Theater is representations of happenings between humans with the purpose of entertainment. The noblest function of theatre is to give entertainment. Theatre must remain superuous and enjoyable. We should not attempt to convey morality or teach to the detriment of entertainment.
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He was a distant, egg-headed theoretician, consumed by politics. His alienation effects, which deliberately distance the audience from the drama of the performances on-stage, have no place in a theatre dedicated to the frisson of collective identification or the brave plumbing of emotional depths. America, thankfully, has moved past him, to a place of fuller, red-blooded expression.
Who is this cold Marxist agitator? If poor understanding is the problem, perhaps it can be fixed with a close look at his writing. Theatre may be said to be derived from ritual, but that is only to say that it becomes theatre once the two have separated…And the catharsis of which Aristotle writes — cleansing by fear and pity, or from fear and pity — is a purification which is performed not only in a pleasurable way, but precisely for the purpose of pleasure.
He continues to write of how the various aesthetics were designed to give pleasure to the people of the societies and periods in which they flourished. He notes that not only subject matter but every aspect of form had to be reshaped. Though audiences still flocked to see plays written or performed in the style of past centuries, their relation to the action on-stage was impoverished in comparison to what those plays would have meant to former theatergoers.
Yet the scientific spirit that was nearly everywhere present in society had not turned inward to examine and improve society itself. In the age of industry, civilization ramified, and the gains in productive methods buoyed the lot of the bourgeoisie, while leaving workers more miserable than before.
Further, the most marvelous of new discoveries were being applied to the task of killing men in greater and more terrifying wars. Brecht suggests that with Marxist economic theory the new science of man had been born, the eye turned inward to examine the relations between citizens. Marxism made sense of the tension between rulers and ruled under a materialist interpretation of historical forces. The attitude is a critical one. Faced with a river, it consists in regulating the river; faced with a fruit tree, in spraying the fruit tree; faced with movement, in constructing vehicles and aeroplanes; faced with society, in turning society upside down.
Our representations of human social life are designed for river-dwellers, fruit farmers, builders of vehicles and upturners of society, whom we invite into our theatres and beg not to forget their cheerful occupations while we hand the world over to their minds and hearts, for them to change as they think fit.
This critical attitude is one of pleasure and productivity: if represented properly on-stage, it engenders the joys of discovery and deciding; it presents the construction of society as a kind of game, in which the spectator is at last no longer passive witness; and the emotional thrills common to theatre are inspired once again, this time in the forms that delight the children of the age of science.
The critical theatre must cause investigation. How could a hypnotized audience ever share in the productive attitude of the new age? A theatre meant to do for popular entertainment as Marxism had done for economics must situate its dramas in historical and material terms.
Brecht laments the habit of companies rendering period plays without the distinguishing characteristics of their settings. Settings, and characters, too, must be put forth in such a way that an audience sees them for what they are: an arrangement of situations that might be otherwise. The principal method he hit upon was to preserve contradictions other theatres had shorn out, most famously through his alienation effects.
Alienation effects are theatrical devices that make a common object foreign, so that it may be seen with fresh eyes. 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…to transform himself from general passive acceptance to a corresponding state of suspicious inquiry he would need to develop that detached eye with which the great Galileo observed a swinging chandelier.
Alienation is a profound break from historical theatre. Rather, he sought contradiction and the confrontation between different aspects of a personality.
Actors no longer ought to lose themselves in their parts, but should at all times be aware, and make the audience aware, that it is a dual role: of actor and of character. Scenes, too, are redefined through alienation.
Rather than flow seamlessly together, new sequences were bracketed off by descriptive titles, indicating basic plot details and some of the social character of the upcoming action. Brecht offered a cascade of different, and often oppositional, illusions devices , to keep the audience in a constant state of awareness and amazement. Alienation is a profound, if unremarked upon, trait of modern theatre.
