Sie sind auf Seite 1von 19

New Theatre Quarterly

http://journals.cambridge.org/NTQ

Additional services for New Theatre Quarterly:

Email alerts: Click here Subscriptions: Click here Commercial reprints: Click here Terms of use : Click here

Commercial reprints: Click here Terms of use : Click here Brecht Studies Stanislavski: Just a Tactical

Brecht Studies Stanislavski: Just a Tactical Move?

Meg Mumford

New Theatre Quarterly / Volume 11 / Issue 43 / August 1995, pp 241 - 258 DOI: 10.1017/S0266464X0000912X, Published online: 15 January 2009

Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0266464X0000912X

How to cite this article:

Meg Mumford (1995). Brecht Studies Stanislavski: Just a Tactical Move?. New Theatre Quarterly, 11, pp 241-258 doi:10.1017/S0266464X0000912X

Request Permissions : Click here

Request Permissions : Click here Downloaded from http://journals.cambridge.org/NTQ, IP

Downloaded from http://journals.cambridge.org/NTQ, IP address: 138.251.14.35 on 10 Apr 2015

Meg Mumford

Brecht Studies Stanislavski:

Just a Tactical Move?

In the 'fifties Brecht undertook an examination of Stanislavski's theatre which in terms of breadth and intensity was unprecedented in his career - and rehearsal documentation from that period testifies that he incorporated some of Stanislavski's methods into the stage practice of the Berliner Ensemble. The seriousness of his study is attested by the organized collection of notes on the production of Katzgraben recently discovered in Elizabeth Hauptmann's estate. Brecht's preoccupation with Stanislavski at this time has been seen as an attempt to protect his theatre's existence in an environment where Stanislavski, socialist realism, and the communist cause were regarded as interlinked. In this paper, Meg Mumford, recently appointed to a lectureship in theatre in the University of Glasgow, outlines the nature of Brecht's study of Stanislavski, and draws upon the records of the ensuing theatre practice, the Katzgraben notes in particular, to illuminate Brecht's growing recognition of affinities with Stanislavski's methods, which he found useful in fostering the young Berliner Ensemble and in creating performances he viewed as appropriate to audiences in the GDR.

BRECHT'S WRITINGS have recently been subjected to rigorous scrutiny as a collective of scholars completes the most up-to-date edition of his work ever published. In the course of this process much excitement has been generated by the discovery of new materials. Brecht, the insatiable inquirer, would no doubt be delighted by the de- familiarizing effect several of these findings have had. Documents highly relevant to the Brecht-Stanislavski debate are amongst those recently brought to light, and these stimulate further discussion of the touted 'opposition' between the approaches of the two theatre practitioners. In Elizabeth Hauptmann's estate, Werner Hecht was excited to discover a sequence of devised notes, written by Brecht and his co-workers, that deal with the Berliner Ensemble's staging of Katzgraben, a comedy by the East German playwright, Strittmatter. The rehearsal stage stretched from February to May 1953, embracing the period during which "The First German Stanislavski Conference' took place in Berlin. The collec- tion shows that Brecht used Katzgraben as a vehicle for, amongst other things, examining Stanislavskian ideas on theatre practice.

things, examining Stanislavskian ideas on theatre practice. http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 Most

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Most of the materials included in this document are not new discoveries. How- ever, the note-bundle is significant for several reasons. Hecht states that it is a selection made by Brecht of the texts which appeared most important to him, and that it gives the impression of being a work ready for publication. 1 Indeed, it has the official air of a book or journal volume, being bound and including eighteen production photos. As a detailed production report it bears similarities to the 'Modellbiicher'. The major difference is that the notes offer far greater information about the day-by-day rehearsal process rather than the end results of theatre work. The Katzgraben find also contributes to an understanding of Brecht's Stanislavski studies in the 'fifties, since it highlights the seriousness of his desire to examine his acting approach not only theoretically but in practice, and furthermore to publicize his involvement in an instructive manner. Such material provides further tools with which to probe the nature of Brecht's attitude towards various elements in Stanislavski's 'system'. Assessing this attitude involves the following questions: to what extent can Brecht's Stanislavski commentary of this

241

IP address: 138.251.14.35

period be regarded as a tactical move to avoid political and artistic pressure; and does it constitute a genuine acknowledge- ment of affinities, and if so what are the implications for the 'opposition issue', parti- cularly in terms of acting methods? It is important to note that the focus of such an assessment is not 'Stanislavski as he "really" thought and worked in the theatre' but Brecht's attitude to those sections of Stanislavski's approach to which Brecht had access. Consequently, I deal with a Stanis- lavski in inverted commas, one gleaned by a German, non-Russian-speaking theatre en- thusiast. Nevertheless, I argue that Brecht's perspective towards the end of his life, res- tricted as it was, offers much more than the usual shallow appreciation of the Stanis- lavskian theatre, and I strongly dispute Eric Bentley's claim that 'Brecht knew very little about Stanislavski'. 2

Political Pressure and New Insights

Brecht's Stanislavski studies took place in the context of a young socialist republic struggling to establish a cultural identity. Socialist realist aesthetics from the Soviet Union supplied an officially approved credo to fill the void. Stanislavski offered both a scientifically organized work method that had proven adaptable to communism and an exemplary image of progressive bour- geois humanism, an aspect of the European cultural heritage that could be utilized to build the new republic. 3 Brecht's anti- Stanislavski stance of the 'thirties, adopted in the name of the socialist cause, was regarded negatively by socialist realists of the 'fifties as a betrayal of their aesthetic and society. Paradoxically, Brecht's support for socialism helped to create the situation in which he came to be regarded as the oppo- nent of the new communist society rather than its exemplary campaigner. In the GDR the Stanislavski 'wave' occur- red between 1951 and 1953. The Stanislavski Conference which began on 17 April 1953 at the East Berlin Academy of the Arts was attended by over two hundred theatre prac- titioners, and marked the extent of the

242

theatre prac- titioners, and marked the exten t of the 242 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Russian director's popularity and of the cul- tural identity crisis. The need for an identity manifests itself in the postscript article written by the main speaker, Langhoff, wherein he rousingly urges all participants

to regard the conference as part of the battle

for a new way of living - as

a struggle against all the outmoded bourgeois

remnants in us, as a struggle against the old and

the bad in us, a decisive partisanship for that which we call socialist realism, adopted in the theatre through Stanislavski's method.

4

The articles written in conjunction with the conference and printed after the event in the journal Theatre of the Times, mouthpiece of the 'wave', reveal that more attention was given to establishing a Brecht-Stanislavski opposition and to anti-Brecht diatribe than to exploring Stanislavski's ideas. According to Hecht, the Berliner Ensemble had even suffered ostracism prior to the conference. Critics had accused it of formalism, and production reviews of their performances had been deliberately delayed. Hecht views Brecht's thorough prepara- tion for the conference, including the Katz- graben rehearsals then well under way, as an act of tactical self-defence. 5 The diaries of Kathe Rvilicke-Weiler, one of Brecht's co- workers, testify that the Berliner Ensemble was under even greater threat immediately after the conference. Thus, she describes the audience at the Katzgraben premiere as wait- ing for a scandal, which Hecht interprets as meaning the much-touted impending liqui- dation of the company. 6 Given this environ- ment it can be assumed that Brecht's attempt fully to comprehend Stanislavski's approach was certainly in many respects a protective measure. However, the party-line dogmatism and negative political pressure were not the only outcomes of Stanislavski's popularity surge. The wave also precipitated the translation and publication of many works that until then had been available only in Russian, greatly improving access to Stanislavski's later and slightly more socialist-oriented theatre practice. Assuming that Brecht's personal library at the BBA is a reliable

