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.
Sorry that I have been upset with you recently. It was surprising when I looked up and realized that this season was already bidding its adieus. I’ve chastised you for being too slow, angered when you seemed to go too fast. You were relentless, tempered. I was one shade less than peaceful. Wishing for extra moments wasn’t providing any…because you, with inimitable sageness, knew there were already enough. Exactly enough of you to go around. No more, no less. Now I realized that I’ve been trying to change you, instead of just letting you…be. So thank you for your patience. Forgive my need to rush or to hold you back.
Looking forward This is a perfect moment – thanks for being here for it.
And now in a little homage to the winner of “People I’d Most Like to Be Best Friends With,” may I present Mr. Alan Cumming. Endlessly versatile and extremely talented, this man has turned his life into a work of art. Curious as to why he’s won the title? Check out just a few of the reasons below.
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?
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