“Showing has to be shown”, Brecht requested from his actors, and it is perhaps possible to define Brechtian theater (if such thing exists) on the whole by reference to this demand. In a lot of Brecht’s plays we find theater-within-theater settings (showing the showing-scenes): Polly’s Pirate Jenny in the Three-Penny-Opera or Paul Ackermann’s escape on a sofa in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Through such scenes Brecht’s theater seeks to determine itself, its limits and moments of failure. This becomes possible because by showing the showing theater ceases to be just performance, but turns into a medium: “it disturbs the stability of the site” (Weber)—of any site—and exposes whatever is going on as made up, as produced, as geared towards an outcome, in short, as a staging, whether inside or outside of Theatre. This specific mediality of theater can be put to various uses; it seems at play, for example, in a variety of recent documentaries, classified as “performing documentaries,” it is employed for therapeutic purposes and for political action.
Theater Expanded/Theatre as Medium: our panel will discuss this particular Brechtian legacy, its epistemological force and potential to initiate social change.
Lisa Channer, Theatre Arts & Dance, UMN
Juliette Cherbuliez, French & Italian, UMN
Maria Hofmann, German, Scandinavian and Dutch, UMN
Marc Silberman, German, University of Wisconsin
Moderated by Matthias Rothe (German, Scandinavian and Dutch, UMN).
This event is cosponsored by the Center for German and European Studies, the Departments of Theatre Arts & Dance and German, Scandinavian and Dutch, and by the IAS Collaborative Rehearsing Failure: The Brechtian Moment as part of the spring’s Weill/Brecht Festival (see TA&D Events).
See also: To Embrace Failure? A Multi-disciplinary Re-thinking.