IP address: 138.251.14.35

gauge, it can be said that he capitalized on this upsurge and acquired many of the 'new' texts. An interesting feature of the library material is its focus on the post-October Revolution period during which time Stanis- lavski devoted more attention to ideas that in some respects overlapped with Brecht's theatre concepts. These included ensemble work, the double perspective of the actor, the through-line and super-objective, and the method of physical actions. When Brecht wrote his anti-Stanislavski polemics of the 'thirties the limited sources of information available to him tended to have as their focus theatre practice prior to the Revolution, which gave emphasis to the very psycho-technique abhorred by Brecht. It appears that Brecht also had no access to the commentaries on everyday training and production rehearsals. By the 'fifties this situation had changed, and Brecht soon came to the conclusion that he often had a greater affinity with Stanislavski's stage practice than some of his theories. The library is also well stocked with books that illuminate everyday theatre practice, acting and direc- ting especially. 7 The frenzy of publishing activity also furthered the opportunities for critical dis- cussion, and there is much evidence that despite party-line pressure an atmosphere of critical inquiry continued to flourish. Some of the newspaper and journal articles from the 'fifties contained in a BBA file, pre - sumably gathered and/or read by Brecht, demonstrate that public criticism of the Russian's methods occurred and was per- mitted. In Jiirgen Riihle's newspaper article 'On the Treatment of Stanislavski' (Sunday, August 1953), the overly schematic and naturalist interpretations of his theatre are bemoaned, and the author makes the point that 'In order to overtake the classics you first have to catch up with them.' 8 This comment suggests that there were others who shared with Brecht a vision of Stanislavski as being somewhat outdated and that there was a degree of freedom to publicize such critical appraisals. Riilicke- Weiler claims that a number of theatre

appraisals. Riilicke- Weiler claims that a number of theatre http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

critics like Rilla and Schroder also supported Brecht's views and his Ensemble. Her des- cription of Brecht's participation at the con- ference suggests that he was more openly vocal about his opinions than previously thought:

What has never been written about is that Brecht himself said something ad-lib from the back row - making some interesting points about the similarities and the differences between his own views and Stanislavski's. Unfortunately no record was kept of those remarks

9

While Hecht describes Brecht as lying low at the conference, sending Weigel into the fray instead, 10 it appears that he was a more active presence. The implication of Riilicke's statements is that Brecht was not overly threatened by political pressure and that he was able to maintain a critical stance.

A Critical Re-Evaluation One point of intersection between the two theatre practitioners that, with the aid of the newly available material, became increas- ingly apparent to Brecht was their aim to create highly organized and detailed stage practice. In 'What Amongst Other Things Can be Learnt from Stanislavski', a list of nine points pubished in Theaterarbeit (1952), Brecht noted the way that the Moscow Art Theatre 'gave every play a carefully thought- out concept and a wealth of subtly elabor- ated detail'. 11 Articles located in th e BBA Stanislavski file such as as 'Quiet, We are Rehearsing!', (Teatr, 1952) highlight Stanislavski's scien- tific preparatory efforts: his statement of conditions of employment at rehearsals in the hope of achieving a disciplined, matter- of-fact tone, his introduction of a minutes book to record the proceedings in detail. 12 Prior to the 'fifties Brecht had also utilized rehearsal minutes, but the Katzgraben pro- duction notes, taken by an entire crew of director's assistants, seem to reflect a Stanis- lavskian influence in that they are signifi- cantly more extensive. Brecht also reassessed Stanislavski's atti- tude towards the actor/character split. In

243

IP address: 138.251.14.35

the 'thirties he had polemicized against what he viewed as an encouragement of total trans- formation, achieved by the actor's complete identification or merging with the character. By the 'fifties he had become more aware of Stanislavski's use of the concept of the 'super- objective', which he interpreted as involving the subordinaton of everything to the central idea. 13 For the actors to fulfil the super- objective they would have to maintain in rehearsal and performance a certain degree of critical distance from their characters. The implication is that perhaps Staislavskian acting demanded not only an empathetic but also a critical and objective approach. Brecht's introducton to the method of physical actions, one of Stanislavski's later emphases, reinforced his new understand- ing that the two practitioners were not actually poles apart in their thinking on the actor's double-perspective and the import- ance of the fable. One article that may have led him to this conclusion is 'Report on a Rehearsal with Stanislavski for Days of the Turbins - 1927'. This document, which as it exists in th e BBA is incomplete an d wit h no authorship ascribed, describes Stanislavski's directorial intervention in the rehearsal of a scene called 'Nikolka is Brought in'. Dis- gruntled with the actors' efforts, Stanislavski stopped the proceedings and asked:

What is false here? You have played your feel- ings, your suffering and that is not right. I must see an event, I must see how people act in this event and not how they suffer and what they go through. In what you have done there is no logic, no truth. You carry the wounded in slowly and make an effort to show your deep spiritual suffering, but in reality you would have to storm into the room, after you took the wounded per-

son with you in order to save him, for in the city the White Guards are already being hunted

down

the seriously injured person who is losing blood. How should he be set down? How can you save him? 14

Think first of what you should do with

The actors had neglected the fable, the heart of the play and production in Brechfs opinion, and the physical actions which constitute it. In 'A Few Thoughts on the Stanislavski Conference', Brecht attributes this report

244

i Conference', Brecht attributes this report 244 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 on

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

on Turbins to Stanislavski's actor-student, Toporkov. He draws upon the description in order to support his own interpretation of the method of physical actions as not being simply the physical externalization of the private inner life, but rather entailing the subordination of the characters' emotions to the action of the play, which is itself 'not directly dependent on the emotions'. 15

Emotional Truth and Social Truth

Brecht seemed to regard the super-objective and method of physical actions as proof that Stanislavskian theatre did not actually promote total transformation. One implica- tion of Brecht's interpretation was that an acting method which incorporated the tech- nique of empathizing need not necessarily lead to a theatre of hypnotic metamorphosis. With regard to empathy, insights into Stanislavski's later theatre may have helped precipitate a shift in Brecht's emphasis. Although Brecht had never banned em- pathy from the stage and had acknowledged its usefulness for creating audience sympathy towards the proletariat, his early reaction had been to regard it distrustfully as a technique more suited to the establishment of theatre that intoxicated and mystified. By the time of the later Stanislavski studies he was openly presenting it as the second of three phases in the preparation of a char- acter - the first being the collection of im- pressions and the memorizing of puzzling or contradictory aspects. Yet he did not suddenly alter his earlier theories but con- tinued to assert the importance of the third phase of characterization - the actor's socially critical demonstration of the character. 16 While Brecht came to regard Stanis- lavski's theatre in a more positive light, he always maintained a critical attitude. That he never relinquished a certain scepticism with regard to Stanislavki's political outlook is exemplified by an undated, unpublished statement written most likely during the Stanislavski wave: T can't bear the twaddle about Stanislavski being the Marx of the theatre. He cannot be that because he is simply not a Marxist.' 17

IP address: 138.251.14.35

Brecht characterized the distinguishing factor between Stanislavski's naturalism and his own realism as the former's lack of commitment to social (historical materialist) truth. In an unpublished article on Stanis- lavski's staging of the Parisian orgy scene from Ostrovsky's The Ardent Heart, a com- mendation of the V-effects is offset by Brecht's criticism that the episode's social significance is not sufficiently brought out:

Boredom is shown by having people begin many things and carry nothing through to the end - not by doing nothing. But then Stanislavski stops. He does not ask why this is so. The attempt should be made to bring out why that is the attitude of the social parasites, and to show the social back- ground. 18

In a discussion from June 1953, seemingly involving Peter Palitzsch and Brecht, Stanis- lavski is described as enabling the theatre of emotional truth while Brecht's method is characterized as assisting theatre practi- tioners to bring social truth to the forefront. 19

