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Bertolt Brecht (1898 –1956) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director of

the 20th century. He made contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the
latter through the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble – the post-war theatre
company operated by Brecht and his wife, long-time collaborator and actress Helene
Weigel.

Brecht was complex, he worked with a group of people who influenced his work & ideas
(including his wife). In Marxism –the role of society is far more important than the
individual; similar to Chinese society in many ways. So the Chinese opera is only one of the
influences on him – but with the movements, costumes, rigid style of action, historical
themes, and the music-it was clearly impressive to his style of theatre.

One of the major contributions of Brecht was Epic theatre.

Bertolt Brecht who suggested that a play should not cause the spectator to identify
emotionally with the characters or action before them. Rather the plays 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. Being a
staunch Communist & Marxist, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in
order to recognize social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the
theatre and effect change in the world outside.
A major element of this was a technique called: The Alienation Effect.

It involves the use of techniques designed to distance the audience from emotional
involvement in the play through jolting reminders of the artificiality of the theatrical
performance.

Examples of such techniques include explanatory captions or illustrations projected on a


screen; actors stepping out of character to lecture, summarize, or sing songs; and stage
designs that do not represent any locality but that, by exposing the lights and ropes, keep
the spectators aware of being in a theatre. The audience’s degree of identification with
characters and events is presumably thus controlled, and it can more clearly perceive the
“real” world reflected in the drama.

Brecht conceived the alienation effect not only as a specific aesthetic program but also as a
political mission of the theatre. Inspired by the philosophies of G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx
and by Viktor Shklovsky’s theory of ostranenie (“making it strange,” or defamiliarization),
Brecht regarded his method as a way of helping spectators understand the complex
nexuses of historical development and societal relationships. By creating stage effects that
were strange or unusual, Brecht intended to assign the audience an active role in the
production by forcing them to ask questions about the artificial environment and how each
individual element related to real-life events. In doing so, it was hoped that viewers would
distance themselves emotionally from problems that demanded intellectual solutions.

He was influenced by Asian (Chinese acting in particular ) & wrote about it on several
occasions. It was in any case not long after returning in the spring of 1935 from Moscow,
where he saw a command performance of Beijing Opera techniques by Mei Lanfang, that
Brecht first used the German term in print to label an approach to theater that discouraged
involving the audience in an illusory narrative world and in the emotions of the characters.
Brecht thought the audience required an emotional distance to reflect on what was being
presented in critical and objective ways, rather than being taken out of themselves as
conventional entertainment attempts to do.
His are Excerpts from an article talks about this connection to Chinese Theatre:

From The Tulane Drama Review -- DOCUMENT SERIES Edited by Bernard Hewitt

CHINESE ACTING By BERTOLT BRECHT

In the following paper something will be said about the use of "alienation" in Chinese
acting:

The "alienation effect" has been used in Germany in plays of a non-Aristotelian kind, that is,
in plays which are not based on empathy. (most modern plays from Ibsen – forward -
1850’s to present are often designed to have the audience identify with the
characters
( * Note by Dan)

I refer to various attempts to (have the actors*NbD) act in such a manner that the spectator
is prevented from feeling his way into the characters. Acceptance or rejection of the
characters' words is thus placed in the conscious realm, not, as hitherto, in the spectator's
subconscious.

The attempt to "alienate" the events being presented from the audience was made in a
primitive way in the theatrical and pictorial displays of older times. This effect of
estrangement is also known to the Chinese actor, who uses its in a very subtle manner.

(Everyone knows that the Chinese theatre makes use of many symbols. A general wears little
ribbons on his shoulders, as many, in fact, as the regiments he commands. Poverty is
indicated by sewing irregular patches onto silk robes, the patches being also of silk, though
of a different color. The personages of a play are characterized by a particular kind of make-
up, that is, simply by paint. Certain gestures with both hands represent the forcible opening
of a door, and so forth. The stage stays unchanged though articles of furniture are brought on
during the play. All this has been known for a long time and can scarcely be taken over by us
in toto. And one is accustomed to regard an artistic phenomenon in toto-as a whole.
However, if you want to study one particular effect among many you have to break with this
custom.)

