Jeesh! So Serious!

Bertolt Brecht’s theatre is one I have to see to believe. It sounds fascinating, but not necessarily a form of theatre I personally would be compelled to work on. He always wanted the audience to be fully aware they were watching a play. This part, I can understand and appreciate. What’s the use of going to the theatre to see something completely naturalistic? That’s taking the theatricality out of the theatre. I believe  the use of the imagination is the spectator’s most significant right. Reproducing an imagined reality very specifically onstage denies the spectator of this right, it makes them passive. Exciting theatre is that which compels the audience to use their imagination.

This is where Brecht and I differ on opinions. The main feature of traditional theatre that he had no interest in was the engendering of illusion. He wanted the audience to use their scientific brains, not their imaginations. He was not interested in feelings. In fact his actor’s are referred to as ‘Demonstrators’ in passages of the A-effect. Their job is to demonstrate their knowledge of human relations, behavior, and capacities in a conscious, suggestive and descriptive way. They are by no means to ‘become’ the character, rather they should comment on it. Brechtian actors were brilliant mimics.

To me, this is not acting. There is an art to the way a character is created and embodied. I believe an actor should embody the character she has been cast to play. Whether she arrives to that from the inside out or the outside in, doesn’t matter- that’s a whole other blog in itself! Brecht wanted the actors to remain fully dissatached from their  characters. They are reporters on the action of the play. They forced the audience to look at the play’s situation from a specific angle and form an opinion. Brecht did not want the spectator to be transported from reality to ‘higher realms’. He wanted theatre to be instructive and entertaining. He didn’t want to show a sugar-coated version of the world- he wanted to recognize the world as it was- and force the spectator to ask questions about himself and his society.

My question is, “Where’s the fun in this theatre?” This theatre is sooooo serious! I want to watch theatre that inspires a sense of child-like wonder in me. I want to be transported when I see a piece of theatre. Don’t get me wrong- I believe that socially conscious and critical theatre is vital- but man, show me a good time while you do it! I believe there is a real art to the actor’s technique in embodying a role- and that is much more inspiring craft than the art of dissatachment.

I’m pissed about my one experience with acting Brecht. I attended an arts highschool and in grade 12 we were all cast in The Good Woman of Szechuan. It was our major project of the term and I was cast as the lead ‘Shen Te’. WELL, our ‘acting ‘ teacher proceeded to lead us through this mammoth piece in true Stanislavski tradition!!! Why the heck did she do that? I always wondered why it was never making sense!?! Because it should never have been performed that way. Brecht was probably rolling in his grave. That teacher should not be teaching specialized kids at that level in actor training. She probably grabbed that play because she saw a large number of roles to be filled. I’d love to have seen what Brecht did with that piece.

As much as I’m knocking him now- I really do wish I could see all  his theories and practices put to work. I’m fascinated by it. And I’m sure I’m not fully comprehending all he was trying to say in his book. His language was foreign and kind of annoyingly pompous to read. I wonder if the work would be too?

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