Bertold Brecht, Intellectual Drama And Change

941 words - 4 pages

During the time period of and between World War I and World War II, major societal changes began to occur. Fascism, totalitarianism, and socialism began to take hold in certain societies, and economies began to fall. The general social unrest that was occurring throughout the world was also being reflected in theatre, which is when new forms of theatre such as expressionism, futurism, Dadaism, surrealism, and epic theatre began to emerge. Among the pioneers of these avant-garde forms of theatre was Bertold Brecht, a philosophical dramatist who was known for his socialist ideals. He believed that theatre was meant to instruct, not to provide the means for emotional stimulation and purging. Brecht’s ideal form of strictly intellectual epic theatre is not possible, because without catharsis and some form of emotional attachment to theatre, society will be unmotivated to effect change without some element of care for the piece of theatre that they are experiencing.
According to Living Theatre, Brecht believed that “theatre could create an intellectual climate for social change.” (Wilson and Goldfarb 424) In order to create this intellectual environment, he favored “alienating” his audiences from dramatic action by creating a world that would not permit their imaginations to completely carry them into the world of the play, and would therefore allow them to focus more on the pressing social issues that were being presented to them. He did this by making the reality that they were inside of a theatre incredibly evident by using techniques such as placing lighting instruments in obvious places, setting his plays in “fictitious foreign lands,” and separating production elements to convey the play’s message individually, as opposed to presenting the play as a “unified work of art.” (Wilson and Goldfarb 425) In doing so, Brecht believed that it would be difficult for any individual to completely identify and emotionally tap into the play, and would therefore be able to focus their attention on the situations at hand, and make them draw parallels between the problems within the world of the play to society’s problems and be motivated to make a difference. However, it is the opinion of this author that the problem with this theory is that in order to manifest change in any society, or even an individual, there has to be an incentive, and a reason behind that incentive. If an audience member is emotionally detached from the theatrical piece that they are supposedly engaged in, then there will be nothing to spur them into intellectual action or change. It is the opinion of this author that if Brecht truly believed that the purpose of epic theatre was “to instruct,” he would have understood that in order to make an audience member want to learn from the piece of theatre they are watching, there must be some degree of care involved between them...

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