Naturalistic acting is probably more the exception than the rule in experimental productions. Playwrights commonly employ shorter scenes, proceeding in dialectical steps the influence of film deserves some credit. An artist like Len Jenkin, whose aesthetic is arguably common tongue for young people raised on post-modernism and pop-culture mash-ups, is unthinkable without Brecht. His alienation effects are in need of alienating. The critical attitude is an entertaining one.
And it is a richer, more complex entertainment than the soporific hand-me-downs of other ages. The principle of character inconsistency is drawn out with uncommon clarity through the first several scenes of the drama.
Then he shoos him away to instruct a wealthier pupil. From the wealthy young man he learns of the telescope invented in Holland. Soon he is proposing a thesis to the Rector of the university, drawing on the work he performs enthusiastically and shares with the inquisitive student. When this is met coldly, he pivots. The prophet of a new age of scientific truth considers how he can swindle some money out of the Republic by offering her the telescope as his own invention…if you move on to the second scene you will find that while he is selling the invention to the Venetian Signoria with a speech that disgraces him by its falsehoods he has already almost forgotten the money, because he has realized that the instrument has not only military but astronomical significance…perhaps, looked at in this way, his charlatanry does not mean much, but it still shows how determined this man is to take the easy course, and to apply his reason in a base as well as a noble manner.
Those familiar with the play will recognize the competing character traits that will come to the center of the drama when Galileo is forced to recant his heliocentric theory. Many of the scenes are introduced with nursery rhymes, standing in for the kinds of titles described above.
The effect is to frame the entirety of the play as a lesson composed of smaller lessons. But the meaning of the lesson appears to contradict itself, and confronted with relatively simple story materials, the audience is forced to answer rather difficult questions. He advocates a musical score that operates independently from the conventional scenic needs.
Brecht felt the theatre could not work without choreography. Elaborately designed movement and miming were a regular practice of the Berliner Ensemble. The theatre of the scientific age is in a position to make dialectics into a source of enjoyment. The unexpectedness of logically progressive or zigzag development, the instability of every circumstance, the joke of contradiction and so forth: all these are ways of enjoying the liveliness of men, things and processes. For who could go back to a theatre of unexamined naturalism and smooth, certain progression?
And though he may have been more politically motivated than most contemporary American theatre, this was in the service of greater entertainment a term we have starved hollow through poor use.
His inventions, shocking as they may once have been, and cerebral as they might appear now, were the discoveries of a true artist, who wanted us to see with fresh pleasure. Like this: Like Loading Category : Uncategorized. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public.
BRECHT, Paraphrase Notes on Short Organum for the Theatre
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Recently I decided to review a text I covered last year read title that I pertains to my troubling lack of clarity. The cult of beauty, conducted with hostility towards learning and contempt for the useful, was dismissed by it as itself contemptible, especially as nothing beautiful resulted. In others words less about the thought than the pretty imagery. He suggests how enjoyment in a scientific sense is provided.
A Short Organum for the Theatre
Brecht detested Aristotelian drama; he believed that when this drama produced feelings of terror and catharsis then it prevented audience from thinking. This theatre would offer models of life that would help the audience to understand social environment. The audience must be reminded that it is a play. Theatre makes lives representations of reported or invented happenings between human beings with a view of entertainment. Pleasure is the noblest function for theatre. Theatre will fail if the moral lesson does not prove enjoyable to the senses and morality can be gained only by enjoyment. Aristotle expected tragedy to entertain people.
A Short Organum for the Strawdog Theatre
Mine as well just have a good time. Fortunately, the acting allows the play to have its absurdist joys and dialectically materialize them too. It does so through shape-shifting stylization. In particular, Michaela Petro, who plays the central character Shen Te, never stays in one place. Some of this shape-shifting is in the play already. Brecht has Shen Te adopt the alter ego Shui Ta—a ruthless businessman cousin who is the polar opposite of the good soul Shen Te Petro plays Shui Ta as a kind of hip-hop gangsta. Under the direction of Shade Murray, however, Petro takes the instability of her three roles much further.