Academic journal article German Quarterly

Theater ist Theater: Ein Vergleich der Kreidekreisstucke Bertolt Brechts und Li Xingdaos

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Theater ist Theater: Ein Vergleich der Kreidekreisstucke Bertolt Brechts und Li Xingdaos

Article excerpt

Yang, Peter. Theater ist Theater: Ein Vergleich der Kreidekreisstucke Bertolt Brechts and Li Xingdaos. New York: Lang, 1998. 158 pp. $38.95.

Central to this volume is a direct comparison of the Bertolt Brecht/Ruth Berlau Kaukasische Kreidekreis and one of the works that anticipates this play (and its staging) in many essential particulars, Li Xingdaos Hui Lan Ji written in the Yuan Period (1277-1367). Of particular value to Western readers is likely to be Yang's skilled exposition of the characteristics of Yuan Period drama and his outline of how Yuan works are often telescoped (incorrectly), with the centuries later and more familiar forms of the Peking Opera. Yang makes the case that Yuan works need to be studied in their own right.

Yuan theater, as Yang clearly demonstrates, has an extraordinary number of elements similar to the English drama of the Elizabethan period. The mode of direct audience address is particularly striking. These elements, in Yang's view, were not sufficiently dealt with in Shu-ping Show's study completed in Taiwan in 1975. Particularly striking, as Yang convincingly shows, are elements that clearly establish the theatricality of the events presented both in Yuan and in Elizabethan plays. It is here that Yang's comparative background (an MA from Beijing University and a Ph.D. from Utah) is shown off to best advantage.

Yang, in his brief study, seems to have consciously decided not to trace other direct comparative elements that clearly influenced the creation of Der kaukasische Kreidekreis. Klabund (Alfred Henschke) receives no mention in the main body of the text and appears only in a footnote citing Jen-Te Chen's 1991 study of the Kreidekreis in German literature. If Yang feels the relationship with Klabund has been done to death, notation to that effect in the text might best make this point. The same might be said of the well-known 1927 German translation of the original Yuan text by Alfred Forke-as this work is well-known Yang could argue it needs no more detailed discussion other than to point out (as he does) dubious elements in Forke's translation. …

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