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March 14, 1965 - Image 5

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Theatre of Bertolt Brecht
... a prelude to the 'U' Players production of 'Galileo'

At the Museum of Art:

THE DRAMATIST and poet Bertolt
Brecht, who died in East Berlin in
1956, was a controversial figure during
his lifetime and has remained so. He is
beyond doubt the most significant Ger-
man dramatist of recent years and one
of the' most influential figures in con-
temporary theatre internationally, by
virtue not only of his plays but also of
his theoretical views on the writing and
production of drama.
While it is chiefly with Brecht the
dramatist, the dramatic theorist and
practical man of the theatre that we will
be concerned in this discussion, a short
topical poem found among his papers af-.
ter his death may serve as a succinct in-
troduction to his spirit and style. There
was a strain of the Socratic gadfly in
Brecht which made him and his works a
potential source of discomfiture to any
"Establishment" including that of a
Marxist state, though he was in agree-
ment with its basic philosophical found-
ations. In the fact that he did not pub-
lish this poem there is an irony not un-
related to the problems treated in his
own "Galileo." The poem is a commen-
tary on the suppression of the workers'
uprising of June 17, 1953.
The Solution
After the uprising of June 17
The Secretary of the Writers' As-
Had pamphlets distributed on Sta-
In which it was said that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the
And could regain it only
By redoubled work. Would it not
Be simpler, if the government
Dissolved the people and
Elected another?
The matter-of-fact, understated tone,
the dry wit, the ironic twists and turns of
meaning (e.g. the topsy-turvy use of par-
liamentary terminology) and the devas-
tatingly satirical implications which the
reader is left to elaborate for himself are
typical of a major vein in Bercht's social
criticism, whether in poetry or in drama.
This social emphasis runs through nearly
all of Brecht's works including most of
his poems. Art as an aesthetic' end in it-
self, or as a form of self-fulfillment of
the artist, had little meaning for Brecht.
This is of course a limitation, but it is
characteristic of many creative irtsts to
have blind spots as regards forms of art
which are foreign to their own creative
bent. Apart from this personal predilec-
tion, Brecht was convinced that the harsh
and problematic age in which lie lived
demanded of the artist that he come to
grips with its problems. In one of his
poems he speaks of having lived in an
age "when a conversation about trees is
almost a crime, because it entails keeping
silent about so many misdeeds."
The entire aesthetic of Brecht's dra-
matic practice and theory is directly or
indirectly the outgrowth of th's social
orientation. Certainly his work is also
rich in purely formal significance. Brecht
himself, as an accomplished craftsman of
the theatre, took satisfaction in his
achievements in dramatic technique. But
ultimately the formal elements, whateve
their intrinsic aesthetic value, are sub-
servient to the purpose of stirnulating
the audience to critical reflection on the
implications, especially the social impli.
cations, of the action presented on the
stage. Brechtian theatre is basically di-
dactic. This'statement needs qualifica-
tion, however. Brecht's major plays ar
not didactic in the sense of inculcating
one specific message, of leading inexor-
ably to one clear-cut conclusion. The3
confront the audience with complex and
genuine dilemmas.
WHENEVER BRECHT'S d r a m a t i
theories and their relation to his owr
dramas are discussed, two terms inevit
ably have a prominent place: epic theatre
and what he called the "Verfremdungsef
fekt" or V-Effekt." "Verfremdung," us.
ually translated "alienation," is a deriv-
ative of the adjective "fremd" (strange
foreign) and essentially means "making

strange." This effect is a major elemen
in epic theatre, Brecht's general term fo:

