Building new audiences at the Berliner Ensemble, 1949-1956

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

When Brecht settled in East Berlin in 1948 and went on to found the Berliner Ensemble, he had to begin the process of introducing himself to post-war German audiences almost from scratch. What has not been appreciated before is just how intense the Berliner Ensemble’s work to mobilise audiences was in its early years, or the nature and extent of its outreach activities. This article uses original archival evidence to examine how Brecht and his collaborators sought to transform theatre attendance in East Berlin, engaging with working-class spectators through an extensive programme of outreach activities, and how working-class spectators responded to their first experiences of epic theatre during post-show discussions. This research reveals that when Brecht was facing his most concerted attacks from the GDR authorities, he was actually in the vanguard of attempts to transform theatre attendance, making a better job of delivering this aspect of government cultural policy than its own agencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-229
Number of pages19
JournalOxford German Studies
Issue number2
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 May 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Brecht
  • Berliner Ensemble
  • epic theatre
  • audience


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