Testing the Working Methods

Brecht extended his examination into the realm of theatre practice, and the ensuing rehearsal records suggest that he perceived many of Stanislavski's methods useful both for fostering the actors in his new company and for the organizing of stage business. After the founding of the Berliner En- semble in 1949, Brecht was faced with the new responsibility of educating a company of actors, many of them inexperienced. At that time Stanislavski's 'system' provided the western world with its most compre- hensive analysis and presentation of an act- ing method. For Brecht, the Stanislavski studies may have been part of his attempt to come to terms with his new task. Indeed, he maintained that the studies had both sharp- ened the Ensemble's apprehension of faults in the training of actors and provided exer- cises with which to remedy them. 20 According to Brecht's text for the Stanis- lavski Conference, 21 the Berliner Ensemble had started to analyze Stanislavski's work method and to test it in practice well before,

work method and to test it in practice well before, http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 and

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

and the Urfaust production notes suggest this was indeed the case. In an unpublished document from January 1952 Brecht assesses the value of working on each role in Urfaust individually, as was the normal procedure in the Moscow Art Theatre. At the top of the document is a statement about the topic to be treated: 'Rehearsing individual roles through the director's assistants'. 22 That such an approach was regarded as open to inquiry suggests that it was either not usual practice for the Berliner Ensemble and/or that its efficacy for Brechtian theatre was doubted. It seems that attempts were being made to integrate methods and in- sights common in Stanislavskian theatre. In this document Brecht is keen to stress that the major work on characterization was nevertheless done in the Ensemble, and that everything was subjected to the director's decisions - his aim is to establish the distin- guishing features of epic theatre rather than correlations with other theatre movements. However, in an unpublished fragment entitled 'Stanislavski Studies' the emphasis is almost the opposite. Here, the character Lieschen from Urfaust and the servant girl in the Moscow Art Theatre's The Lower Depths are compared in order to demonstrate that the Berliner Ensemble, just like their Russian counterparts, successfully created 'totally

rounded living' people.

attest that the Ensemble had begun con- sciously to consider the validity and utility of incorporating detailed individualized characterization, a Stanislavskian approach.

In their 1952 production of The Trial of

Jeanne d' Arc of Rouen 1434, the company uti- lized another technique which they recog- nized as promoted by Stanislavski. Realistic crowd scenes were constructed by means of individualizing each member in detail:

23

Both documents

Even a short examination of the Stanislavskian

work method reveals a great wealth of exercises and procedures that are extremely useful for a

realistic

dealt with a crowd scene [in The Trial of Jeanne a"Arc] in a special way, one unusual in the theatre,

although not because of any Stanislavski studies, but still in his way, by letting a number of our best artists, rather than supernumeraries, portray individual characters. 24

For example, we recently

245

IP address: 138.251.14.35

Another reference to the Stanislavskian treat- ment of this crowd scene describes how the individualizing of the crowd members could be enhanced by lengthening 'the question- naires about the day and life of the char- acters, which Stanislavski has drawn up even in the mass scenes'. 25 Brecht sees this method as greatly aiding the depiction of reality, but warns against using Stanis- lavskian techniques in a naturalist fashion. In the end, he cautions, only the significant detail must be selected.

'Katzgraben': the Practice Based Study

The most overt experimentation with Stanis- lavski at the practical level occurred during the Katzgraben rehearsals. According to Hecht, Katzgraben was utilized consciously by Brecht to test Stanislavskian ideas and to deal with the problems of performing a contemporary play. 26 Werner Mittenzwei views these two areas of interest as closely interrelated. 27 Many contemporary plays, Katzgraben included, focused on the achievements of the newly formed socialist state and on its heroes who continued with the struggle. Until the 'fifties Brecht devoted himself largely to criticizing bourgeois capitalism. In the young republic it was both necessary and opportune to present the image of a more favourable society. To do so Brecht required the tools to mount productions that he believed both defended and construc- tively criticized the new heroes. Some of Stanislavski's methods could be adapted easily to suit the new demands. His approach to characterizaton, for example, enabled the sympathetic portrayal of heroes. Brecht himself recognized which aspects could be called upon in order to deal with contemporary society. In an undated frag- ment from a BBA file entitled 'Stanislavski Notes', he promotes the value of character resumes: 'Interesting, that we had to pro- vide them. Our actors did not know enough.

THE

NEW

LIFE,

THE

UNFAMILIAR

CLASSES.' 28

Stanislavski was obviously perceived to be a useful resource material for theatre practice in the new political context.

246

for theatre practic e in the new politica l context. 246 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

In Riilicke-Weiler's comprehensive register of the contents in Brecht's Katzgraben note- compilation, several items are listed that refer to the Berliner Ensemble's experimen- tation with Stanislavski. These include the use of naturalistic techniques, individual characterizations, constructing character re- sumes and investigating social milieu, the employment of empathy, the method of physical actions, defamiliarization effects, the super-objective, and overcoming exhaus- tion of the actor's imagination. 29 I shall proceed to examine the treatment of three topics drawn from the content register - naturalism, or rather Brecht's emphasis on realistic observation and detail; characterization; and empathetic actor/char- acter and spectator/character relationships. I have selected these topics as they are com- monly associated with Stanislavski rather than Brecht. Most of the other aspects, such as defamiliarization effects, were important components of Brecht's theatre before he began his first Stanislavski studies in the 'thirties. The exception, exercises for actors struck by fantasy fatigue, is not explicitly dealt with in the Katzgraben rehearsal notes and therefore cannot be incorporated in this examination. The second reason for my selection is that the topics chosen received the most atten- tion from the company, in part because of their usefulness in helping produce a con- temporary play concerning a new socialist society. However, I shall also show that Brecht retained his critical attitude towards the features embraced by the topics. He continued to insist on the critical demon- stration of the socially significant. Strittmatter, author of the comedy Katz- graben, was an energetic supporter of the new socialist society. The son of an agri- cultural worker from the country area in which the play is set, he maintained an active interest in the betterment of workers' life conditions. According to Brecht, the creation of the GDR had given Strittmatter the opportunity to become a writer. 30 Katzgraben is in many ways an ode to a land undergoing reform and an encouragement to the heroes who continue the battle for

IP address: 138.251.14.35

further progress. Brecht describes the script as the first, as far as he is aware, which

brings the modern class struggle in the villages onto the German stage. It shows the big farmer, middle farmer, small farmer and party secretary after the expulsion of the Junkers in the German Democratic Republic. 31

The fable outlines the victory of the village community, in particular the small farmers, over the wealthy farmer Grossmann, who threatens their livelihood with his monopoly of the means of transport to the nearest city. The play describes the struggle for cohesion between members of the community as they are detrimentally affected by the trials and tribulations of reform in its early stages. Ultimately a combination of individual en- terprise, leadership, and educational and technological support from the state ensures the downfall of the oppressors and a more cohesive community. Brecht was aware that the new heroes, everyday people from the land, were un- familiar to Berlin city actors and audiences. He seems to have used naturalistic detail in order to concretize them more strongly. Per- haps he also experimented with individu- alistic characterization rather than creating stereotypes so as to help make the unfamiliar more comprehensible. Methods that enhance empathy also greatly assist this process. In terms of style, elements of the set and costume for Katzgraben were more naturali- stic than the company were accustomed to. One of Brecht's co-workers, Manfred Wek- werth, explains that the set design and con- struction were delegated to Karl von Appen. Brecht's assistants were surprised by von Appen's sketches. Familiar with the dynamic, transparent, and fleeting nature of Caspar Neher's art, they found von Appen's work very exact in detail, even overly so. The characters, with their finely drawn faces, complete with eyelashes and brows, had a static quality. But, according to Wekwerth, Brecht was enthused by the designs, apparently arguing that his previous plays and performances had treated familiar characters and types (like the bourgeoisie and its opponents) and

and types (like the bourgeoisie and its opponents) and http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 had

