"Theatre is not a mirror to life, it is a magnifying glass." Mayakovsky
Summary1. Description: Meyerhold and Brecht
2. An excerpt: read episodic page.
3. Table of contents: "1-2-3-cut" cycle
4. Review: Camera = Actor1
QuestionsAction produces emotion, not the other way around (Method). Action = Motion.
2004 & After
"Less is more" -- editing your motions. The term Epic Theater, used by Brecht for the first time in 1926, did not originate with him, although it is generally applied to his work today. It was already in the air in 1924 when Brecht moved from Munich to Berlin and was first used in connection with revolutionary experiments by director Erwin Piscator. Many playwrights and composers produced plays and musical compositions in the 1920s which have been since been labeled epic (Stravinisky, Pirandello, Claudel), and others have followed in their footsteps (Wilder, Miller, Becket).
NotesBrechtian actor does not attempt to inhabit the role but to remain outside it, to comment on it. The difficulty of understanding this concept led Brecht to give the example of a street scene. The actor is compared to an eyewitness of a traffic accident demonstrating to bystanders how it took place. The witness does not want to entertain the bystanders but simply to tell them what happened. Only enough information is given about the "characters"--the driver of the car, the pedestrian who was struck--for the bystanders to understand the essential action. If the demonstrator is too skillful, if he creates a dramatic illusion for the bystanders, then he fails. They will applaud him instead of thinking about what happened. For Brecht, character does not determine action, as in Stanislavsky's view. Rather the action reveals the characters, who are viewed as being able to change and to learn.
One Act Fest
^ This is DramLit "showcase" ^
"Theatre should not mirror reality but should transcend the common place of everyday life by deliberately exaggerating and distorting reality through stylized theatrical techniques." [Roose-Evans, 1989]
Rebelling against Stanislavsky and his ‘authentic emotions’, Meyerhold was developing the method of building the character from the outward inner.
"By correctly resolving the nature of his state physically, the actor reaches the point where he experiences the excitation(the realization in feelings, movements and words a task which is prescribed externally) which communicates itself to the spectator and induces him to share in the actor’s performance."(Braun 199)
This capacity for excitability is the core to an actor’s existence. Space and Time in Epic Theater by Sarah Bryant-Bertail *
Meyerhold's "Forest": "Every principal character was costumed to reveal his essential nature."(Braun 191) And, in preparing for the production Meyerhold is quoted: "A play is simply the excuse for the revelation of its theme on the level at which that revelation may appear vital today." (Braun 190)
... This is no place to explain how the opposition of epic and dramatic lost its rigidity after having long been held to be irreconcilable. Let us just point out that the technical advances alone were enough to permit the stage to incorporate an element of narrative in its dramatic productions. The possibility of projections, the greater adaptability of the stage due to mechanization, the film, all completed the theater's equipment, and did so at a point where the most important transactions between people could no longer be shown simply by personifying the motive forces or subjecting the characters to invisible metaphysical powers.
To make these transactions intelligible, the environment in which the people lived had to be brought to bear in a big and "significant" way. This environment had of course been shown in the existing drama, but only as seen from the central figure's point of view, and not as an independent element. It was defined by the hero's reactions to it. The stage began to tell a story. The narrator was no longer missing, along with the fourth wall. Not only did the background adopt an attitude to the events on the stage--by big screens recalling other simultaneous events elsewhere, by projecting documents which confirmed or contradicted what the characters said, by concrete and intelligible figures to accompany abstract conversations, by figures and sentences to support mimed transactions whose sense was unclear--but the actors too refrained from going over wholly into their role, remaining detached from the character they were playing and clearly inviting criticism of him.
The spectator was no longer in any way allowed to submit to an experience uncritically (and without practical consequences) by means of simple empathy with the chracters in a play. The production took the subject matter and the incidents shown and put them through a process of alienation: the alienation that is necessary to all understanding. When something seems "the most obvious thing in the world" it means that any attempt to understand the world has been given up.
What is "natural" must have the force of what is startling. This is the only way to expose the laws of cause and effect. People's activity must simultaneously be so and be capable of being different.
It was all a great change.
The dramatic theater's spectator says: Yes, I have felt like that too-- Just like me--It's only natural-- It'll never change--The sufferings of this man appall me, because they are inescapable--That's great art; it all seems the most obvious thing in the world--I weep when they weep, I laugh when they laugh.
The epic theater's spectator says: I'd never have thought it -- That's not the way -- That's extraordinary, hardly believable -- It's got to stop -- The sufferings of this man appall me, because they are unnecessary -- That's great art; nothing obvious in it -- I laugh when they weep, I weep when they laugh.
Brecht and Method by Fredric Jameson : The legacy of Bertolt Brecht is much contested, whether by those who wish to forget or to vilify his politics, but his stature as the outstanding political playwright and poet of the twentieth century is unforgettably established in this major critical work. Fredric Jameson elegantly dissects the intricate connections between Brecht's drama and politics, demonstrating the way these combined to shape a unique and powerful influence on a profoundly troubled epoch. Jameson sees Brecht's method as a multi-layered process of reflection and self-reflection, reference and self-reference, which tears open a gap for individuals to situate themselves historically, to think about themselves in the third person, and to use that self-projection in history as a basis for judgement. Emphasizing the themes of separation, distance, multiplicity, choice and contradiction in Brecht's entire corpus, Jameson's study engages in a dialogue with a cryptic work, unpublished in Brecht's lifetime, entitled Me-ti; Book of Twists and Turns. Jameson sees this text as key to understanding Brecht's critical reflections on dialectics and his orientally informed fascination with flow and flux, change and the non-eternal. For Jameson, Brecht is not prescriptive but performative. His plays do not provide answers but attempt to show people how to perform the act of thinking, how to begin to search for answers themselves. Brecht represents the ceaselessness of transformation while at the same time alienating it, interrupting it, making it comprehensible by making it strange. And thereby, in breaking it up by analysis, the possibility emerges of its reconstitution under a new law.
