2009 LUL

BIOMECHANICS and Epic Theatre

new page 10.20.03 -- applications for film acting (total actor files).
"Theatre is not a mirror to life, it is a magnifying glass." Mayakovsky
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"Actors ought to be larger than life. You come across quite enough ordinary, nondescript people in daily life and I don't see why you should be subjected to them on the stage too." Donald Sinden
Acting One
* Agit-Prop v. Pop: "it was felt that this new acting technique, which involved groups of actors, would eventually facilitate harmonic interaction of large groups off stage; thus these plays were to have been the first step in the creation of a future mass theatre." (Kolesnikov 90)

From Epic Theatre

More and more I use film terminology in BM class; simple as CU and MS frame -- or more complex, like line of action, axis of tention.
Epic theatre of Brecht *


1. Description: Meyerhold and Brecht
2. An excerpt: read episodic page.
3. Table of contents: "1-2-3-cut" cycle
4. Review: Camera = Actor1


Action 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).


Brechtian 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.

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"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
Book by John Willett; Methuen, 1959 [ SIX. The Theory ]

'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


INDEX * fundamentals of acting * Theatre w/Anatoly * Virtual Theatre * Theatre Theory * Virtual Theatre Forum * Classes * Method * StageMatrix: Directing * Script Analysis * Shows * Spectator * Plays * FilmMaking 101 * vTheatre * 200X Aesthetics * Mailing List & News -- subscribe yourself * BM+ * Anatoly Film Blog & thr blog
BioMX Theory & Epic Theatre
Examination of the difference between play and script. Difference between Meyerhold's BM and Brecht... Brecht - Biomechanics Acting One
[ 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


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
Brecht 262. Versuche 1, p. 1.

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

Meyer-Review, History

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). M


Film by nature is a rich technology medium; actor = creator + medium. Who is "creator" and who is "medium"? Camera or actor? Camera is CREATOR, actor = medium!

[ the same goes for a writer! ]

Start with the "mise en scene":


over the dust of theatres

our motto shall light up:

"Everything anew!"

Stand and wonder!"

[ Mayakovsky’s revolutionary "Mystery Bouffe" written 1917 and directed by Meyerhold ]

Next: Brecht
FilmActing M

Quotes & Thoughts:
@2000-2004 index * "Expressionism's emphasis on inner vision and its production techniques made a lasting contribution, perhaps most easily traceable throught the work of Brecht." (Brockett, Century, 159)
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Points from ‘A Short Organum for the Theatre’ (first published in 1949)

  • Entertaining the children of the scientific age: ‘A theatre which makes productivity its main source of entertainment has also to take it for its theme, and with greater keenness than ever now that man is everywhere hampered by men from self-production: i.e. from maintaining himself, entertaining and being entertained. The theatre has to become geared into reality if it is to be in a position to turn out effective representations of reality, and to be allowed to do so. But this makes it simpler for theatre to edge as close as possible to the apparatus of education and mass communication. For although we cannot bother it with the raw material of knowledge in all its variety, which would stop it from being enjoyable, it is still free to find enjoyment in teaching and enquiring. It constructs its workable representations of society, which are then in a position to influence society, wholly and entirely as a game’ (186).
  • Changing society: ‘We need a type of theatre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses possible within the particular historical field of human relations in which the action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feelings which help transform the field itself’ (190).
  • The alienation effect (A-effect): ‘A representation that alienates is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time makes it seem unfamiliar. [...] For it seems impossible to alter what has long not been altered. We are always coming on things that are too obvious for us to bother to understand them. What men experience among themselves they think of as “the” human experience’ (192).
  • Playing the character: ‘In order to produce A-effects the actor has to discard whatever means he has learnt of getting the audience to identify itself with the characters which he plays. Aiming not to put his audience into a trance, he must not go into a trance himself. [...] At no moment must he go so far as to be wholly transformed into the character played. The verdict: “he didn’t act Lear, he was Lear” would be an annihilating blow to him. He has just to show the character, or rather he has to do more than just get into it’ (193).
  • The structure of the story: ‘As we cannot invite the audience to fling itself into the story as if it were a river and let itself be carried vaguely hither and thither, the individual episodes have to be knotted together in such a way that the knots are easily noticed. The episodes must not succeed one another indistinguishably but must give us a chance to interpose our judgement. (If it were above all the obscurity of the original interrelations that interested us, then just this circumstance would have to be sufficiently alienated.)’ (201).
  • Multiple media: ‘Not everything depends on the actor, even though nothing may be done without taking him into account. The “story” is set out, brought forward and shown by the theatre as a whole, by actors, stage designers, mask-makers, costumiers, composers and choreographers. They unite their various arts for the joint operation, without of course sacrificing their independence in the process. [...] Just as the composer wins back his freedom by no longer having to create atmosphere so that the audience may be helped to lose itself unreservedly in the events on stage, so also the stage designer gets considerable freedom as he no longer has to give the illusion of a room or locality when he is building his sets. It is enough for him to give hints, though these must make statements of greater historical or social interest than does the real setting’ (202-3).
  • Stylization: ‘It is a relatively recent error to suppose that [choreography] has nothing to do with the representation of “people as they really are”. If art reflects life it does so with special mirrors. Art does not become unrealistic by changing the proportions but by changing them in such a way that if the audience took its representations as a practical guide to insights and impulses it would go astray in real life. It is of course essential that stylization should not remove the natural element but heighten it’ (203-4).