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

had tried to throw what had become static - the known - into question. Creating a fleet- ing quality had been appropriate for such

a task. In Katzgraben, however, unfamiliar heroes made their appearance, and conse- quently the process had to be reversed. 32 Von Appen's ability to fix his characters and their environment would help make them memorable, and less likely to seem merely fleeting phenomena. In a Schriften note titled 'Scenery', Brecht explains that the design aim had been 'to give the stage pictures a documentary touch, that is, to paint them so that they were reminiscent of photos'. 33 He mentions that research was conducted by the designers, von Appen and Pah'tzsch, together with Stritt- matter in Lausitz, the village area where the play is set. It sounds like an expedition carried out by Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre! In the minutes from a discussion with farmers held after a Katzgraben pre- view, Riilicke-Weiler also states that the set and furniture were based on photos taken in Lausitz. 34 The costumes were initially created along 'strictly naturalistic lines' and then the typification process was incorporated. 35

Working on the Crowd Scenes

Brecht repeatedly insists that, from all the collected data, only the socially significant was presented. However, on scrutinizing sketches, photos, and a film documentation of a Berliner Ensemble theatre production based on Brecht's directorial concept, I found the attention to naturalistic detail much more striking than in many other Brecht productions. One comment repeatedly re- curring in the spectator-feedback reports is that the characters were 'just as in life'. 36 In the attempt to fix the new characters and their society, Brecht appears to have adopted approaches associated with Stanislavski. Brecht's organization of the finale recalled

a naturalistic or Stanislavskian tradition of arranging crowd scenes. His division of the stage into four sections (building workers' hut, beer counter, middle, and ice-cream cart), and delegation of each section to dir- ector's assistants is reminiscent of the work

247

IP address: 138.251.14.35

of one naturalist forerunner, the nineteenth- century German theatre company under the Duke of Saxe Meiningen's leadership, where the stage director, Chronegk, divided mass scenes into groups, each led by leading actors. In this way naturalistic detail could be achieved and cliched, generalized crowd acting avoided. Like Stanislavski, Brecht seems to have delighted in detailed bits of business. In an unpublished section of 'A Few Thoughts on the Stanislavski Conference', he expresses disappointment that the actress playing the ice-cream dealer was unable to incorporate closely observed detail into her performance:

In the action a 'hole' was created because the ice- cream buyers received their ice-cream long before they were needed for the next small action. Just as the advice was given, that the number of buyers be increased, it was discovered that the ice-cream dealer dealt out the portions in a much too cursory manner, i.e. much too quickly - she had not yet ice-cream at her disposal and was not capable of carrying the task out of imagination and observation.

37

However, Brecht always insisted on trans- cending what he perceived to be naturalism by creating socially significant details and erasing extraneous ones. For instance, he choreographed an incident in which a group of youths, after listening to the party sec- retary's speech about the community's pro- gress, made their way to the ice-cream cart only to find that the supply had run out. The social significance of this business was that 'the future must cost something'. 38

The Approach to Acting Style

When the final crowd scene began to appear problematical in rehearsal, owing to the fact that the sheer weight of naturalistic detail was drawing attention away from the fable's events, Brecht began to make numerous cuts. Riilicke-Weiler quotes him as saying: 'At first we had to depict the events naturalis- tically, now we must form the scenes.' 39 The finale was subjected to both Stanislavskian naturalistic detail and to Brecht's emphasis on the socially significant.

248

to Brecht's emphasis on the socially significant. 248 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 The

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

The production was also informed by a naturalistic approach to acting style. Accor- ding to a minute dated 27 February 1953, strict naturalism was to be applied in the first stage of rehearsal. 40 Another note rec- ords that, while as a director Brecht focused on constructing pictorial arrangements, as an acting-instructor he asked the performers to play naturalistically and to apprehend, in a manner as true to nature as possible, the reality depicted in the play. 41 During rehearsals Brecht himself drew parallels between his own insistence on care- fully observing the details of actual human behaviour and Stanislavski's approach. To exemplify the similarities he referred to Stanislavski's treatment of small or wordless roles and to a specific example of this des- cribed in The Actor in the Ensemble by Topor- kov, one of Stanislavski's former students. Drawing upon an anecdote in this book, Brecht mentions Stanislavski's annoyance at an actor who, when asked about the line of

action he was involved in, replied that he had nothing to do at this point: 'Melusov is silent throughout the whole scene.' 42 Stanis- lavski was quick to recognize this lapse in observation skills. Brecht goes on to narrate that he had re- ceived a similar response from the actor playing Giinter, the young miner in Katz- graben. When asked about the nature of Gunter's reaction to Kleinschmidf s discovery of his deception, the actor answered: 'Re- action? I don't have even one sentence. And on top of that I sit with my back to the audience!' 43 The actor was then directed to show Gunter's response with his back. He did so, successfully using a stiff-necked posture to indicate that Giinter was offen- ded at being discovered. Brecht praised the actor: 'A good observation. Many people are insulted when they are caught lying'. 44 Like Stanislavski, he encouraged actors continu- ally to observe and mirror actual human behaviour.

Yet Brecht attempted to ensure that natur- alistic detail served rather than obscured the socially significant fable and its episodes. At a rehearsal late in April he criticized the actors playing Grossmann and the small

IP address: 138.251.14.35

The final crowd scene in Katzgraben, with th e ice-cream seller on th e right.

The final crowd scene in Katzgraben, with the ice-cream seller on the right. Photo: Hainer Hill, reproduced by courtesy of the Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Kunste (SAdK), Berlin, Elisabeth-Hauptmann-Archiv.

farmer Grollig for 'rhubarbing', or meaning- less mumbling, during a silent farewell epi- sode in which no actual text was scripted, as 'inadmissable naturalism, particularly in a verse play'. 45 This episode is not to be found in Stritt- matter's text. It appears to have been con- cocted, presumably by Brecht, in order to highlight an economic point. 46 In the play, the scene in which the episode occurs begins with Grossmann returning in high spirits from a community meeting at which, to his advantage, a decision not to build a new street between the village and city has been made. Many of the small farmers cast their vote against the street because they have been bribed or pressured by Grossmann, who has threatened to deny them a supply of horses for the ploughing season if they do not comply. By having Grollig, one of the bribed farmers, accompany Grossmann home and, servant-like, usher him in the door, Brecht visually revealed the economic power struc- tures and associated social behaviour exis- ting in the village which jeopardized land reform. The dumb-show, as it is enacted in

jeopardized land reform. The dumb-show, as it is enacted in http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 the

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

the film documentary of the production, and Grollig's obsequious gestures in particular, clearly present the power politics issue. Per- haps the actors' naturalistic mumbling det- racted from this pictorial portrayal.

