIC OPERA music dishes up music that heightens the text music that proclaims the text music that illustrates music that paints the psychological situation

he is alterable and able to alter eyes on the course each scene for itself montage in curves jumps man as a process social being determines thought reason EPIC OPERA music communicates music that sets forth the text music that takes the text for granted that takes up a position that gives the attitude

result of penetration by methods of epic theatre a radical separation of the elements. struggle for supremacy between words, music and production bypassed by separating. So long as the expression Gesamtkunstwerk (or integrated work of art) means that the integration is a muddle, so long as the arts are supposed to be fused together, the various elements will all be equally degraded, and each will act as a mere feed to the rest. The process of fusion extends to the spectator, who gets thrown into the melting pot too and becomes a passive (suffering) part of the total work of art. Witchcraft of this sort must of course be fought against. Whatever is intended to produce hypnosis, is likely to induce sordid intoxication, or creates fog, has got to be given up. (37-8) words, music and setting become more independent of one another. MUSIC changes of emphasis in music plays chief part in our thesis. large number of musicians in standard orchestra there just to generate associative music, where one barrage of sound generates another. cut orchestral apparatus down to thirty specialists. The singer becomes a reporter, whose private feelings must remain a private affair. (38) TEXT form employed to make something instructive of our fun was the moral tableau. text neither moralising nor sentimental to put morals and sentimentality on view. spoken word and written word (titles) also important. reading encourages audience to adopt most natural attitude towards the work. SETTING new idea to show independent works of art as part of theatrical performance Nehers projections adopt an attitude towards the events on the stage stage unreels events fixed on screen. projections just as much an independent part of the opera as Weills music and the text. projections provide its visual aids.

what is audiences attitude? will it change? Bursting out of the underground stations, eager to become as wax in the magicians hands, grown-up men, their resolution proved in the struggle for existence, rush to the box office. They hand in their hat at the cloakroom, and with it they hand their normal behaviour: the attitudes of everyday life. Once out of the cloakroom they take their seats with the bearing of kings. How can we blame them? You may think a grocers bearing better than a kings and still find this ridiculous. For the attitude that these people adopt in the opera is unworthy of them. Is there any possibility that they may change it? Can we persuade them to get out their cigars? (39) formal changes:

content becomes, technically speaking, an independent component, to which text, music and setting adopt attitudes illusion is sacrificed to free discussion spectator, instead of being enabled to have an experience, is forced as it were to cast his vote change then goes beyond formal matters affects theatres social function in old opera discussion of content excluded. if see set of circumstances portrayed and take up position to them, opera failed and spell broken. difference in period of development and that of decline Magic Flute, Fidelio and Figaro included philosophical and dynamic elements. but subordinated to culinary principle sense tottering and soon absorbed in sensual satisfaction. Once its original sense had died away the opera was by no means left bereft of sense, but had simply acquired another one a sense qua opera. The content had been smothered in the opera. (39) Wagnerite philosophical posturing a philosophy of no use to man or beast, usable only as means of sensual satisfaction. (Elektra, Jonny spielt auf) once understand sense can die, understand innovations plaguing opera desperate attempts to supply art with posthumous sense a sense lying in music itself a means promoted as an end. Progress which has neither roots nor result; which does not spring from new requirements but satisfies the old ones with new titillations, thus furthering a purely conservative aim. New material is absorbed which in unfamiliar in this context, because at the time when this context was evolved it was not known in any context at all. [. . .] This sort of progress only indicates that something has been left behind. It is achieved without the overall function being changed; or rather, with a view to stopping any such change from taking place. (40)

Gebrauchsmusik? neo-classicism (art for arts sake) against emotional element of musical impressionism; utilitarian music emerges as saviour. makes use of the amateur. used as a woman is used. culinary principle saved.
why this clinging to pleasure element? why addiction to drugs? why so little concern for own interests? why refusal to discuss? to discuss our present form of society would lead to outright threat to our societys form as such.

sold as an evenings entertainment; resists attempts to transform it; devoted to illusion Its illusions have an important social function. The drug is irreplaceable; it cannot be done without. (41) Freud palliative pseudo-satisfactions still effective in mental life. such drugs waste energy that might have been applied to bettering human lot old opera survives because still meets the old situation; but situation not just old hope for new opera further innovations may bring about its destruction. Mahagonny as culinary as ever but one of its functions is to change society; brings culinary principle under discussion; attacks society that needs operas of such a sort; perched on bough, but started to saw through it Real innovations attack the roots. (41)

Mahagonny written 3yrs ago subsequent attempts to emphasise didactic at expense of culinary And so to develop the means of pleasure into an object of instruction, and to convert certain institutions from places of entertainment into organs of mass communication. (42)
first performed in embryo version as Songspeil in July 1927; full opera in Leipzig in March 1930 after writing Lehrstcke Casper Neher childhood friend and life-long collaborator. full statement of ideas of epic theatre also introduces gestisch Gestus (gestisch is the adjective) means both gist and gesture. an attitude or a single aspect of an attitude, expressible in words or actions. (Lessing used in Hamburger Dramaturgie in distinction to gesture, 1767) Weill predated use of term in On the Gestic character of Music (1929) Weill: music important because can reproduce the gestus that illustrates the incident on the stage; it can even create a kind of basic gestus (Grundgestus), forcing the action into a particular attitude that excludes all doubt and misunderstanding about the incident in question. Gebrauchsmusik was doctrine of music performing a utilitarian function; Brecht confusing it with companion doctrine of Gemeinschaftmusik or amateur music played for sake of social virtue of playing together. both associated with Paul Hindemith, with whom Brecht had fallen out after collaboration on first two Lehrstcke .