In the Chinese theatre the alienation effect is achieved in the following way. The Chinese
performer does not act as i£, in addition to the three walls around him there were also a
fourth wall. He makes it clear that he knows he is being looked at. Thus. one of the illusions
of the European stage is set aside. The audience forfeits the illusion of being unseen
spectators at an event which is really taking place. The European stage has worked out an
elaborate technique by which the fact that scenes are so arranged as to be easily seen by the
audience is concealed.

The Chinese approach renders this technique superfluous. As openly as acrobats the actors
can choose those positions wh1ch show them off to best advantage. Another expedient is this:
the actor looks at himself. Presenting, let us say, a cloud, its unsuspected appearance, its
gentle yet strong development, its speedy yet gradual transformation; from time to time
he looks at the spectator as if to say: Isn't it just like that? But he also looks at his own arms
and legs, guiding them, examining them, in the end, perhaps praising them. If he glances
at the floor or measures the space available for his act, he sees nothing in this procedure
that could disturb the illusion. In this way the performer separates mimicry (presenting the
act or observation) from gesture (presenting the cloud) but the latter loses nothing
thereby, for the attitude of the body reacts back upon the face, gives to the face as it
were, its own expression. An expression now of complete reservation. now of utter
triumph. The performer has used his face as an empty sheet of paper that can be written on
by bodily movement.
The performer wishes to appear alien to the spectator. Alien to the point of arousing surprise.
Th1s he manages by seeing himself and his performance as alien. In this way the things he
does on the stage become astonishing. By this craft everyday things are removed from the
realm of the self-evident.

A young woman, a fisherman's daughter, is shown on the stage, rowing a boat. She
stands up and steers the (non-existent} boat with a little oar that hardly comes down to
her knees. The current runs faster. Now it is harder for her to keep her balance. Now
she is in a bay and rows more quietly. Well, that's the way to row a boat. But this voyage
has an historic quality, as if it had been sung in many songs, a most unusual voyage.
known to everyone. Each of this famous girl's movements has been preserved in pictures.
Every bend in the river was an adventure that one knows about. The bend she is now
approaching is well-known. This feeling in the spectator is called forth by the performer's
attitude. It is she who confers fame on the voyage. (The scene reminds us of the march to
city of Budweis in Piscator's production of The Good Soldier Schweik. Schweik's (a play by
Brecht, directed by a director named Piscator *NbD) three day march under sun and moon to
the front, which, curiously enough, he never reaches, was seen in a completely historical
way, as something just as worth thinking about as Napoleon's journey to Russia in 1812.)

To look at himself is for the performer an artful and artistic act of self-estrangement. Any
empathy on the spectator's part is thereby prevented from bec oming total, that is, from
being a complete self-surrender. An admirable distance (aesthetic distance - not a literal one *
NbD ) from the events portrayed is achieved. This is not to that the spectator experiences no
empathy what so ever .

Anger is naturally distinguished from fury, hate from dislike, love from sympathy, but
the various movements of feeling are sparingly presented. The pervading coolness arises
from the fact that the individual is not so much the center of interest as in western
theatre. Truly the cult of star bas gone further in Asia than perhaps anywhere else. The
spectator's eyes positively hang on the star. The other roles give him the cue to the star, place
obstacles in his way, show him off. Nevertheless, the star places himself at a distance from
the role he plays in the manner just described. He guards against making the audience
feel exactly what the character is feeling. This individual is not the spectator but he is the
audience’s neighbor.

The western performer does all he can to bring the spectator as close as possible to the
events and the character being presented. To this end be gets him to feel his way into
him, the actor. He seconds all his strength on transforming himself as completely as
possible into another type of person, the type being presented. When this complete
transformation is achieved, his art is pretty much exhausted. Once he is the bank clerk ,
the doctor, the general, he needs just as little art as the bank clerk, the doctor, or the general
need in real life.