his type of theatre as contrasted with the
mainstream of German and indeed of
Western European dramatic tradition,
which he referred to as "Aristotelian
The second and less all-embracing of
the two terms, the "V-Effekt"--itself a
complex term-refers in its widest sense
to a type of dramatic presentation which
jolts the audience out of its comfortable
presuppositions and habits of thought by
presenting something familiar and seem-
ingly obvious in a new perspective, which
makes it seem strange and open to crit-
ical scrutiny. This approach can be re-
flected even in the minutest details of the
language, as when Mother Courage, who
makes her living selling goods for the
troops in the Thirty Years' War, exclaims
in consternation, "Don't tell me peace
has broken out!" Those aspects of the
alienation effect which are more specific-
ally at issue in most discussions of
Brecht's views on the theatre are a part
of this basic approach. They have to do
on the one hand with the relationship of
the actors to the dramatic personages
whom they portray, and on the other
hand with the relationship of the aud-
ience to the dramatic action and to the
characters. The two aspects are obvious-
ly interrelated, since the style of acting
necessarily influences audience reaction.
In both respects, Brecht aimed at avoid-
ing or at least restricting emotional em-
pathy and identification. Since this is
one of the most crucial and the most con-
troversial elements in Brecht's theory,
further elaboration may be needed.
Brecht himself, who was fond of using
object lessons, illustrated what he meant
by "Verfremdung" by the following hy-
pothetical real-life situation: Imagine a
witness to an automobile accident who
later, at the scene of the event, acts out
various phases of the accident for the in-
formation of interested persons who had
not seen it themselves. It would occur to
nobody to identify him with the driver or
with the victim. He himself would be
continually conscious of his own separ-
ateness from the individual whom he was
at the moment impersonating, and this
consciousness would be reflected in the
style of his utterances and gestures. The
primary effect on his "audience" would
be to enlighten it about the facts of the

some extent Brecht himself is guilty in
nany of his remarks about the distinc-
tions between his own type of theater and
Aristotelian drama. The context makes
it clear that by "critic" Frye means any
rtellhgent member of the audience, not,
a professional theatre critic who must de-
cide how to review the performance. The
quotation is taken from "The Well-
Tempered Critic" (Indiana University
Press, 1963, 6. 123): the emphasis is mine:
A critic at a play may have his atten-
tion utterly absorbed by the play:
but in the intermission, the ordinary
personality reappears, takes out the
critical personality like a watch, and
examines its pointer readings. If the
critic has been deeply moved by the
play, his critical response will set up
an echo in the rest of his personal-
ity, but he is never persuaded out of
his senses, like Don Quixote at the
puppet show. Nor should he be: a
'real' or fully engaged response to
art does not heighten consciousness
but lowers and debases it.
Obviously the reference here is primarily
to what Brecht would have called Aris-
totelian drama. One might say that the
specifically Brechtian aim is to bring in-
to play the "ordinary personality" and
especially its faculties of passing judg-
ments of a moral and social nature,
throughout the performance itself, not
only during intermission and later, when
one is no longer under the spell of the
direct impact of the play.
WITH THESE remarks aimed at clari-
fying the concept of alienation, we are
already at the heart of the aims and
techniques of Brecht's epic theatre. The
term "epic" itself has first of all the
negative meaning of not dramatic (in the
traditional sense). On the positive side, it
has at least two basic referents: a special
sense of time and the calculated effect
that an action is being narrated. The
connection of the latter to the alienation
effect should be apparent. The actual
use of a narrator who periodically inter-
rupts the action with commentary and
ties scenes together with additional infor-
mation is not essential. Brecht has other
devices to achieve a similar effect. Prom-
inent among these is the use of head-
ings preceding each scene. intended to be
projected visually, which give a capsule
summary of what is to come Sometimes
(in "Galileo" frequently), this heading is
followed by a little motto in verse which
makes a general comment on the scene
to follow, or even contains a direct ad-
monition to the audience. The motto of
the last scene of "Galileo," for instance,
is a thinly veiled allusion to contempor-
ary man's responsibility to avoid letting
his scientific knowledge lead to an atomic
Another "epic" device is the use of
songs, usually in cabaret or balladeer
style, which comment on the action.
"Galileo" contains just one example, a
crucially important one: the carnival act
on the marketplace in Scene 10. It pre-
sents the revolutionary social imphca-
tions of Galileo's scientific discoveries
from the perspective of the masses, repre-
sented by an emaciated ballad singer.
With a typically Brechtian twist, the sur-
face meaning of the song is anti-Galileo,
pro-status quo propaganda, while the
actual intent is the exact opposite. Brecht
was emphatic in his insistence tha such
songs should be clearly set apart in style
from the surrounding action. On no con-
dition were they to seem merely mood-
setting devices. The same criterion ap-
plied to lighting. There were to be no
captivating atmospheric effects, but a
clear bright lighting which, together with
other elements, was to keep the audience
aware that it was witnessing a presenta-
tion in a theatre and should follow with
critical attention, not succumb to dra-
matic illusion.
The epic sense of time is conveyed with
special impressiveness in "Mother Cour-
age," where the sheer interminable length
of the war, as scene follows scene, years
apart and without a traditional plot
build-up, impinges on one's consciousness
more than any single act of violence. In
dramas with historical themes, Brecht

made liberal use of actual historical facts
and used various devices (including tie