BRECHT SOURCEBOOK: an anthology that brings together in one volume many of the important articles written about Brecht between 1957 and 1997. The collection explores a wide range of viewpoints about Brecht's theatre theories and practice, as well as including three plays not otherwise easily available in English: The Beggar or the Dead Dog, Baden Lehrstuck and The Seven Deadly Sins of the Lower Middle Class. This unique compendium covers all the key areas including: the development of Brecht's aesthetic theories, the relationship of Epic theatre to orthodox dramatic theatre, Brecht's collaborations with Kurt Weill, Paul Dessau, and Max Frisch, and Brecht's influence on a variety of cultures and contexts including England, Italy, Moscow, and Japan.
Brecht On Theatre : The Development of and Aesthetic
Brecht for Beginners (A Writers and Readers Documentary Comic Book)
The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects
'Narrative' rather than 'plot', and 'each scene for itself' are true picaresque principles, while 'montage' was a fashionable 1920s word. But all the other points are new, and they change the meaning of 'epic' not only to exclude all idea of entertainment but to rule out the traditional conceptions of 'catharsis' and 'empathy' as well. One need only look at Brecht's plays of this time -at Mahagonny itself, to start with -- to see how little he really believed that entertainment must be scrapped. But the Aristotelian theory of catharsis, 266 or purging of the emotions by self-identification (empathy) with those of the actor, was an essential part of the hypnotic, anti-critical theatre which Brecht so loathed; it meant 'carrying the audience with one', 'losing oneself in the play'. (Willett 174)
2007 google.com/group/acting2 Brecht
Mother Courage and Her Children: A Chronicle of the Thirty Years' War and biomechanics.vtheatre.net/doc/epic lecture
[ from "The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre"(1930), Brecht on Theatre ]
Also, read "A Short Organum for the Theatre" (1948) in Modern Theories of Drama (p. 232)
... innovations! (film mentality)
Compare Dramatic Theatre and Epic Theatre:
one scene makes another
man as a fixed point
each scene for itself
man as a process
reasonBrecht 262. Versuche 1, p. 1.
Dramatic form of Theatre -- Epic form of Theatre Plot -- Narrative implicates -- the spectator in a stage situation -- turns the spectator into an observer, but wears down his power of action arouses his power of action . . . . . . the human being is taken for granted -- the human being is the object of the inquiry he is unalterable -- he is alterable and able to alter eyes on the finish -- eyes on the course one scene makes another growth -- each scene for itself montage
Episodic Structure (see Brecht Page in Plyscript Analysis directory).
20 century: New Technology and Spectacle, New Spectator, New Chronotope
preface : how the book was developed and how it's structured
intro : Theatrical Biomechanics, history and principles
Part I : Actor's Text & Acting Cycles
Part II : Actor's Chronotope
body : physical action, body parts as actor's prop
space : structuring your acting areas
time : your role's time dimension
semio : creating the stage sentences
mise-en-scene : working your environment
spectator : actor's criteria
Theatre Biomechanics : the science of art
Biomech : Overview
BioMX : Summary
Biomex : In Class
Meyerhold, Director's Director: Breaking new grounds in Theatre Language.
list of illustrations
* web & classes online : acting (Method)
Theatre w/Anatoly and Film-North and Virtual Theatre with Anatoly Antohin
PS: "Agit-Prop" (Agitation and Propaganda Concept of the first year after the Communist Revolution) v. Pop" should be noted. Broadway has many features of the "theatre for the masses": spectacle, not drama oriented -- appeal to non-theatre (street) public (tourists are illiterate as the workers and peasant of New Russia circa. 1920s). Use of music (Epic Theatre). No 4th Wall acting technique. "A-Effect" is fully applicable to acting in musicals. Dancing (biomechanics). Love for special effects, including multi-media.
Meyerhold was relating the actor to the worker in an attempt to unify the two with a common socialistic goal... He called them "theatre workers" (even I belong to the All-Russian Union of the Theatre Workers). Broadway actors -- of course, they are workers (all belong to "All-American Union of Stage Workers").
First and foremost, Meyerhold believed that theatre was not subject to the same laws as reality. The language, signs, materials, and time and space of Meyerhold’s productions differed in spirit from those of naturalism. He effected a renascence of theatricality, bringing back the magic of the theatre of masks and the forms and conventions of the commedia dell’arte, the cabotin (strolling minstrel player or story teller) and the Japanese Kabuki theatre. Meyerhold destroyed the footlights that cast shadows on the stage and separated the audience from the stage with a wall of darkness. He bared the stage, constructed bridges into the auditorium, introduced constructions to set the actor into a three-dimensional perspective and made lighting a new device for dividing scenes and individualising episodes and details of the set.
Meyerhold, at this time, also introduced a new discipline of the study of gesture and motion, based on devices used by older theatrical traditions and the training of gymnasts and circus performers. This attitude differed significantly from Stanislavski’s in that the goal was to train actors to study the conventions of gesture rather than the psychological motivations for these same gestures.
In addition, he also declared that the director was the author of the production and has the right to revise classics and to interpret dramatic material freely ... (Kiebuzinska 1988:47).
[ the same goes for a writer! ]
Start with the "mise en scene":
over the dust of theatres
our motto shall light up:
Stand and wonder!"
[ Mayakovsky’s revolutionary "Mystery Bouffe" written 1917 and directed by Meyerhold ]