Epic theatre

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Epic theatre (German: episches Theater) is a theatrical movement arising in the early to mid-20th century from the theories and practice of a number of theatre practitioners who responded to the political climate of the time through the creation of a new political theatre. Epic theatre_sentence_0

Epic theatre is not meant to refer to the scale or the scope of the work, but rather to the form that it takes. Epic theatre_sentence_1

Epic theatre emphasizes the audience's perspective and reaction to the piece through a variety of techniques that deliberately cause them to individually engage in a different way. Epic theatre_sentence_2

The purpose of epic theatre is not to encourage an audience to suspend their disbelief, but rather to force them to see their world as it is. Epic theatre_sentence_3

History Epic theatre_section_0

The term "epic theatre" comes from Erwin Piscator who coined it during his first year as director of Berlin's Volksbühne (1924–27). Epic theatre_sentence_4

Piscator aimed to encourage playwrights to address issues related to "contemporary existence." Epic theatre_sentence_5

This new subject matter would then be staged by means of documentary effects, audience interaction, and strategies to cultivate an objective response. Epic theatre_sentence_6

Epic theatre incorporates a mode of acting that utilises what Brecht calls gestus. Epic theatre_sentence_7

One of Brecht's most-important aesthetic innovations prioritised function over the sterile dichotomous opposition between form and content. Epic theatre_sentence_8

Epic theatre and its many forms is a response to Richard Wagner's idea of "Gesamtkunstwerk", or "total artwork", which intends each piece of art is composed of each other art form. Epic theatre_sentence_9

Since epic theatre is so focused on the specific relationship between form and content, these two ideas contradict each other, despite the fact that Brecht was heavily influenced by Wagner. Epic theatre_sentence_10

Brecht discussed the priorities and approach of epic theatre in his work "A Short Organum for the Theatre". Epic theatre_sentence_11

Although many of the concepts and practices involved in Brechtian epic theatre had been around for years, even centuries, Brecht unified them, developed the approach, and popularised it. Epic theatre_sentence_12

Near the end of his career, Brecht preferred the term "dialectical theatre" to describe the kind of theatre he pioneered. Epic theatre_sentence_13

From his later perspective, the term "epic theatre" had become too formal a concept to be of use anymore. Epic theatre_sentence_14

According to Manfred Wekwerth, one of Brecht's directors at the Berliner Ensemble at the time, the term refers to the "'dialecticising' of events" that this approach to theatre-making produces. Epic theatre_sentence_15

Epic theatre is distinct from other forms of theatre, particularly the early naturalistic approach and later "psychological realism" developed by Konstantin Stanislavski. Epic theatre_sentence_16

Like Stanislavski, Brecht disliked the shallow spectacle, manipulative plots, and heightened emotion of melodrama; but where Stanislavski attempted to engender real human behaviour in acting through the techniques of Stanislavski's system and to absorb the audience completely in the fictional world of the play, Brecht saw this type of theatre as escapist. Epic theatre_sentence_17

Brecht's own social and political focus was distinct, too, from surrealism and the Theatre of Cruelty, as developed in the writings and dramaturgy of Antonin Artaud, who sought to affect audiences viscerally, psychologically, physically, and irrationally. Epic theatre_sentence_18

While both produced 'shock' in the audience, epic theatre practices would also include a subsequent moment of understanding and comprehension. Epic theatre_sentence_19

Techniques Epic theatre_section_1

Verfremdungseffekt Epic theatre_section_2

While not invented by Brecht, the Verfremdungseffekt, known in English as the "estrangement effect" or the "alienation effect", was made popular by Brecht and is one of the most significant characteristics of epic theatre. Epic theatre_sentence_20

Some of the ways the Verfremdungseffekt can be achieved is by having actors play multiple characters, rearrange the set in full view of the audience, and "break the fourth wall" by speaking to the audience. Epic theatre_sentence_21

The use of a narrator in The Caucasian Chalk Circle is another example of Verfremdungseffekt at work. Epic theatre_sentence_22

Lighting can also be used to emulate the effect. Epic theatre_sentence_23

For example, flooding the theatre with bright lights (not just the stage) and placing lighting equipment on stage can encourage the audience to fully acknowledge that the production is merely a production instead of reality. Epic theatre_sentence_24

As with the principle of dramatic construction involved in the epic form of spoken drama amalgamated or what Brecht calls "non-Aristotelian drama", the epic approach to play production utilizes a montage technique of fragmentation, contrast and contradiction, and interruptions. Epic theatre_sentence_25

While the French playwright Jean Genet articulates a very different world view in his dramas from that found in Brecht's, in a letter to the director Roger Blin on the most appropriate approach to staging his The Screens in 1966, he advises an epic approach to its production: Epic theatre_sentence_26

Historicisation Epic theatre_section_3

Historicisation is also employed in order to draw connections from a historical event to a similar current event. Epic theatre_sentence_27

This can be seen in the plays Mother Courage and Her Children and The Good Person of Szechwan, both written by Brecht, which comment on a current social or political issue using historical contexts. Epic theatre_sentence_28

Brecht, too, advised treating each element of a play independently, like a music hall turn that is able to stand on its own. Epic theatre_sentence_29

Common production techniques in epic theatre include a simplified, non-realistic scenic design offset against a selective realism in costuming and props, as well as announcements or visual captions that interrupt and summarize the action. Epic theatre_sentence_30

Brecht used comedy to distance his audiences from the depicted events and was heavily influenced by musicals and fairground performers, putting music and song in his plays. Epic theatre_sentence_31

Acting in epic theatre requires actors to play characters believably without convincing either the audience or themselves that they have "become" the characters. Epic theatre_sentence_32

This is called Gestus, when an actor takes on the physical embodiment of a social commentary. Epic theatre_sentence_33

Actors frequently address the audience directly out of character ("breaking the fourth wall") and play multiple roles. Epic theatre_sentence_34

Brecht thought it was important that the choices the characters made were explicit, and tried to develop a style of acting wherein it was evident that the characters were choosing one action over another. Epic theatre_sentence_35

For example, a character could say, "I could have stayed at home, but instead I went to the shops." Epic theatre_sentence_36

This he called "fixing the Not / But element". Epic theatre_sentence_37

Famous practitioners Epic theatre_section_4

Epic theatre_unordered_list_0

See also Epic theatre_section_5

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic theatre.