Brecht

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It is difficult to imagine a play which is completely successful in portraying drama as Bertolt Brecht envisioned it to be. For many years before and since Brecht proposed his theory of “Epic Theatre”, writers, directors and actors have been focused on the vitality of entertaining the audience, and creating characters with which the spectator can empathize. ‘Epic Theatre’ believes that the actor-spectator relationship should be one of distinct separation, and that the spectator should learn from the actor rather than relate to him. Two contemporary plays that have been written in the last thirty years which examine and work with Brechtian ideals are ‘Fanshen’ by David Hare, and ‘The Laramie Project’ by Moises Kaufman. The question to be examined is whether either of these two plays are entirely successful in achieving what was later called, ‘The Alienation Effect”.
Over the course of his career, Brecht developed the criteria for and conditions needed to create Epic Theatre. The role of the audience can be likened to that of a group of college aged students or intellectuals. Brecht believed in the intelligence of his audience, and their capacity for critical analysis. He detested the trance-like state that an Aristotelian performance can lure the audience into. Plays that idealize life and humanity are appealing to an audience, and this makes it easy for them to identify with the hero, they reach a state of self oblivion. The spectator becomes one with the actor, and experiences the same fantastical climax that is unattainable in real life.
“However, at the end of the performance, the audience has already experienced the highest emotional climax, the memory of which is strung along by the inevitable plot resolution. The audience has no choice but to leave with the rapidly fading memory of their dramatic stimulation and return to the underwhelming reality that awaits them outside of the theatre.”

"The task of epic theatre, Brecht believes, is not so much to develop actions as to represent conditions. But to ërepresentí does not here signify ëreproduceí in the sensed used by theoreticians of Naturalism. Rather, the first point at issue is to uncover those conditions. (One could just as well say: to make them strange
(Benjamin 1966, 18-9)

"The art of epic theatre consists in arousing astonishment rather than EMPATHY." (Benjamin 1966,16)

“ ‘Theatre’ consists in this; in making live representations of reported or invented happenings between human beings and doing so with a view to entertainment.
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