The act of completely transforming oneself takes a lot of trouble to accomplish. Stanislavski
provides a whole list of devices, a whole system of devices, by means of which this
“ creative mood" can be produced afresh at each performance. Usually the actor does not
succeed for long in really feeling like the other person. He soon begins, in his exhaustion,
to copy certain external features of his carriage or tone of voice, and thereby the effect
on the audience is appallingly weakened. Doubtless the reason is that the Imitation of the
Other Man was an intuitive act taking place in the subconscious. The subconscious is very
hard to regulate. It has, so to speak, a bad memory.

The Chinese performer knows nothing of these difficulties. He eschews complete


transformation. He confines himself at outset to merely quoting the character. But with
how much art he does this! He requires only a minimum of illusion. What he shows is
worth seeing even to those who are not out of their senses. What western actor, with the
exception of a comedian or so, could do what the Chinese Actor Mei-Lan-Fang does -
show the elements of his craft clad in evening attire.

Hard for western actors to arrange such a performance? Isn’t art sacrosanct? Isn't theatrical
metamorphosis a mystical process? He lays store by the fact that what he does is
unconscious; it has more value for him that way. A comparison with Asiatic acting shows how
deeply parsonic (religious *NbD) our art still is.

Certainly it gets harder all the time for our action to consummate the mystery of complete
transformation. Their subconscious mind’s memory is getting weaker all the time. And even
when the actor is a genius it is hard to create truth out of the adulterated intuition of a
member of a class society.

It is difficult for the actor to generate certain emotions and moods in himself every evening
and comparatively easy to render the outward signs that accompany and denote these
emotions. Certainly the transference of these emotions to the spectator, the emotional
contagion, does not take place automatically. The “alienation effect” enters at this point, not
in the form of emotionlessness, but in the form of emotions which do not have to be
identical with those of the presented character. The spectator can feel joy at the sight of
sorrow, disgust at the sight of anger. We·speak of rendering the outward signs of emotions as
a way of effecting alienation.

This procedure may, however, fail to do so. The actor can so render these signs and select
these signs that. on the contrary, emotional contagion follows, because the actor has, while
rendering the signs generated in himself the emotions to be presented. The actor can easily
stir up anger within himself letting his voice swell and by holding his breath, also by
drawing the throat muscles together so that the blood Bows to his head. In this case,
alienation is out of the question. On the other hand, alienation does occur when at a
particular point and without transition the actor displays a deadly pale face which he has
acquired artificially. (He held his face in his hands, and in his hands was some white
grease paint.) If the actor exhibits at the same time an apparently undisturbed nature, his
fright at this point in the play (occasioned by a piece of news or a discovery) will
produce the alienation effect.

Obviously the alienation effect in no way presupposes an unnatural style of acting. One
must at all costs not think of what is called Stylization. On the contrary the success of the
alienation effect is dependent on the lightness and naturalness of the whole procedure. And
when the actor come to examine the truth of this performance a necessary operation which
gives Stanislavski a lot of trouble-he is not merely thrown, but stopped. A Chinese actor with
his interruption, he will take up his performance at the exact place where he was
interrupted. We disturb him at no mystic moment of creation. He had finished creating"
before he came on the stage. If scene building is going on while he is acting, he doesn't
mind.
Stagehands hand him whatever he needs for his work quite openly. During a death
scene played by Mei-Lanfang, a spectator sitting near me let out a startled cry at one of
the actor's gestures. Several spectators in front of us turned indignantly around and hissed:
Sh! They conducted themselves as at the death of some real girl. Perhaps their behavior
was right for a European production, but it was unspeakably ridiculous in a Chinese
theatre. The alienation effect had not been effective for those audience members.

