Emory Report

September 14, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 4

Theater Emory marks Brecht centennial with cabaret

Theater Emory will mark the centennial of the birth of playwright Bertolt Brecht with a series of performances and readings across campus Sept. 11 through Oct. 3 as part of "Brecht Cabaret: A Centennial Celebration." All events are free.

The performances will be short works that are examples of Brecht's young creative experiments for the cabaret scene in Berlin during the Weimar Republic. Beginning as an avant-garde poet, playwright, director and cabaret performer in the 1920s, Brecht's early work focused on disillusionment, social criticism and perverse sensuality. Theater Emory will perform some of these early works that include children's stories, musical works and poetry. The performances will be staged in several places across campus, including the Black Rose. The directors are Tim Ocel and Ariel Bennett.

"Brecht certainly was the greatest theatrical thinker of the 20th century," said Vincent Murphy, artistic producing director of Theater Emory. "If you look at his work comprehensively, Brecht profoundly changed our ideas of theater."

Brecht's conversion to Marxism led to anti-Nazi works and nearly two decades of political exile from Hitler's Germany, a time during which he wrote his mature plays, Mother Courage and Her Children, Galileo, The Good Person of Sezuan and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, according to Michael Evenden, chair of the Theater Studies department and a Brecht authority.

"It was during his exile that Brecht developed the aesthetic ideas that have had such a profound impact on modern theater," said Evenden. "He imagined theater that encourages its audience to observe the action from the position of a skeptical, witty outsider who remains capable of independent, critical thought rather than being emotionally swept up in the drama."

In 1949 Brecht returned to East Berlin and founded the Berliner Ensemble with his wife, the actress Helene Weigel. The group rapidly became one of the most admired and imitated theater companies in the world, specializing in producing Brecht's plays and developing his epic style of staging that combined realistic depiction of everyday life with obviously theatrical elements such as masks, songs and lettered signs. "Brecht's intention was to simultaneously engage the audience and to put it on its guard, inviting both sympathetic interest and ironic distance at once," said Evenden.

An additional element to "Brecht Cabaret" is an exhibit titled "Brecht Theatrework: Illustrated by Performers of the Berliner Ensemble." The exhibit of black and white photographs depicting the Berliner Ensemble will be on display in the main gallery of Schatten Gallery in the Robert Woodruff Library at Emory through Oct. 5.

A complete listing of the "Brecht Cabaret" events is below.. For additional information, call 404-727-5050.

--Deb Hammacher

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