14. The Literarization of the Theatre (1931)

Notes to the Threepenny Opera

play wholly surrendered to theatres, so publication for experts conversion of spectators into experts desirable and underway play concerned with bourgeois conceptions - as content, representing them; as form, in manner of representing. a report on life as audience member would like to see it - but also contains much that spectator has no wish to see - sees his wishes fulfilled and also criticised (sees self not as subject but as object). theatre resists any alteration of its function - desirable that spectator should read plays designed to change theatre - desire to change out of mistrust of theatre. theatre given priority over plays - priority of theatre's apparatus as a means of production. apparatus resists all conversion to other purposes - takes any play it encounters and immediately changes it so it no longer represents a foreign body within the apparatus (except at points where it neutralises itself). the theatre can stage anything - it theatres it all down. (economic reasons for priority) titles and screens screens with titles projected are primitive attempt at literarizing the theatre. literarization of theatre needs to be developed to utmost degree - as does literarizing of all public occasions. "Literarizing entails punctuating 'representation' with 'formulation'; gives the theatre the possibility of making contact with other institutions for intellectual activities" (43-44) traditional approach's objection to titles: playwright ought to say everything to be said in the action; text must express everything within its own confines. spectator should not think about a subject, but within the confines of the subject. "But this way of subordinating everything to a single idea, this passion for propelling the spectator along a single track where he can look neither right nor left, up nor down, is something that the new school of play-writing must reject. Footnotes, and the habit of turning back in order to check a point, need to be introduced into play-writing too. Some exercise in complex seeing is needed - though it is perhaps more important to be able to think above the stream than to think in the stream." (44) use of screens imposes and facilitates a new style of acting - "epic style" in reading the screens, spectator adopts attitude of smoking and watching. this attitude compels a better and clearer performance - hopeless to try to carry away by these means, have a theatre full of experts (like sports arena)

material of actor not in unfinished and unworked state - miserable scraps of imitation cooked up actor has to find different way of drawing attention to those incidents previously announced by titles - deprived of element of surprise. singing of songs when actor sings, undergoes a change of function mustn't pretend hasn't started to sing! three levels - plain speech, heightened speech, and singing - must always remain distinct one is not the intensification of the prior one. doesn't sing when excess of emotion "prevents words" actor must not only sing, but show a man singing not to bring out emotional content, but to show gestures that are the habits and usage of the body use common, everyday words when rehearsing song - explores same thing in crude language of ordinary life. doesn't follow melody blindly - speaking-against-the-music has strong effects - result of stubborn sobriety, independent of music and rhythm. when drops into the melody, it is an event. emphasise it by showing the pleasure the melody gives him helps the actor if musicians are visible; also if allowed to make visible preparations for it (straightening a chair, putting on make-up) "'he who is showing should himself be shown'" (45) why is Macheath arrested twice? traditional dramaturgy ("pseudo-classical" German): first prison scene as a diversion; redundant gives priority to the idea and makes spectator desire an increasingly definite objective (hero's death) creates growing demand for the supply, needs single inevitable chain of events (to allow spectator's strong emotional participation) epic drama - materialistic standpoint; lack of interest in investment of spectator's emotions. know no objective, but only a finishing point familiar with a different kind of chain (course not straight but in curves or leaps) dynamic, idealistically-orientated drama (interest in individual) more radical when began (Elizabethans) than in German pseudo-classical guise 200yrs later - confuses dynamics of representation with the dynamics of what has to be represented - put the individual in its place. contemporary inheritors - jumble of effects and dissolved individual developed as parts for actors

old, great drama less radical in its purging of the material - structural form didn't rule out deviations from straight course (individual's relation to others outside, other events offstage making a wider cross-section) but rather used them as motive force of play's dynamics. weight of this drama from piling up of resistances - friction inside individual, to be overcome within him. material not (yet) arranged according to wish for easy formula - flesh and bones of individual resist integration in formula Bacon's materialism - whenever comes across materialism, epic forms arise in the drama most markedly and frequently in comedy (tone 'lower' and more materialistic) "Today, when the human being has to be seen as 'the sum of all social circumstances' the epic form is the only one that can embrace those processes which serve the drama as matter for a comprehensive picture of the world. Similarly man, flesh and blood man, can only be embraced through those processes by which and in course of which he exists." (46) new-school of play-writing must ensure its form includes experiment. must be free to use connections on every side needs equilibrium and has a tension which governs its component parts and 'loads' them against one another (i.e., this form isn't just a revue-like sequence of sketches)
published 3yrs after performance. part of series of notes entitled 'On a Non-Aristotelian Drama" (with previous two) "Non-Aristotelian" better term than "Dialectical" now - elimination of empathy and imitation (or mimesis); recalls distinction by Aristotle between tragedy (unities of time and place) and epic.