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BTEC National Award in Performing Arts (Acting) BTEC National Certificate in Performing Arts (Acting)
Your Lesson Objectives
• To identify key characteristics of Epic and naturalistic writing styles in relation to scripts • To explore Epic Drama styles of writing practically • To justify the key concepts of writing for Epic Drama through performance decisions
• Born in Augsburg Bavaria to middle class parents. • Bright quiet student in grade school • As a child, Brecht visited folk festivals and saw extremely detailed dioramas of historical events. These simple, expressive images captured his imagination and had a strong influence on his artistic style later in life.
• Went to Medical School where he was drafted into the German army near the end of the First World War. • Brecht was stationed in a VD clinic, but was still affected by the images he was exposed to. • This experience would greatly influence his writing throughout his life and lead him to adopting a pacifist philosophy.
• In September 1924, Brecht was hired as a dramaturge at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater in Berlin, one of the top theaters in the world at the time. • Around this time he met Elisabeth Hauptmann who he remained romantically and professionally involved with for the rest of his life. • Also during this time, he married Helene Weigel, a successful actress with whom he remained with for the rest of his life, albeit not faithfully.
• At around this time he began establishing the “Brecht Collective.” • First play produced by the “collective” was Mann ist Mann. • Marks the beginning of his “epic theatre. • Began studying Marxist theory, and from this point on remained an avid communist in life and art.
• Created in response to the melodrama of the nineteenth century, and the Naturalistic style promoted by Stanislavski. • Composed of ideas and conventions that existed for hundreds or even thousands of years before hand, from many different cultures around the world.
• Easily digestible schlock. • Protagonist is archetypical “good guy” and Antagonist is archetypical “dastardly villain.” • Endings all wrapped up and everyone goes home happy.
What are the key characteristics of a naturalistic script writing style?
Overall style Character Dialogue Stage/Shooting directions Story
Naturalism in Theatre
• Stanislavsky attempted to overcome the shallow, static style of melodrama with an in-depth reflection of real life. • Subject is Man and his relation to Himself. • Great emphasis on characters “internal life.” • Aimed at pulling the audience into the world of the play by suspending their disbelief to the utmost extent.
Aims of Epic Theatre
• Brecht felt that theatre should be used as a vehicle for social change, a forum for social issues to be examined and discussed. • Subject is Man and his relation to Society. • He felt that the audience should retain their critical thinking skills, and should therefore be pulled from the world of the play at all costs.
Conventions of Epic Writing
• Concerns a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. • Begins with an invocation to a muse. • Starts with a statement of the theme. • Use of epithets. • Features long and formal speeches. • Shows divine intervention on human affairs. • “Star" heroes that embody the values of the civilization.
Conventions of Epic Theatre
• Play construction is “epic” in that it spans large periods of time. • Scenes are not dependant one another and can be added, removed or reordered with little overall effect to the plot. • Sparse, non-realistic stage and lighting design. • Placards and projections.
What kind of design elements might a script written in a naturalistic style use during performance?
Hedda Gabler (Box Set)
• “Alienation effect” • Presentational as opposed to Representational. • Actors and audience are encouraged to not, at any point, feel that they are the character they are portraying. • Characters are not representative of individuals, but of social groups or types. • Attempts to create a space between audience and actors.
The dramatic theatre’s spectator says: Yes, I have felt like that too – Just like me – It’s only natural – It’ll never change – The sufferings of this man appal me, because they are inescapable- That’s great art; it all seems the most obvious thing in the world – I weep when they weep, I laugh when they laugh. - Brecht on Theatre
The epic theatre’s spectator says: I’d never have thought of it – That’s not the way – That’s extraordinary, hardly believable – It’s got to stop – The sufferings of that man appal me, because they are unnecessary – That’s great art; nothing obvious in it – I laugh when they weep, I weep when they laugh. - Brecht on Theatre
• Mews, Siegfried (1989) Critical Essays on Bertolt Brecht. Princeton University Press, Esslin, Martin Brecht: (1960) The Man and His Work. Double Day and Company, 1960 Bentley, Eric (1961) Seven Plays by Bertolt Brecht. Grove Press 1961 http://german.lss.wisc.edu/brecht/
Points from Brecht’s ‘A Short Organum for the Theatre’ (published in 1949)
DRAMATIC THEATRE plot implicates the spectator in a stage situation wears down his capacity for action provides him with sensations experience the spectator is involved in something EPIC THEATRE narrative turns the spectator into an observer arouses his capacity for action forces him to take decisions picture of the world he is made to face something
suggestion argument the spectator is in the thick of it, shares the experience the spectator stands outside, studies the human being is taken for granted he is unalterable eyes on the finish one scene makes another growth linear development man as a fixed point thought determines being feeling the human being is the object of the enquiry he is alterable and able to alter eyes on the course each scene for itself montage in curves man as a process social being determines thought reason