Training the Audience: Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract / Description of output

Brecht argued that it was not enough to develop a new kind of theatre, but that theatre practitioners also needed to cultivate the art of spectatorship. Drawing on new archival material, this paper investigates how episodes in Die Mutter, Mutter Courage, and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis can be viewed as training exercises in Brechtian spectatorship. The episodes hold contrasting examples of ‘culinary’ and ‘critical’ spectatorship up for scrutiny, providing negative and positive role models for the audience. They also posit a connection between acting and spectatorship, as the characters-as-actors recycle their observations of social behaviour, using them to construct their own performances. However, the uses to which the characters put their observations vary: Die Mutter and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis present us with a taxonomy of ‘dramatic’ and ‘epic’ performances, suggesting how actors can make the transition from the former to the latter, and to what effect. The paper finishes by asking what we can learn from real-life audience reactions to the plays’ first postwar stagings at the Berliner Ensemble, and why the audiences of Mutter Courage repeated some of the spectatorial errors that Brecht’s plays parodied on stage.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2016
Event15th International Brecht Symposium: Recycling Brecht - St Hugh's College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Jun 201629 Jun 2016


Conference15th International Brecht Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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