SO. ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS THIS GUY CALLED BERTOLT BRECHT. He was a German theatre practitioner who did all kinds of wacky things during the thirties and forties. He wrote plays like ‘The Threepenny Opera’, ‘ Caucasian Chalk Circle’ and ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ (which was a cool commentary on Hitler’s rise to power…reimagined in the world of Chicago gangsters). His drama was kind of awesome, but more importantly….his work was groundbreaking. Bertie Brecht became king of a whole new type of drama, Epic Theatre, a theatre of ideas and questions rather than of sensation, illusion and escapism. Brecht’s was a theatre which aimed to change the world.
Everyone is familiar with Dramatic Theatre. It is the most popular and widespread set of conventions for telling a story through drama and it is the model which the vast majority of TV shows adhere to. One scene follows another in linear progression. There is a sense of growth and, usually, resolution. The action is naturalistic. The characters behave like real people.
Epic Theatre is the opposite of all this, because while Dramatic Theatre creates an illusion, Epic Theatre aims to tear illusions down.
This very smart essay was posted 3 months ago, and I find myself returning to it after every episode and nodding like a bobblehead. So I’ve reposted it here with permission of the author. Very interested to know what you guys think.
There’s more information on Epic Theatre here, too.