Brecht and East Asian Theatre

Brecht and East Asian Theatre: The Proceedings of a Conference on Brecht in East Asian Theatre

ANTONY TATLOW
TAK-WAI WONG
Tak-wai Wong
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 234
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jc2cf
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    Brecht and East Asian Theatre
    Book Description:

    This book contains unique information about Bertolt Brecht and East Asian theatre. It focuses in particular on China and offers first and detailed accounts of important Brecht productions from those directly involved. Hence it grants remarkable insight into the problems of modern Chinese theatre and its relationship to Western theatre and into possible future developments. The book also throws light on Brecht's work and suggests ways of 're-producing' Brecht in the West. It consists of papers presented at a Hong Kong conference by distinguished Western critics (John Willett, Klaus Volker) and prominent practitioners of the theatre in China - directors (Huang Zuolin, Chen Yong), stage designers, translators and scholars. There are also accounts of Brecht productions in Japan and India, which form a stimulating contrast with the Chinese experience. With a wealth of practical examples, the book enables us to appreciate how theatre develops within different social structures. Presenting examples of cultural affinity and cultural disjunction, it also makes a useful contribution to intercultural study.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-044-9
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-2)
    Antony Tatlow

    The papers gathered in this book were prepared in connection with the Hong Kong International Brecht Seminar held in the Goethe Institute and the University of Hong Kong from March 16-20th 1981. A list of speakers and translators at the end of this volume. The Seminar would not have been possible without the energetic support of Dr Klaus Vetter, Director of the Goethe Institute, Hong Kong and Dr Edward Chen, Director of the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong. For further generous material support we are most grateful to the British Council and the Chinese University of Hong...

  4. BERTOLT BRECHT TODAY: PROBLEMS IN AESTHETICS AND POLITICS
    (pp. 3-17)
    Antony Tatlow

    Introductions are best written afterwards. Who can anticipate what will happen in the next five days? Over the years there have been many large and smaller symposia on Brecht, and I have attended a few of them. But never before have so many experts from such varied backgrounds come to discuss the implications of Brecht's work in East Asia. Following accounts of what has been happening recently in China, that work could hardly appear more apposite.¹

    The idea for a Brecht Seminar first arose within the Hong Kong Comparative Literature Association whose purpose is primarily study of what we call...

  5. BRECHT IN CHINA
    (pp. 18-27)
    Zhang Li

    Brecht once remarked that Gorky's tremendous impact on Russian and world literature could not be separated from his unique creative method (19.442). This remark also applies to Brecht.

    It is irrelevant to ask if Brecht's drama, his acting, directing and scenography should or can be imitated, since the playwrights, actors and audiences of different countries have different backgrounds and expectations. But today the tendency for diverse cultures to learn and benefit from each other is irreversible, although we must be aware that this process is not a matter of pure imitation. Biologists believe in the superiority of crossbreeding for propagation:...

  6. BRECHT'S THEATRE AND CHINESE DRAMA
    (pp. 28-45)
    Ding Yangzhong

    Brecht lived and wrote in the first half of the twentieth century, when society was undergoing dramatic changes. Scientific socialism was spreading and the contradictions of capitalism became increasingly acute. The founding of the first socialist country, the disasters brought upon mankind by the two world wars, and the rapid advances of technology - all these important events affected the progress of social development. These changes in turn necessarily changed various literary forms. Many new artistic currents and schools appeared in Europe. It was in this historical period that Brecht attempted to create a theatrical form more appropriate for expressing...

  7. THE RECEPTION OF BERTOLT BRECHT IN CHINA AND ITS IMPACT ON CHINESE DRAMA
    (pp. 46-64)
    Adrian Hsia

    In 1935 Brecht saw Mei Lanfang's incomparable performance as a female impersonator of the Chinese Opera in Moscow. It was not only a milestone in the development of Brecht's career as a playwright and 'Dramaturg' (in the sense that the Peking Opera confirmed Brecht's views on alienation), but it also marked the beginning of Brecht's reception in China. Admittedly, this undercurrent of enthusiasm was to remain imperceptible for decades. Shortly after Brecht's experience with the Chinese Theatre, he wrote 'Bemerkungen über die chinesische Schauspielkunst', probably the first version of the essay 'Verfremdungseffekte in der chinesischen Schauspielkunst'. The English translation of...

  8. FIRST PERFORMANCE OF BRECHT'S DRAMATIC WORK IN CHINA - THE PRODUCTION OF MOTHER COURAGE AND ITS STAGE DESIGN
    (pp. 65-71)
    Gong Boan

    In October, 1959 Bertolt Brecht's famous play Mother Courage and Her Children was performed in Shanghai: the first time this distinguished playwright's work was staged in China. Although Brecht's plays and his dramatic theories were not familiar to the Chinese people, this performance received much attention in every corner of China. The play was translated by Sun Fengcheng and Feng Zhi and was performed by the Shanghai People's Art Theatre under the direction of Huang Zuolin. The heroine was played by the famous actress Danni, who had played successfully many different characters on the stage. The music score was composed...

  9. Plates
    (pp. None)
  10. STAGE DESIGN FOR BRECHT'S LIFE OF GALILEO
    (pp. 72-87)
    Xue Dianjie

    In March 1979, the Chinese Youth Art Theatre put on a public performance of Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo in Beijing; its stage design was quite an interesting artistic practice. To perform Brecht's plays on the stage of the modern Chinese theatre posed some intriguing problems. The production of Life of Galileo evoked many repercussions and a discussion of 'illusionism' for stage design.

    To prevent people using 'ordinary' ways of staging Life of Galileo, Brecht wrote down nine 'production guidelines'. The first is on stage design: 'The stage setting should not make the audience believe that they are situated in...