      Read -- Berolt Brecht, "The Street Scene: A Basic Model for an Epic Theatre," Brecht on Theatre: The Develpment of an Aesthetic, ed. and trans., John Willett (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964), also, "Actors on Acting" (textbook recommended)

    See pages on Kabuki: On a trip to Moscow in 1935, Brecht viewed Chinese theatre and one of its great actors, Mei Lan-Fang, for the first time, and found that traditional Chinese acting also used alienation effects. Not only Chinese theatre, but Asian culture in general began to play an important part in Brecht's writing, influencing his play The Good Person of Setzuan (written between 1938 and 1941 and also translated as The Good Woman of Setzuan). In the following excerpt from his first writing on the subject, published in 1936, Brecht analyzes the differences between traditional Western drama and the Chinese theatre. (indirect connection with Meyerhold).

    Bertolt Brecht on "Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting":

    "... Brecht sets epic in sharp contrast to the dramatic mode that emphasizes emotion. What Brecht called "Aristotelian" theatre relied to a great extent on empathy, on the ability to identify with the protagonist, who was traditionally a figure of genuinely heroic proportions. Aristotelian theatre, Brecht believed, was meant to arouse in the spectator feelings of fear and pity -- pity for the suffering individual and fear that it might happen to oneself -- which led to a catharsis, a purging of emotions and release.

    Brecht, by contrast, wanted spectators to retain some distance from the events depicted onstage. Audiences should not be encouraged to think that the action of the play occurs in the present, taking place independently, while the missing fourth wall enabled the spectator to eavesdrop. To forestall such illusions, the epic playwright makes use of various distancing devices, called in German Verfremdungseffekte, a term which Brecht condensed into V-effekt, or, in the English translation A-(for alienation) effect.


    The Chinese artist's performance often strikes the Western actor as cold. That does not mean that the Chinese theatre rejects all representation of feelings. The performer portrays incidents of utmost passion, but without his delivery becoming heated. At those points where the character portrayed is deeply excited the performer takes a lock of hair between his lips and chews it. But this is like a ritual, there is nothing eruptive about it. It is quite clearly somebody else's repetition of the incident: a representation, even though an artistic one. The performer shows that this man is not in control of himself, and he points to the outward signs. And so lack of control is decorously expressed, or if not decorously at any rate decorously for the stage. Among all the possible signs certain particular ones are picked out, with careful and visible consideration. Anger is naturally different from sulkiness, hatred from distaste, love from liking; but the corresponding fluctations of feeling are portrayed economically. The coldness comes from the actor's holding himself remote from the character portrayed, along the lines described. He is careful not to make its sensations into those of the spectator. Nobody gets raped by the individual he portrays; this individual is not the spectator himself but his neighbour.