Naturalistic Detail and Social Truth

Stanislavskian acting methods designed to heighten naturalistic detail were exploited in the production in order to emphasize social truths. When Brecht was dissatisfied with the protestant hymn-like manner in which the workers' brigade performed a song about building the new street, he made the following suggestion:

Let's make a small etude a la Stanislavski! Sing the song while working on the completion of the new street. So, get to work! The choir became active. The young men drag- ged scenery around while singing, the girls set tables, etc., etc. 47

Brecht explained to the actors that during the performance they would actually sing without moving. Presumably the experi- ment with the naturalistic business was in-

249

IP address: 138.251.14.35

tended to help the actors convey the energy of enthusiastic workers. Rather than creating a solemn religious occasion where a hymn is sung in awe of a mysterious force, Brecht seems to have attempted to present a festive celebration of human powers of interven- tion. The notion that the combined effort of humans, a tangible non-mystical force, can foster agricultural progress and community harmony is consistent with socialist beliefs. One Katzgraben document on instructing the actors contains an implied criticism of Stanislavski's interest in naturalistic detail. In this document, 'The Actor as Ox Expert', firstly the common ground, the attention to detail, is discussed. Parallels between Brechf s directing methods in Katzgraben and Stanis- lavski's approach during rehearsals for Eugene Onegin are drawn. Intent on ensuring verisimi- litude, Brecht here called upon Strittmatter, familiar with agricultural life, to instruct the young city actor playing Hermann, Gross- mann's dogsbody and would-be adoptive son. At one point in the play, Hermann dis- plays his knowledge of farm animals. He describes the ox, given to the Kleinschmidts by the state, as 'pointy-arsed' (spitzarschig) - that is, as too thin and undernourished. Strittmatter repeatedly demonstrated to the actor exactly how to depict such an ox with the assistance of hand gestures. The close attention to authentic detail here reminded Brecht of the Eugene Onegin rehearsals as des- cribed by Antarova, when Stanislavski had demanded that the actor playing Onegin

should know what a maple leaf looks like because when he visits the Larins he has to come through an avenue of maples. 48

After mentioning similarities in approach, Brecht then shifted to this observation on divergent directorial practice:

It did not please Stanislavski that the actor had never observed what a maple leaf looks like and the discussions at Stanislavski's rehearsals must have been more heated than at ours. The actor allowed himself the reply: 'I have no intention of becoming a gardener at the Larins.' 49

Stanislavski's request is revealed as slightly ludicrous. He does not explain the signi-

250

as slightly ludicrous. He does not explain the signi- 250 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

ficance in terms of the play of either know- ing a maple leaf or of the walk through the alleyway. By contrast, it is crucial to the Katzgraben fable that both Hermann's exper- tise with regard to oxen and the emaciated condition of the beast be established. Her- mann's appraisal of the animal emphasizes the vulnerable economic situation and des- perate need for tractors of the Kleinschmidts in particular and of the small farmers in general. Brecht detects in Stanislavski an interest in naturalistic detail for its own sake rather than as an aid to social progress.

Distinguishing Realism from Naturalism

Brechf s goal was to transcend naturalism and achieve realism. In the discussion 'Natural- ism and Realism' the issue is raised whether Brecht's directing in Katzgraben was too naturalistic. Persona R. (perhaps Riilicke) uses as an example the scene in which Frau Kleinschmidt comes home from work. R. points out that the actress's enactment of some mundane activities - banging her clogs, putting the broom in front of the door, hang- ing up her husband's jacket - seemed overly naturalistic. Brecht replies:

When these tasks show something that goes beyond the depiction of the everyday domestic routine for the purpose of creating an illusion that one is in a small farmer's home, then this is not naturalism. In the case of naturalism this illusion is produced and created through count- less details, because through doing so the more or less dulled emotions, moods, and other psy- chological reactions of the characters are better able to be experienced. 50

He goes on to say that he hopes the actor's bits of business would help expose the social problem of the female agricultural worker who, upon completion of her labour outside the home, must then return to labour within the home. The details selected must not only explicate her mental and physical state but also emphazise its socio-economic determin- ants: her social role and double work-load. Alongside its naturalistic detail, another approach associated with Stanislavskian act- ing employed during Katzgraben was indivi- dualized characterization. The emphasis on

IP address: 138.251.14.35

the latter can be attributed both to political pressure and Brecht's desire to support the young GDR through a process of education. He was intent on avoiding the accusation of formalism by proving that the play's char- acters were not 'pale retort creatures' or 'schematic products of the brain'. In a dialogue about Katzgraben the issue of schematism, apparent in the character names - Kleinschmidt ('Small Schmidt') the small farmer; Mittellander ('Middle-Lands') the middle farmer, and wealthy Grossmann ('Large-man') - is raised:

I examined the play very thoroughly in order to determine whether the characters, as is usual in the case of schematism, were faceless, bloodless, and only formulas for social types, but I found, distinct individualities, genuine roles, farmers from Strittmatter's acquaintance so to speak. 51

At a meeting between Berliner Ensemble members and Strittmatter early in May 1952 it was decided that the characters be given small personal traits such as 'religiosity, miserliness - the so-called "superfluous".' 52 Not only the personas of Strittmatter's play but also the actors' realizations were advertised as being full-blooded figures. During a discussion of the work with mem- bers of the University of Greifswald in March 1953, Grossmann was criticized by a student as inadequately formulated. Weigel was quick in her reply that under Brecht's direction every individual gait would be rehearsed to ensure that the characters were presented in accordance with their indivi- duality. 53 This was by no means to be a formalist production! Methods of achieving individualization promoted by Stanislavski are frequently to be detected in the Katzgraben notes - for instance, character resumes were composed. However, as Brecht perceived the actors insufficiently equipped to outline the back- grounds of such new characters, he asked Strittmatter to provid e them , an d in th e BBA material the notes written on Kleinschmidt, Grossmann and his wife, and on the party secretary Steinert, are extant. That they in- clude information about the social milieu in which the characters were reared is in keep-

milie u in which the characters were reared is in keep- http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

ing with Stanislavskian practice. Neverthe- less, the predominance of such information, together with only minimal psychologizing, is perhaps particularly Brechtian. The production's programme brochure also testifies that a tendency towards indivi- dualizing was manifest. It incorporates diary extracts and letters supposedly composed by various play characters, many of which are accompanied by von Appen's detailed character drawings. The overall impression is that the Berliner Ensemble were deter- mined to familiarize the spectators with idiosyncratic characters from the land. This attempt can be viewed as part of a larger project of educating the new GDR citizens about land reform and revolutionary struggle. Brecht particularly utilized individuali- zing techniques in the case of the play's younger characters, whom he regarded as the bearers and nurturers of socialist pro- gress. He avoided their reduction to comic or other schematic stock types. The actors playing Elli, the Kleinschmidts' daughter, and Erna, her friend and the Mittellanders' maid, were urged not to treat their charac- ters too comically. When these two women were in the presence of the young men they admired, Hermann and Giinter respectively, the actors initially made the girls appear a little stupid, humorously dulled by love. Audience feed- back reports record that spectators were irritated by the female characters' idiocy. 54 At the rehearsal on 22 May 1953, immedi- ately following a discussion between some Berliner Ensemble members and preview spectators, Brecht commented that the 'love- sick' types had to be dispensed with. Elli and Erna, as members of Katzgraben's youth, represented the republic's only hope, and if they were satirized everything would app- ear hopeless. 55 To help the actors he sug- gested that the two girls should discuss both sensible and amusing 'matters of organiz- ation' when they mix with the youths out- side the inn just after the first vote against the street is held. 56 Brecht also advised against characterizing Hermann, in his role as Grossmann's dogs- body, as simply an arrogant careerist, a bad

251

IP address: 138.251.14.35

Th e Kleinschmidts' daughter Elli with her admirer Hermann - 'not simpl y a careerist

The Kleinschmidts' daughter Elli with her admirer Hermann - 'not simply a careerist, but a hard worker'. Photo: Pisareck, reproduced by courtesy of the Bertolt- Brecht-Archiv, Berlin.

character. 'How can Hermann be unsym- pathetic', Brecht asked, 'when Elli loves him?' The play's ending, in which Hermann, united with Elli, enthuses about the tractors, would be a far less joyous occasion if the republic's young hero were a self-centred stock villain. Rather, Brecht desired that he be characterized as not simply a careerist but a hard worker - young, strong, intelli- gent, a force easily open to exploitation by Grossmann. 57 Brecht's effort to replace stock figures with individualized characterization reflects a need to humanize the new heroes.

