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Epic Theatre V's Dramatic Theatre.

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Introduction

Helen Brockley Epic Theatre V's Dramatic Theatre Brecht believed that "To think, or write, or produce a play also means to transform society, to transform the state, to subject ideologies to close scrutiny." Having established this doctrine for himself, Brecht instigated the use of epic theatre in an attempt to break from the Aristotelian definition. Although he did not approve of the Aristotelian version, he redefined the nature of catharsis1 to suit his needs. Brecht said "...the epic poet presents the event as totally past, while the dramatic poet presents it as totally present." Dramatic Theatre (Aristotelian theatre) emphasized the well-made play, suspension of disbelief, and progressive character development. To replace these facets of Dramatic theatre, Brecht created epic theatre, in which the plot is episodic, there is little cause and effect between scenes and character development is cumulative. For example in the Dramatic theatre..."I cry when someone cries. I laugh when someone laughs" and in the Epic theatre..."I laugh with those who cry and cry with those who laugh". ...read more.

Middle

We accept automatically, for example, that women wear skirts and men do not: that some areas of a city will look more attractive than other areas and that this will be linked to wealth; that it is right for one person to own many corporations, whilst others work in terrible conditions in mines; that famines happen in Africa, but not in the USA, and so on. The use of a bare stage, exposed lighting and scenic equipment, short scenes, combination of "reality" with the theatrical are the result of Brecht's "alienation" effect. In Brecht's version of catharsis, at the end of the play the audience is left in a state of emotional elevation. In order to complete the emotional cleansing, the audience must take action against the social problem that was presented to them. The first important factor of epic theatre is theatricalism, which simply means the audience is aware that they are in a theatre watching a play. Brecht believed that "seducing" the audience into believing they were watching "real life" led to an uncritical acceptance of society's values. ...read more.

Conclusion

The second key to epic theatre is the "distancing" or "alienation" effect, which has the same goals. Brecht wanted actors to strike a balance between "being" their character onstage and "showing the audience that the character is being performed." In the Epic theatre the sources of light should be visible at all times, as they are, say, in a boxing ring (Brecht's comparison). Lighting should be uniformly bright; effects of colour and dimming are not to be allowed. This is partly explicable in terms of Brecht's taste for simplicity and austerity, partly in terms of his desire to avoid creating emotional effects. In conclusion Brecht chose epic theatre because he wanted the audience to focus entirely on the play and to think about the meanings. Brecht felt that drama could instruct and change society; therefore, it should be political. He believed that effective theatre should bring the audience to the point of decision and action. 'Everything hangs on the story; it is the heart of the theatrical performance' (Brecht) 1 Purges the spectator of fear and pity through imitation of actions arousing fear and pity brought about through identification of the spectator with the characters in the play. ...read more.

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