It is not altogether easy to regard the alienation effect of Chinese acting as something
that can be shaken loose from the Chinese theatre and exported. The Chinese theatre
seems to us uncommonly precious, its presentation of human passions merely schematic, its
conception of society rigid and false. At first sight nothing in this great art seems useful
in a realistic and revolutionary theatre. The motives and aims of the alienation effect are
alien and suspect.

In the first place it is difficult, when watching the Chinese act, to rid ourselves of the
feeling of strangeness that they arouse in us because we are Europeans. One must be
able to imagine they achieve the alienation effect also in their Chinese spectators. But,
and this is more difficult, we must not allow ourselves to be disturbed at the fact that
the Chinese performer creates an impression of mystery for a quite different purpose
from any that we can envisage. If one has learned to think dialectically one can find it
possible that a technique which is taken from the realm of magic can be used to combat
magic with. The Chinese performer may intend to use the alienation effect to make the
events on stage mysterious, incomprehensible, and uncontrollable to the audience. And
yet this effect can be used to make the events mundane, comprehensible, and
controllable.

The attitude of the scientist, who at first views the object of his investigation with
astonishment, may resemble the attitude of a magician. Yet these apparently identical
attitudes have a precisely opposite function. Whoever finds the formula 2 X 2 = 4 obvious is
no mathematician; neither is the man who doesn't know what the formula means. The man
who viewed a lamp swinging on a rope with astonishment at first and found it not
obvious but very remarkable that the lamp swung thus and not otherwise-such a man
approached the understanding of the phenomenon and, with this, the mastery of the
phenomenon. It won't do to exclaim that this attitude is appropriate to science alone
and not to art. Why shouldn’t art try (by its own means, of course) to contribute to
the great social task of mastering life?

This process uses solos, talking directly to the audience, and the decor (placards, film, etc.).
The aim was the historification (historification is setting events in another place and/or time in
order to distance the emotional impact, yet enhance the intellectual impact for the spectator
(audience)*NbD), of the events presented. Under this heading- the following is meant.

The following is to be presented on the stage. A girl leaves her family to take a job in
a big city. (Dreiser's American Tragedy- which was adapted to the stage by Piscator.) For the
bourgeois theatre the idea is a pretty limited one. It constitutes only the beginning of a
story, the bit of information we must have if we are to understand- or be excited by
what follows. The actor's imagination can hardly be set in motion at all by this. In a way
the event is general: girls do jobs. And in this case one can be excited at the thought of
what in particular will happen to her. The event is also peculiar: this girl leaves home;
had she stayed, the following would
not have occurred. The important thing is what kind of girl she is. What is her
character? That her family lets her go is not a subject for investigation. It is credible.
Motives need to be "credible."
In the Artef Players Collective in New York (1955), I saw a stage version of Samuel
Ornitz Haunch, Paunch and Jowl, which showed how an east side boy rose to be a
corrupt lawyer. The theatre could not play the piece. And yet scenes like this were in it.
Sitting in the street in front of his house, the young lawyer gives legal advice at very low
prices. A young woman comes with the complaint that her leg had been damaged in a
traffic accident. But the case was bungled. Her claim for compensation has not yet been
handed in. In despair she points at her leg and shouts: "'It's healing already" Working
without the alienation effect, this theatre could not adequately display the horror of
a bloody age in this extraordinary scene. Few people in the auditorium paid any
attention to it. Few of them, even it they read these lines, would remember the
woman's cry. The actress spoke it as something obvious. But precisely the fact that such a
complaint seems obvious to the poor woman the actress should have reported to the
audience as an outraged messenger returning from the lowest of hells. In this she would
have needed to be helped by a special technique to underline the historical nature of a
given social condition. Only the alienation effect mates this possible.

In bringing forward new artistic principles and in working out new methods of
presentation we must proceed from the imperative demands of an age of transition. It seems
possible and necessary to rebuild society. All events in the human realm are being
examined. Everything must be seen from the social standpoint. Among other effects, a
new theatre will find the alienation effect necessary for the criticism of society and for
historical reporting on changes already accomplished.