mention of specific dates and places in
his scene headings) to remind the aud-
ience repeatedly that historical events are
being unfolded before its eyes. This gives
the plays a certain documentary "you
were there" quality which is exciting, but
not an end in itself. The deliberate fix-
ing of events in time and place is meant
to emphasize their contingent nature,
rather than the universal, unchangeable
human qualities which may be manifest
in them. Brecht wished to stimulate
some such train of thought as the follow-
ing: Galileo made this and that decision
under these circumstances. It had such
and such immediate consequences. Could
and should he have decided otherwise?
Do the circumstances in which we now
find ourselves, partly as a consequence of
Galileo's choices, have to be as they are,
or can't we do something to change
them? Is it not imperative that we try?
The emphasis on what is specifically his-
torical and the stimulus to reflect on
present conditions go hand in hand.
THIS DISCUSSION has by no means
exhausteddthe subject of Brecht's
views on the drama and their reflection
in the structure and style of his own
plays. In concluding the theoretical dis-
cussion, it is necessary to emphasize that
what in theory may sound forbiddingly
cerebral, in the plays themselves is far
from this. Brecht's major plays fairly
crackle with vitality and are full of va-
riety, including earthy humor, sharp wit
and - perhaps surprisingly - intense
pathos. The plays do generate excitement
and emotion. But always there are built-
in safeguards against letting the audience
indulge more than momentarily in feel-
ing for its own sake. In the particular
case of "Galileo," where there is much in
the figure of the hero that invites sym-
pathy and identification, Brecht included
a merciless self-analysis on the part of
the aged scientist in the second-last
scene. It was his view that even those
members of the audience who had identi-
fied with Galileo would, in this case
through the identification itself, partici-
pate in his evaluation of himself and thus
gain the insight which they were intend-
ed to gain by less "Aristotelian" means.
It would be unfair to Brecht to leave
the reader with the impression that
theory dominated practice in his work.
Quite the contrary is the case. People
who had the privilege of working with
him or of observing him at work as a
theatre director unanimously bear wit-
ness that Brecht was thoroughly undog-
matic, readily accepted and indeed en-
couraged suggestions from his co-workers
and focused his attention on the practical
problems of effective acting and staging,
down to the smallest details of inflection
and gesture. It therefore seems approp-
riate to close this discussion with a mis-
cellanly of quotes from Brecht's com-
ments on specific matters concerning his
"Galileo." The following translations are
The portrayal of Galileo should not
aim at establishing identification
and sympathy on the part of the
public; rather, it should be made
possible for the public to take a more
astonished, critical and scrutinizing
attitude. He should be portrayed as
a phenomenon, such as e.g. Richard
III, the emotional assent of the pub-
lic being gained by the vitality of
this strange phenomenon.
I hope that the work shows how so-
ciety extorts from its individuals
what it needs from them. The urge
to investigate, a social phenomenon,
scarcely less pleasurable or less dic-
tatorial than the reproductive urge,
directs Galileo into this so dangerous
field, drives him into the painful con-
flict with his urgent desires for
other pleasures. He points his tele-
scope at the stars, and delivers him-
self up to torture. In the end he car-
ries on his science like a bad habit,
in secret, probably with pangs of
conscience. In the face of such a
situationeone can scarcely insist on

f only praising Galileo or only con-
demning him.

F]HE EXHIBITION of drawings by 100
American artists, on view at the
Museum of Art through March 28, is the
second major drawing show to be seen
on campus this year. Together the two
shows (the earlier one, organized by the
Guggenheim Museum, was held last No-
vember) have offered us an exellent sur-
vey of contemporary directions not only
in drawing but in painting in general.
Lawrence Alloway's introduction to the
catalogue of the Guggenheim exhibition
and Dore Ashton's essay for the present
catalogue discuss the bonds which link
contemporary drawing to contemporary
painting. Both exhibitions clearly dem-
onstrate that the boundaries between
the two art forms need not and, indeed,
cannot be strictly defined. The distinc-
tion between current drawing and paint-
ing lies mainly in the realm of scale and
the range of the palette, not in intention
or structure or even in the materials
employed. A panting today may be seen
as an expanded drawing, a drawing as
a painting physically reduced.
Few of the drawings in the present
exhibition insist on the spontaneous re-
action of eye or hand as the special pro-
vince of the genre; still fewer may be
viewed as sketches preparatory to a
larger, more consdered work. Rather,
most of them may be termed presentation
drawings, i.e., independent works asso-
ciated with "finished" paintings. The
point may be illustrated by reference to
the drawings of Fritz Glarner and Jack

