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Brecht’s Epic Theatre Conventions (Pt.2)

Part 2 of Brecht’s Epic Theatre conventions involves an overview of some of his techniques. In future posts, I will go into more depth with certain conventions, but for this post, we will look at a shopping list of Epic Theatre conventions my Year 11 Drama students summarised in class this morning. I trust some readers of The Drama Teacher will find this list useful.

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  • narration
  • direct address to audience
  • placards and signs
  • projection
  • spoiling dramatic tension in advance of episodes (scenes)
  • disjointed time sequences – flash backs and flash forwards – large jumps in time between episodes (scenes)
  • historification – setting events in another place and/or time in order to distance the emotional impact, yet enhance the intellectual impact for the spectator (audience)
  • fragmentary costumes – single items of clothing representing the entire costume
  • fragmentary props – single objects representing a larger picture (or setting)
  • song – like parables in the Bible, songs are used to communicate the message or themes of the drama
  • demonstration of role – actors are encouraged not to fully become the role, but rather to ‘demonstrate’ the role at arms length, with a sense of detachment
  • multiple roles – actors commonly perform more than one character in a drama
  • costume changes in full view of the spectator (audience)
  • lighting equipment in full view of the spectator (audience)
  • open white lighting – due to its emotional impact, colored light on stage is eliminated – instead, the stage is flooded with white light
  • alienation technique – a complex term translated differently by scholars from the German “verfremdungseffekt”, involves the use of many of the above conventions, with the ultimate aim of distancing the audience emotionally and increasing their intellectual response to the drama

Sources:
Crawford J, Acting in Person and in Style
Styan J, Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre
Dobson W; Neelands J, Theatre Directions
Burton B, Living Drama
Sacks G; Thomson P, The Cambridge Companion to Brecht
Mumford M, Bertolt Brecht (Routledge Performance Practitioners)
Cooper S; Mackey S, Theatre Studies: An Approach for Advanced Level

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27 Responses

  1. Kylie says:

    this website is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo helpful thank you so much

  2. sophie says:

    omg a life saver THANK YOU i have an exam on this and no other websites actually listed the epic theater conventions!

  3. Dense Potato says:

    Is Bertolt Brecht like the Petrarch of Shakespeare in drama/theater?

  4. Lily says:

    I absolutely love your website! I am in year 10 drama and I cannot wait for year 11 and 12 because it gets so much more serious. At the moment we do hardly any theory (only for exams) and I love reading about all the different theatres and conventions used in drama so I usually just take some time to read up on certain things myself. I have found that your website has all the information I need and it really helps my understanding of the theory behind drama! I will definitely using this website to research information in VCE!! Thank-you! – Lily

  5. quadri says:

    thanks for teaching us moral lesson

  6. Angela says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you could please validate your sources?

    • Sure! I did write that post in 2009, Angela. It would be easier for me to say at that point there was 20 years of teaching Brecht in senior drama at high school floating around in my head that wrote that post. But most of the epic theatre techniques in this post can be found in any good theatre/drama education text such as:

      Crawford J, Acting in Person and in Style
      Styan J, Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre
      Dobson W; Neelands J, Theatre Directions
      Burton B, Living Drama
      Sacks G; Thomson P, The Cambridge Companion to Brecht
      Mumford M, Bertolt Brecht (Routledge Performance Practitioners)
      Cooper S; Mackey S, Theatre Studies: An Approach for Advanced Level

      You may also be interested in a more comprehensive and recent post on Brecht’s epic theatre conventions, linked to below:

      Epic Theatre Conventions

      Justin

  7. Sonja Brown says:

    I am so very very grateful to have your website as a resource. It is amazing!
    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Rob says:

    great this really helped me for yr10 GCSE’s

  9. Thanks for your kind words Travis. I’m glad my list of Brecht’s epic theatre conventions helped you with your Drama assignment at school.

  10. Travis says:

    Thank you to whoever wrote this I am in grade 12 and this was our last Drama assignment and I was panicking as I had not paid very much attention to Brecht Theatre, I got an A because I used such an expanded variety of Brechtian techniques (:

  11. Matt says:

    Thank you so much. This entire site is a massively valuable resource and this article is absolutely perfect. I am so glad I found this. Thanks again.

  12. Bryony says:

    This helped alot ! Thank-you!
    I’m in Year 10 and we’re studying Brechts techniques so this helped me !
    THANKS!!!!!!!!!!

  13. georgia says:

    really really really helpful. im starting year 12 and im trying to get down a whole lot of study notes and this is really helping for my definition flashcards!

  14. Abigail says:

    THIS DIDN’T HELP AT ALL!!! GOSH YOU’RE SO STUPID! Kidding, this was “SO” helpful! 🙂

  15. steve says:

    Jesus, so handy. Doing my IB studies for Brecht, everything was overly complicated, and i needed everything you spoke about towards the end. thanks!

  16. Ben says:

    These techniques really helped my drama group at school develop our epic theatre piece, give my thanks to your class!!!

  17. Great stuff. I’m looking forward to reading the more in-depth stuff.

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