Week 6

Take one scene from Sophocles’ Antigone or Anne Carson’s Antigonik, and rewrite it in a Brechtian epic form.  You can re-write the drama – or you can describe what you would do to change what happens on stage as if you were a director.In this past week’s reading, “The Modern Theater is the Epic Theater”  (p171-172) of the Brecht text in Krasner, there is a table showing the changes in emphasis between dramatic and epic theater.  Use the information on the chart to assist this assignment.   Finally, write one paragraph describing what you changed and why.

I’ve chosen to focus on the opening scene between Antigone and Ismene, since I believe opening scenes are crucial in Brechtian pieces of epic theater. As a director, I would make several artistic choices to facilitate Brecht’s famous alienation effect. Firstly, I would begin the play with a placard: “Antigone alerts her sister of the news of her brothers’ burials.” The scene would begin, except Antigone and Ismene would be separated onstage, facing the audience, though speaking to each other. The acting and speech would be done in a very affected way, in order to focus the play and the audience’s understanding of it on reason, rather than feeling–as Brecht distinguishes. While the speech and acting may be affected and somewhat off-putting, I would revise the text to be more accessible and understandable to the audience. This way, there would be a disconnect between what was being said and how it was performed–instead of understanding the feeling behind the text and stumbling over understanding the text, the audience would fully understand the text, but grapple with the intended feeling. This effect serves to further distance the audience from the characters. For example, take this exchange, which I have rewritten below:


I don’t mean to dishonor our brothers, but it’s illegal. I can’t bring myself to do that.


Fine, say what you want. I’ll do it. I’ll bury him.


Whoa there! Be careful!


Worry about yourself, not me.


Just keep it quiet, ok? I won’t tell anyone.


Oh, come on! It’s offensive to me if you don’t. People should know what I’m doing.


You’ve always been a daredevil, no matter the risks.

The rest of the play would continue in a similar fashion, with breaks and dance/movement sequences between scenes. This would cause the play to move in a more episodic manner. Additionally, my one other major change would be the role of the chorus. I would amplify it to be more omnipresent and omniscient–always onstage, always observing and even sometimes manipulating the action. This adds to the feeling that the characters onstage are malleable and not fixed, another Brechtian point. All of these changes in script, acting, and direction would add up to an alienation of the audience–they would sit in the “sweet spot” of understanding the action and themes, but not feeling content with them. They would understand the main themes and injustices in Antigone, and feel implicated in them. Then, they would feel motivated to act, and not just accept them as facts.

One thought on “Week 6

  1. Hi Allie,
    You are right that the themes are what Brecht wanted us to understand, and as I was writing to many of your peers, he also wanted to emphasize that these choices – whether to obey the laws of the gods and remain loyal to family – or whether to obey the ruler of the state — were all invented by human beings and are not immutable. So while your aesthetic choices take us out of immersion in the dramatic narrative, I would urge you to go even further and think about some of the choices assisting in the conveyance of a dialectical experience. What you have written on your placards can ask questions or give information outside of the drama in order to break up the binary formation of moral choices in the script. And the flattened and speeded up affected speech could also be slowed down at times to make a point contrary to the action. Your rewrites of the scene do make the moral dilemma very clear — and the dramatic tension too. I wonder how you might create the dance numbers in order to undermine that as well. You’re on your way – but think about how Brecht aims to “show” the fallacy of immutability — to do that you have to have contrast and clear commentary on those dramatic mechanisms.


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