Theaters of Justice: Judging, Staging, and Working through in Arendt, Brecht, and Delbo

By Yasco Horsman | Go to book overview

4
Brecht on Trial
THE COURTROOM, THE THEATER,
AND THE MEASURES TAKEN

Brecht, in the course of yesterday’s conversation: “I often imagine being inter-
rogated by a tribunal. ‘Now tell us, Mr. Brecht, are you completely serious?’ I
would have to admit that no, I’m not completely serious. I think too much about
artistic problems, you know, about what is good for the theater to be completely
serious. But having said ‘no’ to that important question, I would add something
still more important: namely that my attitude is entirely legitimate.”
—Walter Benjamin

The aims of the epic theater can be defined more easily in terms of the stage
than of a new drama. Epic theater allows for a circumstance which has been too
little noticed. It may be called the filling in of the orchestra pit. The abyss which
separates the players from the audience, as it does the dead from the living; the
abyss whose silence in a play heightens the sublimity, whose resonance in an
opera heightens the intoxication—this abyss, of all elements of the theater the
one that bears the most indelible traces of its ritual origin, has steadily decreased
in significance.
—Walter Benjamin


Brecht on Trials: The Theater as Courtroom

In 1932, during one of his visits to Moscow, Brecht informed his friend and colleague, the Russian futurist playwright sergej Tretiakov, of a plan to organize in Berlin a series of theatrical performances that would reenact the most interesting trials in the history of humanity. Possible trials to be staged included those of socrates and of George Grosz’s alleged blasphemy for his cartoon “Christ in a Gasmask,” as well as the trial of Karl Marx’s Neue Rheinische Zeitung and a medieval witch trial. Tretiakov

-91-

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