Throughout history, both theatrical and otherwise, there are figures that stand out prominently in the collective memory. There are the giants, those triumphant individuals whose work has made an indelible impression on society. And then there are those who stand behind the giants, their teachers, their inspiration. Often disregarded and ignored, these people gave life to the ideas their successors then expanded upon and organized. There are many such examples of this kind of a relationship, but one of the most classic examples is that of Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator. Those who are familiar with theatrical theory and history recognize Brecht as the creator and theorist of epic theatre. Most people do not recognize the name of Erwin Piscator at all. However, Piscator was in fact the man who originated the idea of epic/political/documentary theatre
[...] Brecht is often credited as having done most of the theoretical work regarding political theatre, and the epic acting style associated with it in particular; however, Piscator did have some concrete tenets that he set down regarding political theatre. Terence Smith writes that Piscator sought totality (represent the whole picture), immediacy (relevancy to contemporary issues), and authenticity (force spectators to action) (Smith, 2). For him it was not enough that the audience leave thinking the play was interesting, or had a great message. [...]
[...] The play itself is typically episodic, lacking the conventional structure of a realist or naturalist play (Probst, 3). One example of a documentary play is Trotz Alledem (1925), a play that in a series of scenes deals with the high points in the revolutionary history of man (an obvious testament to the power of revolution to change things for the better) (Probst, 2). The adaptation may in fact be the most complex of the three major styles Piscator utilized in his work. [...]
[...] Piscator continued to run the Workshop independently for three more years, and his wife ran it for two more years after that when he returned to East Berlin, but unfortunately, it could not support itself financially and folded in 1953 (Dramatic Workshop, 2). During his time there, however, Piscator managed to make off-Broadway an oasis for new, experimental theater in a world where the commercialism of Broadway reigned supreme. There have been references throughout this paper to Bertolt Brecht, Piscator's student, the more famous of the two. The pair shared a lot of the same basic ideas about the importance of meaning and thinking in the theater, but they also had some important differences. [...]
[...] Hopefully this paper has adequately documented Erwin Piscator's theories, achievements, and notions of political theatre. He was extremely committed to both socialism and to politics in the theatre. He felt that any theatre, such as Broadway, that was purely entertainment and without real substance could not truly be called art. It is his ideas regarding political theatre, his creation of the documentary play, his influence on Brecht that has heavily influenced 20th century theatre in both America and Europe. He [...]
[...] However, the most important aspect of All The King's Men lies in its developments of acting technique. Piscator liked to use narrators for his plays, either extrinsic (outside the story and merely observing the action taking place), or intrinsic (an actual character affected by the events that are happening around him/her). In this story he used both an extrinsic and an intrinsic narrator, which gave the play a different feel, as well as created a new stylistic device for him to work with (Probst, 12). [...]
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