END OF BRECHT’S WRITING

Brecht saw that these audiences were manipulated by theater technology — beautiful, realistic sets,
cleverly naturalistic lighting, the imaginary fourth wall, and most importantly, emotionally effusive
acting techniques. He soon watched with horror as the Nazi movement gained popular support in
his country with its racist, xenophobic demagoguery, relying on similar emotional manipulation.
Emotional manipulation was, to him, Enemy Number One of human decency.

It was in this context that Brecht developed his theory of alienation effect, or distantiation effect.
(Important disclaimer: there is compelling evidence that many of Brecht’s greatest ideas were
developed in uncredited cooperation with his artistic partners).
The alienation effect attempts to combat emotional manipulation in the theater, replacing it with an
entertaining or surprising jolt. For instance, rather than investing in or “becoming” their characters,
they might emotionally step away and demonstrate them with cool, witty, and skillful self-critique.
The director could “break the fourth wall” and expose the technology of the theater to the audience
in amusing ways. Or a technique known as the social gest could be used to expose unjust social
power relationships so the audience sees these relationships in a new way. The social gest is an
exaggerated gesture or action that is not to be taken literally but which critically demonstrates a
social relationship or power imbalance. For example, workers in a corporate office may suddenly
and quickly drop to the floor and kowtow to the CEO, or the women in a household may suddenly
start to move in fast-motion, cleaning the house, while the men slowly yawn and loaf around.

By showing the instruments of theater and how they can be manipulative — for example, the actor
calling out “Cue the angry red spotlight!” before he shrieks with rage, or “Time for the gleeful violin”
before dancing happily as the violinist joins him on stage, or visibly dabbing water on his eyes when
he is supposed to cry . . . the audience can be entertained without being manipulated. Many of
Brecht’s techniques have been co-opted and incorporated into contemporary bourgeois theater and
film, though his challenge remains relevant: how to confront the problem of emotional
manipulation while creating a stimulating, surprising, entertaining, radically critical, popularly
appealing and accessible social art practice.

Brecht wanted to "distance" or to "alienate" his audience from the characters and the action and, by
dint of that, render them observers who would not become involved in or to sympathize
emotionally or to empathize by identifying individually with the characters psychologically; rather,
he wanted the audience to understand intellectually the characters' dilemmas and the wrongdoing
producing these dilemmas exposed in his dramatic plots. By being thus "distanced" emotionally
from the characters and the action on stage, the audience could be able to reach such an intellectual
level of understanding (or intellectual empathy); in theory, while alienated emotionally from the
action and the characters, they would be empowered on an intellectual level both to analyze and
perhaps even to try to change the world, which was Brecht's social and political goal as a
playwright and the driving force behind his dramaturgy.

Techniques of Distancing or Alienation


The distancing effect is achieved by the way the "artist never acts as if there were a fourth
wall besides the three surrounding him. The audience can no longer have the illusion of
being the unseen spectator at an event which is really taking place". The use of direct
audience-address is one way of disrupting stage illusion and generating the distancing
effect. In performance, as the performer "observes himself", his objective is "to appear
strange and even surprising to the audience. He achieves this by looking strangely at
himself and his work". Whether Brecht intended the distancing effect to refer to the
audience or to the actor or to both audience and actor is still controversial among teachers
and scholars of "Epic Acting" and Brechtian theatre.

By disclosing and making obvious the manipulative contrivances and "fictive" qualities of
the medium, the actors alienate the viewer from any passive acceptance and enjoyment of
the play as mere "entertainment". Instead, the viewer is forced into a critical, analytical
frame of mind that serves to disabuse him or her of the notion that what he is watching is
necessarily an inviolable, self-contained narrative. This effect of making the familiar
strange serves a didactic function insofar as it teaches the viewer not to take the style and
content for granted, since the medium itself is highly constructed and contingent upon
many cultural and economic conditions.

