Russell E. Brown
Bertolt Brecht ( 1898- 1956) is recognized, thirty years after his death, as perhaps the greatest playwright and certainly as the most important theoretician of drama in this century. Without his doctrine of Epic Theatre, theatre in both East and West would be hard to imagine today. After dominating the socialist and capitalist stage in the years following his death, Brecht has now also come to be recognized as a major lyrical poet. Other facets of this enormously creative artist's career include his work as a filmmaker in Weimar Germany (Die Dreigroschen Oper and Kuhle Wampe) and as a dramaturg.
Like Lessing in the eighteenth century, who revived German theatre as a dramaturg in Hamburg and as a brilliant critic-theoretician, Brecht was not content to write great plays but followed them into the theatre, working as a producer, director, and dramaturg. But whereas Lessing's later life was marred by personal and professional disaster, so that he died embittered and isolated in the ducal libraries of Wolfenbüttel, the Marxist Brecht returned from American exile to preside successfully over a major theatre, the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in East Berlin, in that part of Germany which was struggling to create socialism.
Already an enfant terrible of Weimar Germany, a savage critic of bourgeois society still without a positive ideology, Brecht became the dramaturg at age twenty-five of the Munich Kammerspiele. He dodged the assigned preparation of a Shakespeare play by adapting Shakespeare's contemporary, Christopher Marlowe, whose Edward the Second was translated and transformed in collaboration with Lion Feuchtwanger. Brecht directed the play as well as acted as dramaturg. Jan Knopf calls the project Brecht's first "kollektive Produktion" (p. 41). A Berlin production saw Brecht withdraw as co-director, but its