finished work designed for framing and
hanging upon the wall.
BEFORE TURNING to other works
which demand attention, I would
like to comment on the nature 'of the
exhibition as a whole. Unlike the Gug-
genhe-m show, which concentrated upon
new names or well-established older ones,
the present exhibition reveals no par-
ticular conformation, no identifiable co-
ordinating bias. In the current show each
of the 100 artists is represented by one
drawing, whereas the Guggenheim pre-
sented several works by each of the
thirty-s'x participants. Thus greater di-
versity would seem to have been one of
the aims of the current exhibition, and,
in this respect, it may be taken as a
fair presentation of contemporary mani-
festations in art, for the art of today is
nothing if not diverse.
Oddly enough, there is no single image
which may fit easily into the categories
of Pop Art or Op Art, directions which
were highly stressed in the Guggenheim
exhibition. The Guggenheim show at-
tempted to champion the new and display
the recent; the present exhibition reveals
a greater degree of tolerance in its
selection. In consequence, it has a some-
what retardataire or settled-in quality
which makes the Guggenheim show seem
polemical by contrast.
One of the primary aims of the current
exhibition was to bring together works
which reveal the new ways in which
traditional drawing media are currently
being employed and the manner in which
recently-developed mixed media are being

substantiality as Rivers tapes a thin
circle of paper over its circumference.
The tape is transparent. Close to this
encircled head he applies several strips
of masking tape (opaque) which serve
as the ground for another drawing. At
bottom center he returns to scotch tape
to secure a piece of tracing paper upon
which another head is drawn. The tracing
paper allows the lines of the graph paper
to show through. But then Rivers rein-
forces several of the graph-lines with
pencil, running some of them over the
drawing on the applied tracing paper.
Affixed to the very center of the page
is a piece of finer-gauged graph paper
upon which the artist has drawn another,
tiny head-a reduced replica of the kind
of drawing he is presenting on the large
sheet. One could go further in descrip-
tion; Rivers does in his drawing.
This slight page of sketches proves to
be a very complex and sophisticated
examination of various tensions which
may be established within the realm of
art and between art and the world to
which it makes reference. It is equivalent
in this respect to cubist drawings and
paintings from the period of the intro-
duction of collage into European art in
the years just prior to World War I.
Rivers' drawing is not cubist in form,
but his ambiguities are cubist. This draw-
ing suggests that perhaps the major
contribution of cubism to twentieth-
century art may prove to be not its
experiments in geometric abstraction nor
even its role in the reinterpretation of
pictorial space but its exploration of the
complex relationship between art and
Richard Pousette-Dart
reality. Rivers' personal investigation
of the tensions between external
reference and the internal development
of a painting places his work within the
forefront of contemporary artistic ex-
periment. His visual puns and deliberate
ambiguities are closely linked in intention
to the movies of Truffaut or Godard
which shift back and forth from
narrative-based images to pictorial quo-
tations from cinematic history, and they
are similarly related to contemporary
plays which continually attempt to bridge
the gulf across the footlights by direct
references or challenges to the audience
seated in the theatre. Rivers' impure
imagery should not blind us, either, to the
direct connection between the illusion-
istic ambiguities in his work and the
visual tensions between figure and ground
which are at the very heart of hard-
edge abstraction.
Hard-edge painting is well represented
in the exhibition by Jack Youngerman,
Al Held, Keith Boyle, Hassel Smith, and
Adja Yunkers. The inclusion of the latter
two artists is intended to suggest that
hard-edge abstraction does not demand
crisp definition of form. The common
denominator of these works is just that
element of visual tension mentioned
above. Yunkers, working in a vein akin
to that explored by Clyfford Still, closes
the gap between abstract-expressionism
and hard-edge. His double-curved line
of pink ribbon slices across the field of
black to which it is glued, disembodying
the ground and generating a struggle
for spatial priority between the two
resultant areas of black. Hassel Smith's
lines of black enamel activate the paper;
the single surface is strikingly trans-
formed into a play of overlapping planes,
their edges seeming to project forth like
curls of plaster peeling off a wall.

The works of Held and Youngerman
are devoted to a deliberate purification
of means and a fresh directness of image.