It may be noted that Brecht’s use of distancing effects in order to prevent audience
members from bathing themselves in empathetic emotions and to draw them into an
attitude of critical judgment may lead to other reactions than intellectual coolness. Brecht's
popularization of the V-Effekt has come to dominate our understanding of its dynamics. But
the particulars of a spectator’s psyche and of the tension aroused by a specific alienating
device may actually increase emotional impact. Audience reactions are rarely uniform, and
there are many diverse, sometimes unpredictable, responses that may be achieved through
distancing.

Actors, directors, and playwrights may draw on alienating effects in creating a production.
The playwright may describe them in the script's stage directions, in effect requiring them
in the staging of the work. A director may take a script that has not been written to alienate
and introduce certain techniques, such as playing dialogue forward to remind the audience
that there is no fourth wall, or guiding the cast to act "in quotation marks". The actor
(usually with the director's permission) may play scenes with an ironic subtext. These
techniques and many more are available for artists in different aspects of the show. For the
playwright, reference to vaudeville or musical revues, will often allow rapid segues from
empathy to a judgmental attitude through comic distancing.

Brecht wanted to "distance" or to "alienate" his audience from the characters and the
action and, by dint of that, render them observers who would not become involved in or to
sympathize emotionally or to empathize by identifying individually with the characters
psychologically; rather, he wanted the audience to understand intellectually the characters'
dilemmas and the wrongdoing producing these dilemmas exposed in his dramatic plots. By
being thus "distanced" emotionally from the characters and the action on stage, the
audience could be able to reach such an intellectual level of understanding (or intellectual
empathy); in theory, while alienated emotionally from the action and the characters, they
would be empowered on an intellectual level both to analyze and perhaps even to try to
change the world, which was Brecht's social and political goal as a playwright and the
driving force behind his dramaturgy.

Specific Techniques relating to Brecht’s Work

Along with Constantin Stanislavski, Bertolt Brecht was one of the two most influential figures of 20th
century theatre and the most significant practitioner since World War II. Brecht’s theories for the stage,
including his well-known epic theatre form and distancing techniques, made him a force to be reckoned
with.

Although it is well documented Brecht had a team of workers around him to ease the load, his creative
output was nothing short of prolific. He was a theorist, poet, playwright of over fifty plays, an essayist,
and above all a practitioner who painstakingly applied his theories to the works of one of the great
theatre companies of the world, the Berliner Ensemble.

A staunch Marxist, Brecht’s plays often had a political and social message for those viewing them.
Accordingly, his works included songs that drummed home the message of the play, storytellers and
narrators, projection, placards, and actors directly addressing the audience.
Theory & Ideas Behind his work

 Brecht loathed the theatre of realism


 he likened the realistic theatre to the effects of a drug, in that a realistic performance pacified its
audience
 Brecht’s plays were didactic and aimed to teach or instruct their audience
 Brecht used the term ‘Lehrstück’, meaning ‘learning-play’
 social activist theatre wanting the spectators to make change in their own world outside the
theatre walls
 in 1926 Brecht embraced Marxism and his theatre techniques after this point served his Marxist beliefs
 Brecht’s umbrella title for a range of non-realistic techniques is short for ‘alienation-effect’
 misleadingly translated over the decades as ‘distancing effect’
 recent and more accepted translation is ‘to make the familiar, strange’ or ‘estrangement’
 ‘epic’ borrowed from the great poems of literature (The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Mahabharata,
Ramayana)
 Brecht was influenced by (German) expressionism and had an interest in the cabaret scene in Berlin

