You, the owners of property are the truly brutish ones, runs the line of ironic implication; we slaves have remained human. Caught between what he expected and what he actually felt, the cultivated German spectator found hmself animated by chronic shock and unwilling recognition. This double view of the characters, this critical supernimbus, would form a true and objective image on the psychological retina of the spectator.
Bertolt Brecht:The stage began to tell a story. The narrator was no longer missing, along with the fourth wall. Not only did the background adopt an attitude to the events on the stage – by big screens recalling other simultaneous events elsewhere, by projecting documents which confirmed or contradicted what the characters said, by concrete and intelligible figures to accompany abstract conversations, by figures and sentences to support mimed transactions whose sense was unclear – but the actors too refrained from going over wholly into their role, remaining detached from the character they were playing and clearly inviting criticism of him….
In January of 1933 the Nazis came to power and when on February 27 a fire broke out in the Reichstag, the Government seized on the incident as a pretext to round up significant left-wing opposition. The next day, without apology, Brecht fled the country. It was more than just a change of address for Brecht: without a theatre at his disposal, he was like a cello player without his cello. Abruptly, Brecht’s first career had come to an end of its run.
…The spectator was no longer in any way allowed to submit to an experience uncritically (and without practical consequences) by means of simple empathy with the characters in a play. The production took the subject matter and the incidents shown and put them through a process of alienation: the alienation that is necessary to all understanding. When something seems ‘the most obvious thing in the world’ it means that any attempt to understand the world has been given up…. Read More:http://showme.physics.drexel.edu/thury/A-Effect.htmla
For as long as he dared, Brecht kept close to the perimeters of the German-speaking world. After some months in Vienna, Brecht, who had to scrape hard for money throughout the years of his exile, moved his family to a cottage in Denmark. From 1933 to 1939 Brechtm, his wife Helene Weigel, and his two small children waited impatiently in Denmark for the regime to crash. He did what he could in the movement of anti Nazi emigres; he dabbled in Danish theatre, edited an anti-fascist review, wrote some decent poetry, a ballet, and a few conventional leftist-polemical plays. Unfortunately, the financial returns were poor. Nazi territorial expansion forced him to relocate. To Sweden, Finland, and eventually, when he decided the Nazis were going to get more before they lost all, he jumped to Santa Monica, California.
To imagine how glum and frustrating Brecht found his years in the United States, one must contrast them with his slad days in Berlin. Lotte Lenya, who as the wife of Kurt Weill, had known him well in the 1920′s:
You couldn’t make a mistake when Brecht directed you. It was so beautiful. Whatever you think of his politics, you have to admit he was one of the great directors of our time. Kurt and Brecht worked together in Brecht’s studio, an attic studio with this big skylight. And Elisabeth Hauptmann was always there. She was his secretary. She looked like a schoolteacher – hair, like this – but she imitated everything about Brecht. His words; his gestures. But she wasn’t the only one. He looked like a bum, but Brecht killed women – absolutely killed them. Every woman thought she was the one, you know?…
…Brecht liked to work surrounded by his disciples. To them, he was like Christ, but with a stogie. They would sit around his studio and they all had the hair, you know; the clothes; all very serious – and he would pounce on them for ideas and like magic turn them into his own, you know? I’ll never forget, Brecht had this big map of the world on his wall. He and Kurt would play “let’s find a name” – they would cover their eyes and point to the map. That’s how they came up with Surabaya and Alabama and Bilbao, you know? If they pointed to Antarctica, well, they could have written a song for that, too. Read More:http://carlarossi.blogspot.com/2007/06/lenya-one-woman-show-based-on-life-of.html
In California, “the master” found himself for the most part, without pupils. Brecht’s denim garb and stubble and nickel cigar meant very little in Hollywood: eccentricity was the rule, and everybody was a figure of social protest. Brecht’s English remained stubbornly rudimentary. He made few social contacts outside the Santa Monica community of German intellectual and artistic refugees, and in that community, Brecht’s reputation was very small beside that of, say, Thomas Mann. …. to be continued….