Brecht's Contacts With the Theater of Meyerhold


Katherine Eaton


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Vsevelod Meyerhold was born in Russia in 1874, the son of prosperous German parents. His career as a theatrical innovator began in 1905 and ended with his death in prison in 1940. Well before the October Revolution, when Bertolt Brecht, the "Einstein of the new stage form," was still a boy, Meyerhold was known to St. Petersburg audiences as "the man with the new ideas."1 Some of Meyerhold's ideas closely anticipated the theory and practice of Brecht. Most notable are those stylistic innovations used to destroy the realistic stage convention: film projections and posters which comment on or announce the action; interpolation of dances, jazzband style music, and songs; masks and grotesque costuming; emphasis on stage movement and gesture; the combination of realistic and stylized stage settings; training of the actor to be both self and character onstage, and finally the attempt to obliterate the social and psychological distance between audience and actors. Beyond the fact that Brecht and Meyerhold were influenced by the same revolutionary milieu, they shared these innovations because they believed in a non-illusionistic art which served the people. Moreover, they were attracted to similar elements in the traditional theaters of the Orient and the West. Still, there remains the question of influence, direct or otherwise, of Meyerhold on Brecht. It is the purpose of this study to establish the possible links between the theaters of the two men, saving until later a comparison of their dramatic theory and practice.

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