Form of his work

 Brecht wrote over fifty plays


 Brecht’s form of theatre was known as ‘epic theatre’, most likely coined by collaborator Erwin Piscator
 some scholars argue the term ‘epic theatre’ was already in use in European experimental theatre
 epic plays employed a large narrative (as opposed to a smaller plot), spanning many locations and time
frames
 Brecht called scenes ‘episodes’, with each scene being relatively self-contained in the story
 epic plays used non-linear, fractured plots, where the events of an episode were not necessarily a result of
the preceding episode
 this juxtaposition of scenes employing multiple locations and time frames created a montage effect
 he used his acting troupe at the Berliner Ensemble to perfect his theories on acting and the theatre
 some of his plays were historical, chronicling the life of a person (Life of Galileo, Saint Joan of the
Stockyards)
 focus was always on the society being presented in the play, not individual characters
 events in plays were sometimes told from the viewpoint of a single storyteller (alienation device)
 Brecht wrote his plays with no act or scene divisions; these were added later
 long scenes told the main events of the story and were interspersed with occasional short(er) scenes
 short(er) scenes normally involved parables, used to emotionally detach the audience marginally
 parable scenes often involved the use of song, an alienation device employed by Brecht to help deliver the
(Marxist) message of the play
 ‘historification’/’historicisation’ was a Brecht term defining the technique of setting the action of a play in
the past to draw parallels with contemporary events
 ‘historification’/’historicisation’ enabled spectators to view the events of the play with emotional
detachment and garner a thinking response
 Brecht crushed Aristotle’s model of the three unites of time, place and action (one location, single day)
Movement & Gesture

 mix of realistic and non-realistic movement


 movement was at times graceful, but at other times forceful
 Brecht used the Latin word ‘gestus’ to describe both individual gestures and whole body postures
 character gestus denoted one’s social attitude and human relationships with others (linked to Marxist
principles)
 some Oriental gesture used (Brecht’s influence of a Balinese dance showing)
 groups of characters often positioned on the stage for functional and not aesthetic reasons
 characters grouped according to their social relationships in the play (Marxist)

Space & Actor Audience Relationship

 Brecht’s plays were performed in traditional proscenium arch theatre houses


 however, the stage curtain was often dispensed with or a half curtain used instead of a full one
 Brecht preferred to call the audience ‘spectators’
 direct address by actors/characters to audience was a strong and unconventional technique used by
performers
 direct address broke the (invisible) ‘fourth wall’ and crushed traditional realistic/naturalistic conventions
 the narrator was a common figure in Brechtian dramas (Brecht was probably the father of the modern
narrator)

Stagecraft

 costume was not individually identifiable eg. the farmer’s costume represented ‘a (typical) farmer’
 costume was sometimes incomplete and fragmentary eg. tie and briefcase for the businessman
 costume often denoted the character’s role or function in society (plus wealth/class)
 sets were sometimes non-existent or fragmentary (either partial sets or one object representing many of
the same)
 at other times sets were industrial eg. ramps, treadmills (influence of Meyerhold’s constructivist set
design)
 some makeup and mask use, but non-realistic and ‘theatrical’ eg. grotesque and/or caricatured
 makeup and costume used to depict a character’s social role in the play, not that of his/her everyday
appearance
 signs/placards used to show audience a range of information
 screen projection used to reinforce play’s theme/s (to garner an intellectual response, not emotional)
 open white light only (as color would generate an emotional response from the audience)
 if the house lights were left on during a performance, open white light also allowed for the spectators and
performers to share a single same-lit space
 lighting instruments in full view of audience (no attempt to hide them, but rather remind the audience
they were watching a play)
 music and song used to express the play’s themes independent of the main spoken text in the play (in
parable scenes)
 music was used to neutralize emotion, rather than intensify it (opposite to a modern-day musical)

Acting and Characterization

 actor was never to fully become the character, as in the realistic/naturalistic theatre
 actor was asked to demonstrate the character at arm’s length with a sense of detachment
 often characters tended to be somewhat oversimplified and stereotyped
 yet other characters were sometimes complex
 historical, real-life characters in some Brecht plays
 some (but not all) character names were generic eg. the worker, the peasant, the teacher
 mix of presentational and representational acting modes