Empathy and Social Purpose

The attempt to individualize perhaps also precipitated a greater discussion and con- scious inclusion of empathetic acting and relationships throughout the production. Particular care was taken to ensure that

252
252

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Grossmann and his wife, played by Erwin Geschonneck and Weigel respectively, would not become merely bloodless villains, but more complex entities. In a Schriften dia- logue Brecht, usually at pains to emphasize the importance of a critical distance between actor and character, mentions that he had urged Geschonneck to try empathizing with the wealthy farmer. 58 Apparently the actor had been giving only the criticism of the character and not the character itself. By exposing Grossmann to constant ridicule, Geschonneck actually undermined the farmer's credibility as a threatening opponent in the class struggle. Brecht suggested Geschonneck work on sub- jectively justifying his character by regard- ing him as an intelligent man and crafty negotiator who is only overturned by the new situation. 59 Similar instructions were given to the actors playing the Mittellander couple, who in the course of the play swing from syco- phantically supporting Grossmann to joining the small farmers. Despite Strittmatter's comic portrayal of their selfishness and in- decisiveness, they were to be understood as people undergoing serious difficulties:

Use every smallest moment in your scenes to show humans that feel genuinely threatened, who are not capable of seeing the advantages that at the end of the development period will be produced also for them.

60

Brecht tended to demand empathetic acting when a satirical or comic presentation in- appropriately resulted in the trivialization of the events in the social revolution. Empathy was one tool for illuminating the complexity of the reform movement in the GDR. Weigel's socially critical demonstration of Frau Grossmann's behaviour was occasion- ally faulted by Brecht for having an over- whelmingly alienating effect. The actress used an approach similar to the 'emotional memory' technique, as developed by Stanis- lavski for empathetic purposes - recalling the state-of-being experienced by the actor during an event in the past in order to precipitate feelings, thoughts, and move- ments analagous to the character's at any

IP address: 138.251.14.35

Female

emancipation:

three village women defy tradition and drink in public. Photo: Hainer Hill, reproduced by courtesy of the Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Kunste (SAdK), Berlin.

th e Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Kunste (SAdK), Berlin. given point in the play -

given point in the play - to criticize rather than empathize with her character. Weigel's memory of the bad treatment she had suffered as a child on a farm fuelled her negative caricature of Frau Grossmann as a shrill-voiced woman with a goitre. 61 The physical impairment was a socially signifi- cant sign. It helped suggest that Grossmann had selected her not on the basis of physical attraction but for economic reasons To ex- pose the woman's false piety and hypocrisy Weigel selected a sanctimonious sing-song tone, whose tedious and mechanical nature alienated the listener. Brecht let her continue with this voice work in the early stages of rehearsal, then directed her to establish a

more natural speech. He noted that her trick was exactly the same as those Stanislavski called 'shams' and which he also allowed only for certain rehearsal phases. 62 As far as I am aware, Brecht did not eluci- date his reasons for making Frau Gross- mann less reprehensible. Perhaps Weigel's 'sham' was simply not pleasing to the ear. Yet political concerns may have played a significant part. During rehearsal he consci- ously attempted to bring out the various moments in the script where female emanci- pation was highlighted - paying, for ex- ample, much attention to a scene in which some village women, the wives of small farmers, deliberately defy tradition and

the wives of small farmers, deliberately defy tradition and http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 253 IP

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

253

IP address: 138.251.14.35

Above: Geschonneck and Weigel, as the Grossmanns, at th e piano (photo: Hainer Hill, Bertolt-Brecht-Archiv)

Above: Geschonneck and Weigel, as the Grossmanns, at the piano (photo: Hainer Hill, Bertolt-Brecht-Archiv). Opposite: Weigel's Frau Grossmann, 'a victim of the patriarchal economic system' (photo: Hainer Hill, Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Kiinste, Berlin).

drink alcohol, unaccompanied by their hus- bands, at the pub. 63 Brecht also spoke of Frau Grossmann's more assertive and aggressively domineer- ing behaviour towards Grossmann in the play's second half as 'perverse emancipa- tion'. 64 She too was to be regarded as a victim of the patriarchal economic system. It is conceivable that at times this political point could best be elucidated by arousing an empathetic response to her predicament. As in the case of naturalistic detail, empathy was frequently manipulated for the purpose of social commentary.

Limitations of the Psychological Approach

An empathetic understanding and expres- sion of a character's emotional state-of-being was particularly encouraged by Brecht as a method of demonstrating the humanized socialist hero - to be distinguished from the traditional fixed mythical type with a priori character traits. Brecht rejected what he classified as the capitalist or feudalist ideal

254

h e classified as the capitalis t or feudalist ideal 254 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

of a man, the poker-faced stoic who stands aloof from the mass, arguing that the capi- talist hero was actually the ideal business- man in disguise, a person who could survive in a dog-eat-dog world of business trans- actions owing to his skill at hiding thoughts and emotions. By contrast, the hero of socialism - the miner and party secretary Steinert, for ex- ample - stood amidst the people and shared their interests. He had less need to conceal vulnerability. 65 When coaching Kleinosch- egg, the actor playing Steinert, Brecht, worked against the construction of a fault- less exemplary figure. Moments of uncer- tainty and indecision were to be brought out - one such occurring when Steinert discovers that the village suffers from ground water deprivation, due in great part to the mines. Faced with this situation, the farmers become reticent about continuing work on Steinert's project, the street. In turn, without the street the machinery that would help provide a new water source cannot be trans- ported into the village. Kleinoschegg resisted the direction to express the secretary's feelings of total helplessness: 'What use is a secretary who is at a loss? That is hardly a good model!' he retorted. 66 However, Brecht insisted that a man untouched by the crum- bling of his political work would merely be

a 'numbskull'. 67 He also added that the 'human face under socialism must again be a mirror for feelings'. 68 In light of his earlier campaigns against

an emphasis on the emotional behaviour of

characters, an emphasis he associated with Stanislavski, Brecht's interest in displaying their psyches seems a remarkable shift. However, he was always careful to highlight the social determinants of behaviour. Carl Weber, once a director's assistant in the

Berliner Ensemble, thus noted that a distin- guishing feature of Brecht's theatre was that

it stressed how humans are stamped by

their occupations. 69 In order to motivate the actor playing Gunter to incorporate better voice projection into the role, Brecht sug- gested that Giinter's job as a miner would necessitate and habituate loud speaking. 70 In the scene when Hermann whistles-up Elli,

IP address: 138.251.14.35

and is duly reprimanded for this seeming rudeness by Erna, Brecht explained that Hermann's behaviour

and is duly reprimanded for this seeming rudeness by Erna, Brecht explained that Hermann's behaviour was not character- related but indicative of the fact that he worked very regularly with dogs! 71 Unlike Stanislavski, Brecht remained very wary of pinpointing the psyche as a major behaviour determinant. He warned that Frau Grossmann's participation in the class struggle must not be seen as rooted in the psychological, a chip on the shoulder. 72 She was to be depicted as working harmoni- ously with Grossmann in all attempts to

as working harmoni- ously with Grossmann in all attempts to http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 ensure

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

ensure financial profits, even by means in- cluding the oppression of the villagers. Mittellander's problems, especially in the episode where he is torn between suppor- ting the small farmers or Grossmann, were to be treated as stemming from the shifting political situation rather than as a personal timorousness. 73 The positioning of Mittel- lander in the crucial scene where he decides not to vote with Grossmann against the street reinforced the impression that his wor- ries and decisions were socially determined. He invariably appeared crushed between

255

IP address: 138.251.14.35

members of opposing classes - Klein- schmidt, Frau Mittellander, and Grossmann. In the dialogue discussion 'What Are Our Actors Actually Doing?' held during the pro- duction period, Persona B (Brecht himself, perhaps) states that the Katzgraben farmers' traits are obtained from sources other than their class membership. 74 Here the implica- tion is that these other sources may include even inherent psychological ones. However, Persona B quickly adds that the most important behaviours are those which arise out of the class struggle, and these must be comprehended before social change can occur. Brecht did not ignore the psyche, but consciously focused, unlike Stanislavski, on social and even more specifically class deter- mination.

