Brecht and political theater

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter explores Brecht’s understanding of political theater and sets it in the context of other contemporary approaches, including the work of the director Erwin Piscator. It explains why Brecht did not view Naturalism or Expressionism as acceptable aesthetic models, and it demonstrates how he rooted his theater in a material approach to reality, showing the social and economic influences on, and implications of, characters’ decisions and actions. Epic theater creates the scope for the agency that Brecht found lacking in Naturalist drama: it shows that characters have choices, allowing audiences to imagine how different decisions or circumstances might yield different results.

From the later 1920s, Brecht developed a Marxist critique of the theater apparatus and began to experiment on the margins of, and outside, commercial theater. It was after the Second World War, when he founded the Berliner Ensemble, that he finally had the opportunity to control the means of theatrical production. The Berliner Ensemble’s entire approach was underpinned by a holistic understanding of political theater. This extended from actor training to outreach activities with audiences, going far beyond the argument or subject matter of any individual play.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBertolt Brecht in Context
EditorsStephen Brockmann
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781108608800
ISBN (Print)9781108426466
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021

Publication series

NameLiterature in Context
PublisherCambridge University Press

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Piscator
  • naturalism
  • expressionism
  • agitprop
  • Berliner Ensemble
  • Bertolt Brecht
  • The Mother
  • The Decision
  • The Threepenny Opera
  • Drums in the Night


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