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Claire Bishop on Brecht in Introduction /Viewers as Producers to Participation,

ed. Claire Bishop, Whitechapel: London and MIT Press: Massachusetts, 2006, pp.
11:
As Benjamin explains, Brechtian theatre abandons long complex plots in favour
of situations that interrupt the narrative through a disruptive element, such as
song. Through this technique of montage and juxtaposition, audiences were lead
to break their identification with the protagonists on stage and be incited to
critical distance. Rather than presenting the illusion of action on stage and filling
the audiences with sentiment, Brechtian theater compels the spectator to take up
a position towards this action.


In "The Literarization of the Theatre"
(1 93 1). Brecht outlines how the songs should be Sung:
When an actor sings he undergoes a change in fnction. Nothing is more
revolting than when the actor pretends not to notice that he has left the
level of plain speech and stared to sing. The three levels--plain speech.
heightened speech. and singing--must always remain distinct . . . The
actor must not only sing but show a man singing. His aim is not so much
to bring out the emotional content of the Song (has one the right to offer
others a dish that one has already eaten oneself?) but to show gestures
that are so to speak the habits and usage of the body. (44-45)
Once again. Brecht's emphasis is on detachment. on the rejection of empathy.
However.
as Brecht explains in '-'Der Messingkauf: An Editorial Note" (1 952). the
elimination

songs not only to separate episodes and move
the action forward. but also. in the words of Bertolt Brecht. '-to strip bear the
middle
class corpus of ideas." to take up a position and present an attitude

this experimentation with new forms manifests itself in the strategic
deployment of various epic theatre devices. inciuding cross-casting. social
gestus. and
songs that disrupt the flow of the action.

In "A Short
Organurn for the Theatre" ( 1 949). Brecht explains the efficacy of songs as
alienation
effects:
It emphasizes the general gest of showing, which always underlies that
which is being shown. when the audience is musically addressed by
means of songs. Because of this. the actors ought not to 'drop into' Song.
but should clearly mark it off fiom the rest of the text: and this is best
reinforced by a few theatrical methods such as changing the lighting or
inserting a title. For its part. the music must strongly resist the smooth
incorporation which is pnerally expected of it and tums it into an
unthinking slavery. Music does not 'accompany' except in the form of
comment. (203
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Theume. Trans. John WiIlett. London:
Methuen. 1 964.
---. The Caucasian Chalk Circfe. Seven Plays by Bertolt Brecht. Ed. Eric
Bently. New
York: Grove, 196 1 .