Angoulême, a city in Southwestern France, dubbed itself the international comic strip city in the early 2000s. The city is mostly known for its Angoulême International Comics Festival and now its namesake is unmistakable as walls all over the city sport huge comic strip displays.
In John Willett’s compendium of some of Brecht’s most important critical writings, the editor helps to outline the theatremaker’s development of his style. Each letter and article allows for a further glimpse into Brecht’s take on Epic Theatre, acting, and the alienation effect for which his works are so renowned.
On anxiety, Brecht aptly points out:
“In his obscure anxiety not to let the audience get away the actor is immediately so steamed up that he makes it seem the most natural thing in the world to insult one’s father. At the same time it can be seen that acting takes a tremendous lot out of him. And a man who strains himself on the stage is bound, if he is any good, to strain all the people sitting in the stalls.” – From Berliner Börsen-Courier, 1926
Around the same time this article was written, Brecht was insisting on a new type of audience engagement in the form of what he called “ ’smokers’ theatre.” The audience would puff on cigars and look on as if taking in a boxing match, therefore developing a more detached and critical outlook than was possible in the ordinary German theatre. Smoking was verboten in theatres at the time.
“That in a Shakespearean production one man in the stalls with a cigar could bring about the downfall of Western art. He might as well light a bomb as light his cigar. I would be delighted to see our public allowed to smoke during performances. And I’d be delighted mainly for the actor’s sake. In my view it is quite impossible for the actor to play unnatural cramped and old-theatre to a man smoking in the stalls.”
Forever pushing the boundaries of what theatre was “allowed to be” at the time, Brecht paved the way for many in the modern day interactive and absurdist theatre realms. Brecht on Theatre is a delight – like sitting down for a rare and illuminating coffee-date with Brecht himself.
When faced with a question on balancing commercial pressures and creativity integrity, consider that a meditative mind might be the ticket:
“I came from painting. And a painter has none of those worries. A painter paints a painting. No one comes in and says, “You’ve got to change that blue.” It’s a joke to think that a film is going to mean anything if somebody else fiddles with it. If they give you the right to make the film, they owe you the right to make it the way you think it should be — the filmmaker. The filmmaker decides on every single element, every single word, every single sound, every single thing going down that highway through time. Otherwise, it won’t hold together. When there’s even a little hint of pressure coming from someplace else — like deadlines or going overbudget… — this affects the film. And you just want support, support, support… in a perfect world… so that you can really get the thing to be correct.
Now, this doesn’t happen these days — so, “support, support, support” — when you do dive within and experience this pure self — atma — pure consciousness — it’s the home of all the laws of nature. You get more in tune with those and … nature starts supporting you. So you have that feeling, even if they’re breathing down your neck, and there’s pressure here and pressure here, it doesn’t matter — inside … I say, “Every day is like a Saturday morning” — you got a great feeling, and it grows and grows and grows.”
– David Lynch
Allow yourself permission to not concern yourself with what others think. Get busy being that version of yourself you want to be.
Wilhelm Reich, a student of Freud’s and radical pioneer of early psychoanalysis, kept diaries of his observations of the world – often fascinating, often misunderstood – yet still able to influence a number of notable intellectuals from Saul Bellow to William Burroughs. A culmination of his journal entries, letters and laboratory notebooks, Where’s the Truth?: Letters and Journals, 1948-1957, follows three other autobiographical installments making this book the forth and final collection of his work.
In a particularly thoughtful entry dated June 7, 1948, Reich attempts to distill the six conditions necessary for creative sanity. In so doing he reveals his own doubts and aspirations while painting an ideal portrait of a life with true purpose.
The last principle is especially moving and an apt reminder that the promise of the “easy life” does not necessarily come from always treading the easiest path.
They say a good joke is timeless. Does the adage apply to those clever quips thrown around at Jackson during his chaos-riddled presidency? The bull-headed, quick-to-anger, and strongly opinionated leader was criticized from all angles about his inability to just calm down and follow the rules. But that wasn’t AJ’s style.
The political discourse at the time went a little something like this:
“Let the National Bank alone Jackson!”
Nope, going to challenge it until its a crippled and gutted version of what it once was.
“Stop hiring all of your friends to serve as your Cabinet!”
Haha good one. These positions are simple enough that a “common” man can do it. And if they start screwing up, I’ll throw them out.
“You should probably stop acting like a supreme leader whose word is law. Ever heard of justice?”