    The Western actor does all he can to bring his spectator into the closest proximity to the events and the character he has to portray. To this end he persuades him [the spectator] to identify himself with him (the actor) and uses every energy to convert himself as completely as possible into a different type, that of the character in question. If this complete conversion succeeds then his art has been more or less expended. Once he has become the bank-clerk, doctor or general concerned he will need no more art than any of these people need 'in real life'.

    . . . In point of fact the only people who can profitably study a piece of technique like Chinese acting A-effect are those who need such a technique for quite definite social purposes.

    The experiments conducted by the modern German theatre led to a wholly independent development of the A-effect. So far Asiatic acting has exerted no influence.

    The A-effect was achieved in the German epic theatre not only by the actor, but also by the music (choruses, songs) and the setting (placards, film, etc.). It was principally designed to historicize the incidents portrayed. By this is meant the following:

    The bourgeois theatre emphasized the timelessness of its objects. Its representation of people is bound by the alleged 'eternally human'. Its story is arranged in such a way as to create 'universal' situations that allow Man with a capital M to express himself: man of every period and every colour. All its incidents are just one enormous cue, and this cue is followed by the 'eternal' response: the inevitable, usual, natural, purely human response. . . . But for the historicizing theatre everything is different. The theatre concentrates entirely on whatever in this perfectly everyday event is remarkable, particular and demanding inquiry. What! A family letting one of its members leave the nest to earn her future living independently and without help? Is she up to it? Will what she has learnt here as a member of the family help her to earn her living? Can't families keep a grip on their children any longer? Have they become (or remained) a burden? Is it like that with every family? Was it always like that? Is this the way of the world, something that can't be affected? The fruit falls off the tree when ripe: does this sentence apply here? Do children always make themselves independent? Did they do so in every age? If so, and if it's biological, does it always happen in the same way, for the same reasons and with the same results? These are the questions (or a few of them) that the actors must answer if they want to show the incident as a unique historical one: if they want to demonstrate a custom which leads to conclusions about the entire structure of a society at a particular (transient) time. But how is such an incident to be represented if its historic character is to be brought out? How can the confusion of our unfortunate epoch be striking? When the mother, in between warnings and moral injunctions, packs her daughter's case -- a very small one -- how is the following to be shown: So many injunctions and so few clothes? Moral injunctions for a lifetime and bread for five hours? How is the actress to speak the mother's sentence as she hands over such a very small case - 'There, I guess that ought to do you' - in such a way that it is understood as a historic dictum? This can only be achieved if the A-effect is brought out. The actress must not make the sentence her own affair, she must hand it over for criticism, she must help us to understand its causes and protest.

    . . . In setting up new artistic principles and working out new methods of representation we must start with the compelling demands of a changing epoch; the necessity and the possibility of remodelling society looms ahead. All incidents between men must be noted, and everything must be seen from a social point of view. Among other effects that a new theatre will need for its social criticism and its historical reporting of completed transformations is the A-effect." *

    TOPICS: drama + comedy + postmodern + time + space + theory + BioMethod + objectives & obctacles + film + students + theatre w/anatoly +



    ... ... Still cannot get to applications for film!

    In short, camera "acts," according to biomechanics (epic) techniques, while actor -- Method...

    Maybe I should explore it in Film Studies or/and Film Directing?

    Is it for "Film Theory" directory?

    Eisenstein: Film Directing for Actors ... If you read Eisenstein's books (why the full Eisenstein of the 60's still is not translated?), you might notice his interest in "Oriental Mentality" and camera instincts. In Film-North pages I claim that cinema is the expression of the Nordic psychie (technology and protestant inspirations, etc.), but perhaps, cinema is the "place" where East meets West...

    This is a loaded subject; for my another life. As you.

    You have to write about it.



    .... images -- German Expressionism

    .... vids -- music ?

    ... list of Brecht links -- menu ?

    (c)anatoly : filmstudy.org & vtheatre.net

    Film-North photo-tour:


    An online course supplement * 2005-2006 Theatre UAF Season: Four Farces + One Funeral & Godot'06
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