Theories of Theatre

  • Ronald Speirs
Part of the Macmillan Modern Dramatists book series (MD)


Reflections on the theatre accompanied Brecht’s creative writing throughout his career. Even before he became known to the wider public as a playwright Brecht had begun to develop the reputation of an enfant terrible through the column he wrote as theatre critic for the organ of the Independent Socialist Party in Augsburg (the Augsburger Volkswille) in which he brought higher artistic and intellectual demands to bear on the productions of the local repertory theatre than its management, directors and actors were apparently capable of meeting. From the mid-1920s his pronouncements on drama and theatre began to take on a sociological character, and the end of that decade saw the first of his attempts to establish systematic links between Marxist ideology and Epic Theatre, links which gave rise to such terms as the ‘theatre of the scientific age’ or ‘dialectical theatre’. Consequently, it is not possible to discuss ‘Brecht’s theory of theatre’ as if it were a unified body of thought, for not only did his views on theatre change with his adoption of Marxism, but his definitions of the nature and function of theatre after that point varied considerably over the years, from the severely utilitarian position taken in the ‘Notes on the opera Mahagonny’ (1930) to his retraction, in the ‘Short Organum for the Theatre’ (Kleines Organon für das Theater) (1948), of his earlier decision to ‘emigrate from the realm of the merely enjoyable’ (BT, 180).


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© Ronald Speirs 1987

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  • Ronald Speirs

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