Monday, February 27, 2006

Brecht is Brechting Out All Over

Interesting when sometimes you become aware of something or become involved in it, and suddenly you see references to it popping out everywhere.

That’s how it’s been with Brecht. For example, the latest issue of American Theatre magazine features an article about the hot trend of sound designers becoming composers for theatre pieces, but not for musicals exactly. More along the lines of plays with music—the chief inspiration noted is Brecht.

Then the back page “20 Questions” interview feature is with actor Tim Robbins, who is also a writer and director and co-founder of the Actors’ Gang, a theatre in Los Angeles. Its latest production is a new adaptation (by Michael Sullivan of the San Francisco Mime Troupe) of Orwell’s 1984. One of the questions is: Who’s your favorite playwright? The answer: Brecht.

Then I finally got around to reading Bob Dylan’s first volume of autobiography, Chronicles. It was completely riveting and revelatory. I tore through it until I was too overwhelmed, then put it down, and soon picked it up and tore through it again, etc. And towards the end of the book but returning to the beginning of his songwriting career, Dylan mentions going to a performance in New York of songs by Kurt Weil and Brecht, for their collaborative theatre pieces. He said he was transformed by the experience, especially by the song “Pirate Jenny,” which he subsequently analyzed to see how it worked. Dylan credits this song and this experience as one of the keys to his songwriting.

As I write this the HSU Accidental Brecht-a-thon is about to begin. The North Coast Prep's Young Actors Guild production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle begins at the Van Duzer theatre on the HSU campus tomorrow. And Mother Courage and Her Children resumes on Thursday at the Gist Hall Theatre, with its final performances on Friday and Saturday. The coincidence of these two productions was not planned, but it's going to be quite a Brechtian week anyway!---BK


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