But their dr
does not ru
Held's ribbon
through its
otherwise it
generates a
greater that
peatedly, as
abstract ar
pioneers. H
the particul
work of M
which it ha(
decades. Yc
the impres
which one Z
in the Gugg
form meda
seduce the
between bl
ground, at
earlier perk
straction. H
Arp, an arti
has taken
of current t
artists in t
patterned t
thaler's soft
to belong t<
which e
found hums
entitled "C

Larry Rivers Al Held

Glarner has worked for years in an
abstract, formal vein derived directly
from Mondrian. The drawing in the
Museum presents, seemingly, three char-
acteristic studies for paintings-three
circles, one large and two small, each
filled with overlapping rectangles arrang-
ed to achieve a desired visual balance
or tension. But the format of the page
belies the role of each circle as an isolated
study toward the solution of a painting
problem. The two small disks are so
consciously balanced against the large
as to indicate that the artist's primary
concern was with the decoration of the
page as a whole rather than with the
lessons learned from the individual parts.
Jack Tworkov, a veteran abstract-
expressionist, presents sixteen figure
studies oh a large sheet of paper folded
into sixteen parts. Within each square
defined by the folds he places a single
figure. The studies are hardly isolated,
however; the pencil lines frequently over-
lap the borders of the squares indicating
that Tworkov worked with the sheet fully
opened, conceiving of each figure in
relation to its neighbor and to the whole
page. One is presented with a sequence
of sixteen sketches uniformly and some-
what mechanically filling the format.
The drawing tecl'nique is Tworkov's, and
each figure is admirably rendered, but
the larger format is derived from Andy
Warhol. It is curious that Tworkov's ap-
proach to the traditional studio model-
as subject generally foreign to his work-
should be filtered through Warhol's serial
images of such untraditional subject mat-
ter as S & H Green Stamps or photo-
graphs of Marilyn Monroe.
In any case, both the Tworkov and
Glarner drawings at first suggest the
preparatory sketch; they seem to speak
of the partially-formed investigation or
the spontaneous visual response. But
neither is so much a preparation or a
personal record as it is a highly-conscious

utilized. In surveying the exhibition, how-
ever, one tends to accept the statements
of the drawings within the traditional
framework of form and content, with
little awareness of the role which the
varied media play. From the evidence of
the works in the show it would seem as
if new materials can only engender new
forms when those forms and materials
extend out from the surface into the
more physical world of sculpture or as-
semblage. In the drawings, the most
untraditional of materials and techniques
(e.g., plastic paints, stenciled forms,
photo-transfers, scotch tapes) have been
easily attuned to a familiar context, the
foreign materials assuming the character
of oil, watercolor, pen, pencil, wash,
crayon, chalk, etc. As far as the use of
media is concerned, the current exhibi-
tion has a most traditional aspect.
show are of extremely high quality.
One of the most brilliantly executed of
these illustrates the complex and am-
biguous attitudes towards vision and
reality which play perhaps the dominant
role in informing American art today.
On a large sheet of graph paper Larry
Rivers draws seven animal heads-of
leopards, tigers, lions - presented in
frontal, profile, or three-quarter views.
The rendering of each of the heads is
fairly naturalistic, but they are so intri-
cately interrelated as to place each one
on a different plane of reality within the
drawing. Two of the heads, one bordered
by a square, the other by a circle, refer
to pictures on the under-side of the lids
of ice-cream cups. One is labeled Horton,
the other Breyers (Rivers is from New
York, and if you are, too, you will have
recognized the brand names). Below the
circled head is a foreshortened rendering
of a cup of ice cream (chocolate and
vanilla) with the word "ice" stenciled
flatly on it. The circle becomes the lid
of the dixie cup and is given a partial

Angeles art
black imag
set starkly
The name
the topmos
on a tomb
the clue to
heaving ro
gray surfac
of charred
ment to Ca
meaning, c
millions sla
camps of V
My inter
is not base
work alone
Llynn Foul
wider expe
come to vie
tion as I d
made by
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quantity o
one estima
His point i
assumes a :
coherent n
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for the h
drawings p
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genheim e:
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ings; I, for
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artists wit
drawings I
held this y

Be rtolt Brecht, 1928
By Rudolf Schlichter

accident and place it in a position to
form its own opinions as to the probable
causes, the driver's degree of responsibil-
ity, and so forth.
This model of the epic theatre, as
Brecht called it, does not of course ex-
clude the possibility that the spectators
might derive a sense of "dramatic" ex-
citement from the portrayal by the hypo-
thetical eyewitness. It is primarily a
question of emphasis and degree. Some
remarks of the critic Northrop Frye may
be helpful at this point to guard against
a possible oversimplification, of which to

SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 1965

Page Six

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