Brecht Bytes #2

Today’s bite is a poem that I think captures the way Jeff has been encouraging you all, in these past 2 weeks of individual meetings, to both doubt what’s on the page and what the character is saying and to be active in your choices every moment. It also touches on our continuing discussions as a company about how to manage or account for all the things we now know about the events at the center of the play as well as consider the resonances these details have here and now.

Portrayal of Past and Present in One**

Whatever you portray you should always portray
As if it were happening now. Engrossed
The silent crowd sits in the darkness, lured
Away from its routine affairs. Now
The fisherman’s wife is being brought her son whom
The generals have killed. Even what has happened
In her room is wiped out. What is happening here is
Happening now and just the once. To act in this way
Is habitual with you, and now I am advising you
To ally this habit with yet another: that is, your acting
At the same time express the fact that this instant
On your stage is often repeated; only yesterday
You were acting it, and tomorrow too
Given spectators, there will be a further performance.
Nor should you let the Now blot out the
Previously and Afterwards, nor for that matter whatever
Is even now happening outside the theatre and is similar in
Nor even things that have nothing to do with it all – none of
Should you allow to be entirely forgotten.
So you should simply make the instant
Stand out, without in the process hiding
What you are making it stand out from.
Give your acting
That progression of one-thing-after-another, that attitude of
Working up what you have taken on. In this way
You will show the flow of events and also the course
Of your work, permitting the spectator
To experience this Now on many levels, coming from
Previously and
Merging into Afterwards, also having much else now
Alongside it
. He is sitting not only
In your theatre but also
In the world.

**John Willett, translator. Attributed to poems Brecht wrote between 1947-1953. I’ve added a couple of sets of bold typeface because I think these are ideas particularly important as you all continue work on constructing your characters.

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