More than Just a Flash in the Pan

With the Katzgraben production of 1953 Brecht's concern with Stanislavski reached a peak of intensity. Given the historical con- text, the year of the Stanislavski Conference, it is easy to describe the production as mainly a tactic designed to protect the Ensemble from the ire of party-line socialist realists. Yet the rehearsal notes also illumi- nate affinities between the two practitioners, particularly in the realm of carefully organ- ized staging and attention to detail. They also amplify Brecht's desire to support the new community through the production of a contemporary play, and how Brecht found many of Stanislavski's methods useful for this task. Moreover, had Katzgraben been mainly a political tactic, the subsiding of the confer- ence-year furore would probably have been followed by a rapid waning and eventual end of Brecht's experimentation with Stanis- lavski's system. However, right up until the mid 'fifties Brecht continued his studies, applying some of the methods even to works that, unlike Strittmatter's play, were not in the socialist realist mode. In February 1954 both Brecht and Weigel participated in a discussion with visiting Stanislavski students. During March he talked about Stanislavski with students of

256

March h e talked about Stanislavsk i with students of 256 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Leipzig University's Faculty of Philosophy. And that same year, just after the opening of

the production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle

on 7 October, a group of Brecht's co-workers vigorously discussed the Brecht-Stanislavski relationship at one of their gatherings. On 20 January 1955 at a meeting held by Ensemble members, including Brecht, the decision was made, stimulated by a sug- gestion from Palitzsch, to acquire further information on Stanislavski. Four colleagues were to be allocated the task of processing the study material. 75 At this time Brecht's theatre was not threatened by closure, bad reviews, or a looming conference. And in 1955 Brecht visited Russia and saw Stanis- lavski's production (that is, one presumably

preserved intact after the director's death in

1938) of The Ardent Heart at the Moscow Art Theatre. Brecht again recognized affinities. Accor- ding to Ruhcke-Weiler, some time after the performance he commented that now he had to say what many had said to him - 'that the theory contradicted the practice'

and that 'Stanislavski's ously as misunderstood

defined the performer Gribov, who played the wealthy building contractor Khlynov, as definitely an epic actor, and expressed a desire to see him perform one of the roles in his own plays, perhaps Puntila. 77 Wekwerth writes that Brecht was impres- sed by a carefully devised defamiliarization effect in which Khylnov's behaviour as an exploitative master was revealed. To coun- teract the effect of one scene in which Khylnov behaves as a mischievous clown and monopolizes the audience's interest and sympathy, Stanislavski gave the character a huge crowd of attendant servants. Like a comet's tail they followed him wherever he went, offering support, creature comforts, and at one stage fifteen chairs. Brecht repor- ted that when faced with this staging the audience's laughter caught in their throat. He named it a dialectical depiction. 78

Given factors such as Brecht's work after 1953, the final year of the Stanislavski 'wave', the question again arises as to what extent his Stanislavski studies were part of a

theory was obvi- as his own'. 76 He

IP address: 138.251.14.35

tactical move to avoid political and artistic pressure. There is no denying that the GDR's search for cultural identity was a significant motivating force, particularly during 1953, and John Willett regards the

Katzgraben production itself as 'evidence of a considerable effort on Brecht's part to meet the requirements of the official aesthetic policy of the day'. 79 Indeed, Brecht's manipulation of tech- niques associated with Stanislavski, such as attention to naturalistic detail, individu- alizing, and empathetic acting can be seen as

a response to the party-liners' accusation

that he was a cold-blooded formalist. The use of such methods in order to present positive images of the new worker heroes is a serious attempt to demonstrate support for the GDR and communism. Yet it is not the case that political pres- sure was so overwhelming that all Brecht's statements of affinity with Stanislavski must be regarded as obsequiously motivated. He was able to engage critically with Stanis- lavski and to expand upon the Russian's methods, rigorously manipulating them for the purpose of social commentary and dis- carding them whenever they jeopardized this task. And total cynicism about Brecht's

Katzgraben production and his utilization of

Stanislavski throughout its creation is not necessary. Given Brecht's political views and commitment, it is likely that he genuinely wished to deal with tasks such as celebrat- ing reform and educating the public about the process of revolution. The positive impact of the political envir- onment must also be considered. It was the socialist state which enabled the formation

of the Berliner Ensemble company. This in

turn necessitated an understanding of realist acting concerning which Stanislavski pro- vided many insights. The Stanislavski wave brought with it not only political pressure but also access to information previously untapped. Brecht capitalized upon the new opportunities available for exploring the two theatre practitioners' affinities and dif- ferences, and began to view himself more as Stanislavski's progressive successor than his staunch opponent.

progressive successor than hi s staunch opponent. http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015 Notes

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Notes and References

1. Werner Hecht, 'Grund der Emporung iiber eine

"ganz unertragliche Behandlung": Brechts Stanis-

lawski-Studium 1953', Maske und Kothurn, XXXIII, Nos. 3-4 (1987), p. 82.

2. Eric Bentley, 'Are Stanislavski and Brecht Com-

mensurable?', Tulane Drama Review, IX, No. 1 (Fall

1964), p. 73.

3. Werner Mittenzwei, 'Der Methodenstreit: Brecht

oder Stanislawski?', in Werner Hecht, ed., Brechts

Theorie des Theaters (Frankfurt am Main, 1986), p. 262.

4. Wolfgang Langhoff, 'Aus dem Schlusswort',

Theater der Zeit, VIII, No. 5 (1953), p. 11.

5. Hecht, op. cit., p. 78.

6. Werner Hecht, 'Das Vergniigen an einer ernsten

Sache: Ein Leben im Dienste Brechts - Erinnerungen von und an Kathe Riilicke', Der Tagesspiegel, 3 Novem-

ber 1992, p. 17.

7. Books that highlight the later theories include

K. S. Stanislawski, W. Prokofjew, W. Toporkow, B. Sach-

awa, G. Gurjew, Der schauspielerische Weg zur Rolle: Fiinf Aufsatze iiber Stanislawskis 'Methode der physischen

Handlungen', trans. B. Ensslen, K. Fend, K. A. Paffen (Berlin, 1951), while amongst the theatre practice oriented works is W. Toporkow's, K. S. Stanislawski bei der Probe, trans. Karl Fend (Berlin, 1952).

8. Jiirgen Riihle, 'Uber den Umgang mit Stanis-

lawski' , Sonntag, 9 Augus t 1953, BBA 1153/86.

9. Kathe Rulicke-Weiler, interviewed by Matthias

Braun, 'Brecht and Weigel at the Berliner Ensemble',

New Theatre Quarterly, VII, No. 25 (February 1991), p. 15.

10. Hecht, 'Grund der Emporung iiber eine "ganz

unertragliche Behandlung",' p. 86.

11. Bertolt Brecht, 'Was unter anderem vom Theater

Stanislawskis gelernt werden kann', 1951, in Crosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe der Werke von Bertolt Brecht, XXIII (Berlin; Weimar: Aufbau-Verlag; Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1993), p. 167-8.

12. 'Leise - es wird geprobt!', trans. Grossmann,

Teatr, No . 12 (1952), BBA 45/11 .

13. 'Uber die Bezeichnung "restlose Verwandlung",'

c. 1935, in Grosse kommentierte

Berliner und Frankfurter

Ausgabe, XXII.I (1993), p. 178-9, and 'Einfuhlung', May 1953, XXV (1994), p . 440.

14. 'Bericht von einer Probe zu Tage der Turbins mit

Stanislawski -1927' , BBA 45/51 .

15. 'Einige Gedanken zur

Stanislawski-Konferenz',

April 1953, Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter

Ausgabe, XXIII, p. 238.