  11. Plates
    (pp. None)
  12. THE BEIJING PRODUCTION OF LIFE OF GALILEO
    (pp. 88-95)
    Chen Yong

    I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss with you various questions about Bertolt Brecht's drama and to share our knowledge and experience in the subject. The art of drama should serve as a powerful and effective means of communication and strengthen intellectual and cultural bonds and warm feelings among the people of all nations.

    The Chinese people have a brilliant and an old culture and our dramatic art dates back to ancient times, possessing a unique tradition as well as a unique form. But the Chinese people do not refuse good ideas from outside their country. Spoken drama,...

  13. A SUPPLEMENT TO BRECHT'S 'ALIENATION EFFECTS IN CHINESE ACTING'
    (pp. 96-110)
    Huang Zuolin

    Friends and fellow Brechtians:

    As we all know, Brecht wrote his essay on the Chinese classical theatre in 1935 after he had seen the performance of China's master performing artist - Peking opera actor Mei Lanfang. I was studying in England at the time, and his essay published in English inspired me with great national pride. In his article, Brecht praises Mei Lanfang in genuine admiration.

    Brecht's powers of observation deserve our respect. He discovered at first glance that the Chinese theatre was a rich treasury, that it had the theatrical quality that he was searching for - what he...

  14. BRECHT RECEPTION IN JAPAN: THE PERSPECTIVE OF THEATRICAL PRACTICE
    (pp. 111-129)
    Tatsuji Iwabuchi

    Brecht was known in Japan before the war. Drums in the Night was translated in 1930, The Flight of the Lindberghs a little while later. The Threepenny Opera was performed by the TES Ensemble in 1932, though the text was based on the film script because they could not get hold of the stage version. Moreover at the first attempt the plot was transferred into the milieu of the Japanese underworld. Macheath was played by Korea Senda who became the foremost transmitter of Brecht's theatre.

    After 1932 Brecht's name disappeared from the Japanese vocabulary for a long time. After the...

  15. BRECHT IN OSAKA-KOBE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE EIGHTIES
    (pp. 130-137)
    Hiroshi Yagi

    We now know a lot about Brecht. One might think that everything has been translated. Has he become for us the kind of classic that only academics want to discuss? Around 1936 Brecht wrote: 'The modern Epic Theatre also is inseparably linked to certain tendencies. It certainly cannot be performed everywhere. Circumstances favourable to an epic and didactic theatre were to be found in only a few places and then not for long' (15.272). Fifty years later, however, there seems to be certain opportunities for developing this Epic Theatre in East Asian countries, even if many plays nowadays, whether or...

  16. BRECHT IN WEST BENGAL
    (pp. 138-144)
    Sekhar Chatterjee

    India, particularly West Bengal where we come from, needs Bertolt Brecht most. The reason is more political than literary. The West Bengal theatre, in contrast to the rest of India, is one hundred per cent political. West Bengal has a long traditon - a revolutionary heritage which grew during the two hundred years of foreign rule. A society which is ridden with unemployment, exploitation and corruption is bound to lead the people to disillusionment and frustration.

    We have two kinds of theatre - one is the commercial and the other is the non-professional or left theatre. There are about fifteen...

  17. PRODUCTION AS LEARNING EXPERIENCE: TANIKO - HE WHO SAYS YES - THE MEASURES TAKEN
    (pp. 145-161)
    John Willett

    One of the problems with Brecht is: twenty five years after his death, how do we keep his plays alive in the theatre? Do we adapt them to our changed world and our own political situation, and if so how far do we do this by staging, and how far by altering the text? The problems become more acute the further you are from Brecht's own social and political setting and from the conventions of twentieth century theatre. It becomes harder - and one might think more pointless - to treat the plays as historic objects, because so much of...

  18. THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE
    (pp. 162-174)
    Klaus Völker

    Brecht first used the chalk circle motif in 1925, though in a distorting and grotesque reversal, in the 'Interlude for the Foyer' The Elephant Calf. In that year Klabund's adaptation of The Chalk Circle by Li Xingdao was given its first performance in Berlin with Elisabeth Bergner taking the leading role. The kernel of that motif, the judge's detection of the true mother, can already be found in the Book of Kings in the Old Testament. There King Solomon pronounces his decision after devising a test by the sword. In the Chinese version of the story about the argument between...

  19. HOW WE DIGESTED BERTOLT BRECHT
    (pp. 175-185)
    Wolf Siegert

    Before leaving Berlin, I rang up Klaus Völker and we spoke about our contributions to this seminar. When I told him that I intended to speak about new developments in the reception of Brecht in Germany, he asked me: 'Does it still exist?' And we laughed. Was this black humour?

    It is true. We have to speak about a new period of Brecht reception in Germany. I think this will be called later the third period: the period when people have got tired of his work, where they are searching to distance Brecht by announcing his death, the former students...

  20. BRECHT IN ASIA - THE CHINESE CONTRIBUTION
    (pp. 186-208)
    Wolfram Schlenker

    After returning to Beijing from Hong Kong I tried to establish what the Chinese participants had retained from the Seminar. It was after all the first time that artists and Germanists from the People's Republic had participated in a Brecht conference outside the People's Republic, even if not all who had been invited were allowed to come, and so there were good reasons for being curious about the consequences. All the more so since the relatively large group from China played a comparatively small role in the discussions, in the first place because the language barrier was not properly overcome,...

  21. A GLOSSARY OF CHINESE NAMES, TITLES AND TERMS
    (pp. 209-213)
  22. LIST OF SPEAKERS AND TRANSLATORS
    (pp. 214-214)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 215-228)