Epic Theater of Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht was an outstanding reformer of Western theater, he created a new type of drama and a new theory, which he called “epic.”

What was the essence of Brecht’s theory? As conceived by the author, this was supposed to be a drama in which the main role was assigned not to the action that lay at the basis of the “classical” theater, but to the story (hence the name “epic”). In the process of such a story, the scene should have remained just the scene, and not a “plausible” imitation of life, the character – the role that the actor plays (in contrast to the traditional practice of “transforming” the actor into a hero), portrayed as an exclusively scenic sketch, specially freed from illusion “Likenesses” of life.

In an effort to recreate the “story”, Brecht replaced the classical division of the drama into actions and acts with a chronic composition, according to which the plot of the play was created by chronologically connected paintings. In addition, various comments were introduced into the “epic drama”, which also brought it closer to the “story”: headings that described the content of the paintings; songs (“zongs”), which additionally explained what is happening on the stage; appeals of actors to the public; inscriptions designed on the screen, etc.

One of the most striking artistic discoveries was the “effect of alienation.” Its essence consisted in the fact that the everyday occurrence was presented in a new light and now appeared as amazing, “torn out” of the everyday plan of life. It also encouraged the viewer to analyze what was at stake. The “Alienation Effect” was the core that permeated all levels of the “epic drama”: the plot, the system of images, artistic details, language, etc., down to the scenery, the characteristics of the acting technique and stage lighting.

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