16. '[Fortschrittlichkeit des Stanislawski-Systems]',

Grosse kommentierte

Berliner und

Frankfurter

Ausgabe,

XXII.I, p. 284-5, and 'Stanislawski-Studien [5]', March/ April 1953, XXIII, p. 228.

17. Brecht, BBA 233/19.

18. 'Zu Stanislawski', February 1953, Grosse kommen-

tierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXIII, p. 224.

'Stanislawski-Brecht

(Besprechung am 1 Juni)' , 1953, BBA 551/136.

Stanislawski-

konferenz', BBA 1852/18.

April

19. Brecht

20. Brecht,

21. '[Rede

and

P.

Palitzsch,

Gedanken

'Einige

fur

zur

die Stanislawski-Konferenz]',

1953, Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Aus- gabe, XXIII, p. 234.

22. 'Einstudierung von Einzelrollen durch Regie-

Assistenten', notes taken by Kathe Riilicke, 'Uber un-

sere Inszenierungen' , BBA 1340/60.

23. Brecht, 'Stanislawski Studien', BBA 44/12 .

257

IP address: 138.251.14.35

24. Brecht, 'Einige Gedanken zur Stanislawski-

konferenz', BBA 1852/18-9.

25. Tvlogliche Experimented March-April, 1953, Grosse

54. See, for example, 'Protokoll 18.5.53', BBA 551/60,

and 'Uber die Diskussionen mit Kulturfunktionaren der Berliner Betriebe am Anschluss an Vorauffiihrung Katz-

kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXIII, p. graben am 21 Mai 1953', BBA 551 /91 .

227.

55.

Brecht, 'Uber die Diskussionen mit Kulturfunk-

26.

Hecht, 'Grund der Emporung iiber eine "ganz

tionaren der Berliner Betriebe am Anschluss an Vor-

unertragliche Behandlung": Brechts Stanislawski-Studium

auffuhrung Katzgraben am 21 Mai 1953', BBA 551 /94 .

1953', p. 81.

27. Mittenzwei, op. cit., p. 262.

28. Brecht, 'Mit studium begonnen', BBA, 44/7.

29. Kathe Riilicke, 'Katzgraben-Manuskript - Inhalts-

iibersichf , BBA 949/7-10 .

56. 'Kritik an Elli II', 1953, Grosse kommentierte

Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 479.

57. Note s take n b y Kathe Rulicke, 'Li' , 10.5.53, BBA

963/23.

58. 'Einfiihlung', Grosse kommentierte Berliner und

30. 'Erwin Strittmatters Katzgraben', June 1953, Grosse Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 439.

kommentierte

(1991), p. 437.

Berliner

und

Frankfurter

Ausgabe,

XXIV

59. 'II.3

[Preisgabe

und

Rechtfertigung]', Grosse

kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p.

31. Ibid.

435-6.

32. Manfred Wekwerth, Schriften. Arbeit mit Brecht

60.

Notes taken by Carl Weber, '31.3.53, Stiickprobe

(Berlin, 1975), p. 112-13.

33. 'Dekoration', May 1953, Grosse kommentierte

Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 405.

34. Kathe Riilicke, 'Protokoll 18.5.53', BBA 551/69 .

35. 'Dekoration', op. cit.

36. 'Diskussion mit Vorstandsmitgliedern des Zentral-

vorstandes der VdGB aus alien Bezirken der DDR am 4 Juni 1953 nach de r Vorstellung Katzgraben', BBA 1508/52-3, and 'Protokoll der Diskussion zu Katzgraben am 11.5.1954 mit dem Volksgut Aktivist, KVP und Intendante n im Theater', BBA 1898/2.

37. Brecht, 'Einige Gedanken zur Sranislawski-

Akt 1,2', BBA 1897(I)/128.

61. Rulicke-Weiler, interviewed by Braun, 'Brecht

and Weigel at the Berliner Ensemble', p. 8.

62. Brecht, 'Prob e vom 9.4.53', BBA 948/51 .

63. See, for example, Carl Weber's notes 'Eman-

zipation auf de m Dorfe Act III, 2' , BBA 551/6 , an d

'Probenauszug vom 15.4, 9.5, und 13.5.1953 Die Frauen:

Emanzipation un d da s Bier (III.2)', BBA 551/39 .

64. Brecht, '16.4.53, II.2' , BBA 948/82 .

65. 'III.2 [Aufbau eines Helden]', March 1953, Grosse

kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p.

419-20.

konferenz', BBA 1852/18.

38. 'Details III, 3', Grosse kommentierte Berliner und

Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 442.

39. Notes

taken

by Kathe Rulicke, '2.5.53', BBA

66. Ibid., p. 418.

67. Ibid., p. 419.

68. Ibid., p. 420.

69. Carl Weber, 'Brecht as Director', The Drama

1514/113.

Review, XII, No. 1 (Fall 1967), p. 104.

40. Notes taken by Carl Weber, '27.2.53 Probe Act I,

Stellprob e Act II' , BBA 1897(I)/18.

70. '2. Hauptprobe', 13 May, Grosse kommentierte

Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 469.

41. 'Probenweise', Grosse kommentierte Berliner und

Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 404.

42. 'Leerlauf, May 1953, in Grosse kommentierte

71. Brecht,'1,3' , BBA 963/26 .

72. Brecht, '30.4.53, Probe Katzgraben', BBA 963/68 .

73. Notes taken by Carl Weber, '31.3.1953 Stiick-

Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 488.

prob e Act 1,2', BBA 1897(0/128.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid., p. 489.

45. Report from Kathe Rulicke, '30.4.53', BBA

1513/73.

74. 'Was machen eigentlich unsere Schauspieler?',

Grosse kommentierte Berliiter und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 449.

75. 'Brecht (anl. des Besuches von Stanislawski-

46.

At least, it is not to be found in the following text

Schiilern), Febr. 1954', BBA 1340/23; 'Brecht: Diskus-

available to me: Erwin Strittmatter, Katzgraben (Berlin,

sion mit Studenten der Philosophischen Fakultat Leipzig

1958).

am 21.3.54', BBA 1824/44; 'Diskussion mit Praktikanten

47.

'Lied vom Wettbewerb in III.3', in Grosse kom-

am 8. Okt. 1954 bei Frau Berlau', BBA 943/75-84; and

mentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, XXV, p. 443. Brecht, Palitzsch, Rulicke, Wekwerth, Bohm, Schubert,

Kilian, Besson, 'Arbeitsbesprechung am 20. Januar 1955', BBA 1299/02.

als Ochsenkenner', BBA 949/37 .

76. Kathe Rulicke, 'Die Arbeitsweisen Stanislawskis

48. Notes taken by Ruth Berlau, 'Der Schauspieler

49. Ibid.

50. und

'Naturalismus

Realismus',

in

Gesammelte

Werke, XVI (Frankfurt am Main, 1967), p . 796.

51. 'Der Neubauer, der Mittelbauer, der Grossbauer',

und Brechts (I)', Theater der Zeii, XI, No. 17 (November 1962), p. 58.

77. Ibid., p. 56.

Grosse kommentierte

Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe,

78. Wekwerth, op. cit., p. 53.

XXV, p. 441.

79. John Willett, trans, and ed., Brecht on

Theatre

52. Brecht, '1 . Besprechung mit Strittmatter 6.5.52',

BBA 960/38 .

53. Helene Weigel, in 'Diskussion iiber das Stuck

Katzgraben von Strittmatter am 2 Marz 1953 mit einer Gruppe von Studenten von der Universitat Greifswald',

BBA 960/31 .

258

von der Universitat Greifswald', BBA 960/31 . 258 http://journals.cambridge.org Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

Downloaded: 10 Apr 2015

(London, 1964), p. 251.

Acknowledgement

Unpublished material as attributed in Endnotes 23, 24, 28, 37,52, and 64 is copyright © Stefan S. Brecht 1995.

IP address: 138.251.14.35