If you don’t like how I run things, you can get up and get out. I’ve made this land open to the American people by relocating thousands of others, and this is thanks I get?
Let’s hope that Andrew had some sense of humor about himself and could appreciate the attitudes of those that attempted to laugh at the situation. These old-school political cartoons of Jackson are intrinsically charming. The flood of text presented to help get the joke across? We’re a bit less wordy nowadays. But nonetheless, they give a clear idea of some of the impressions of the president during his reign..I mean, presidential term.
Shows how Jackson’ critics viewed the man’s enthusiasm for using his powers as president. Many sought to limit his influence by pushing for states’ ability to reject federal decisions.
Jackson vs. the National Bank. Andrew Jackson opposed the Second Bank of the U.S. because he believed the bank concentrated too much power in the hands of a few wealthy men in the Northeast.
Jackson, somewhat blinded to the situation (spectacles up over his head), as his Kitchen Cabinet, here depicted as the rats (John H. Eaton, John Branch, Martin Van Buren, and Samuel D. Ingham), abandons him. His foot is planted firmly on the tail of the Van Buren rat.
Andrew Jackson is roasted over the fires of “Public Opinion” by Justice herself. He was under pressure for the controversy surrounding his removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. Note the pig leg.
Image Source: Library of Congress
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is rakish, wild and unapologetically in your face. Its score: tongue-in-cheek emo rock goodness.
But in order to create the feel of arriving at a concert (that happens to have Jackson as the headliner), creative lighting both inside and out are a must. These shots display great use of visual intrigue. The creative reimagining of found objects gives the lighting an extra pop.
That’s right. Those two little words, saddled up next to each other and getting cosy, are the key. And although it may be an overplayed cliche, today’s “tough economy” has caused all of us to get a little nervous on the subject of job hunting. This nervousness causes us to seize up and sit in a period of inaction, or try to play it safe to please the potential employers out there. But I cannot tell you how many success stories I’ve read lately of those that bent the rules a little and made themselves stand out by proving that they have their own unique brand that no one else can replicate.
I would like to think that perhaps they read this letter from 1934 from Robert Pirosh. This copywriter traded in his New York life in favor of that of Hollywood screenwriter. The only problem? He did not have a job as a screenwriter. So he sent the following note to all of the major studios, received a slew of interview requests, and finally accepted an offer as a junior writer at MGM. From there he went on to win an Academy Award and write for some of the best and brightest (including the Marx Brothers). Just another testament to the fact that you should not water yourself down in order to obtain the dream job. Do not censor the you that just might land you the gig.
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.
I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.
I have just returned and I still like words.
May I have a few with you?
385 Madison Avenue
Looking for a manifesto to remind you that it never hurts to pursue your creative side no matter what career you have? Look no further than the inspired message of Catharina Bruns, a German-born designer and illustrator behind Work Is Not A Job. Her site aims to reshift your focus by reminding you that ‘work’ is not your 9-5 job but how you individually contribute to the world.
“In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage”
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Hugh McLeod is a cartoonist. But his drawings on the back of business cards are more than just doodles – they are miniature keys to personal creativity. His novel idea got noticed and before long, he put together a book entitled “Ignore Everybody” with his own view on how to keep creative in the modern world.
This book presents 40 of his own tips on creativity, accompanied by a business card illustration. A few of my favorites are below:
The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. When I first started with the cartoon-on-back-of-bizcard format, people thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something more easy for markets to digest i.e. cutey-pie greeting cards or whatever?
The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.
The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.
Put the hours in.
Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort, and stamina.
You are responsible for your own experience.
Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is.
Keep your day job.
I’m not just saying that for the usual reason i.e. because I think your idea will fail. I’m saying it because to suddenly quit one’s job in a big ol’ creative drama-queen moment is always, always, always in direct conflict with what I call “The Sex & Cash Theory”.*
*THE SEX & CASH THEORY: “The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.”
Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.
You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.
If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.
“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking”
-Agnes De Mille
There’s something absolutely wonderful about these shots of some of the greats in rehearsal. Little moments before the polish went on, right in the midst of finessing a piece. Yet even in these “rough” shots, it’s easy to pick out the stars. They’re electric. Eartha Kitt and James Dean hanging in dance class? No biggie. Bob Fosse demonstrating wild 90 degree angle wrists for his troupe? Makes it look easy. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly catching some serious air? Obsessed.
What is your signature move? Dare you find time in your day to try out any of those above.