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Epic Theater Essay

1022 words - 4 pages

Social change is defined as an ‘alteration in the basic structures of a social group or society’. Social change occurs when a group of people change their minds and beliefs on what is socially acceptable, this is usually due to an event or change in public opinion. Brecht’s epic theatre can be used as a vehicle for social change as it is used to convey a message to the audience.

Bertolt Brecht was born on the 10th of February 1898 in Augsburg, Germany. As a child he was unpopular, with outspoken views, which were thought to be beyond his years of knowledge. In order to avoid the war he enrolled himself in Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich; however, in 1918 he was inevitably recruited and forced to work as a medical orderly. In 1933 Brecht was exiled after disagreeing with Adolf Hitler’s views, he resided in America and was banned from German theatres after his books were burnt and his citizenship was revoked. During his time in exile, Brecht wrote three of his most well known plays; The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1944-1945), Mother Courage and her Children (1938-1939) and The Good Woman of Szechwan (1938-1940). Brecht’s plays were all written in the style of epic theatre. A phrase coined by Erwin Piscator in the 1920s.

Epic theatre is a style of theatre in which the audience is positioned to think as opposed to realism where the audience is positioned to feel. The purpose of making the audience think is so that they are able to have a clear, unbiased opinion on the situation being depicted in the play. Epic Theatre essentially retells a story already familiar to the audience, in the form of a fable such as the Caucasian Chalk Circle or in the form or, by retelling historical events.

Verfremdungseffecte (Alienation Effect) is one of the most well known techniques of epic theatre; it is used to cut off any ties of empathy the audience may be subject to. There are many conventions within the Alienation technique, these include; one actor playing several parts within the given play, spontaneous outbreak into song and dance, playing a serious scene in a comical way or vice versa, breaking the fourth wall and scene and costume changes being visible to the audience.
Gestus is the main building block of epic theatre. Gestus is the term Brecht used for the expression of basic human attitudes. Brecht’s theatre is always disordered; he breaks up stories into episodes that do not run on a linear pattern, this further reinforces the fictitious nature of the story. The aim of a Brechtian actor is to present, in a stylized way, social attitudes towards the particular topic.

Dehumanisation is used within Brechtian plays to assist with the alienation technique by showing the audience the two dimensionality of the characters (roles). Dehumanisation is used to reinforce the fact that the story is fictional and reminds the viewer to avoid becoming tangled in any emotional ties with the characters.

The main purpose of writing plays in the...

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