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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Down 'n' Dirty with Bertie

Hi everybody!

My name is Carrie Chapter, and I'm the dramaturg for Villanova Theatre's production of Mother Courage. What the heck is a dramaturg, you say? Well, a dramaturg is someone who spends a lot of time on the internet and in the library....but is also a theatre nerd! So, a dramaturg (or the family-friendly synonym "literary manager") works on all the research required for a production, and then some. The job description is a bit fuzzy, but all you really need to know about me is that I'm here on the blog to answer any questions you might have about the play, and also to give you the inside scoop on all things Brecht. Because there is soooo much information needed for a play like this, I'll be posting a lot of random stuff on the blog. It would range from fun facts on Brecht the man to cool-looking past productions to some links to YouTube videos on war footage and political cartoons.
Let's start with this Bertolt Brecht guy. Anything you've heard about him (if you have heard of him) is pretty pretentious, right? He is hailed as a god among mere mortals in theatre history, simply because he did something that most contemporary artists to today: in order to draw attention to his art, he broke the rules.

But, in my opinion, his personal life is just as freaky and fascinating as his work.

1.) Brecht had more lovers than he had fingers. He was married twice, but was always unfaithful. There are all kinds of rumors about possible illegitimate baby Brechts floating around, as well as some weird attitudes Brecht himself had about women and pregnancy. Apparently, he applauded his lovers if they became pregnant,because it meant his progeny would "flourish" (he was extremely self-centered). Of course, it's one thing to want a child, but raising it....Brecht liked the idea but struggled with fatherhood. He had one known illegitimate son named Frank, who spent his life bouncing around foster homes and who eventually died fighting in World War II. But, there are several reports of his mistresses having miscarriages and even abortions (his first wife, Marianne Zoff, aborted Brecht's 2nd child; Brecht was having an affair at the time with his future SECOND wife, Helene Weigel *the most famous and original Mother Courage).

2.) Brecht was a very jealous man. Although his women were well aware of his other lovers, they were forbidden by Brecht to see other men. One of his lovers left Brecht to marry another man, and Brecht followed her, barricaded her in her room, and refused to leave her bed until she came back with him. He stayed for three days, and he won back his lady. He did these things not for true love (while he was doing all this, he had 2 other lovers waiting for his return), but because he felt as if he was losing something that BELONGED to him. Crazy, huh?

3.) Helene Weigel, the original Mother Courage and Brecht's "rock", was an unbelievably strong woman...and Brecht knew that. She knew all about his affairs, but instead of leaving him, she would invite the mistresses into their homes in order to create some twisted family unit - all to make Brecht happy. Despite it all, Brecht refused to divorce Weigel; he needed her too much. She eventually took over control of Brecht's Berliner Ensemble theatre company when he became too sick or too busy with other projects. In dealing with a man as difficult as Brecht, she had to become Mother Courage, in a sense.

4.) Brecht has said (supposedly) that his most beloved companion was not a woman, but rather his dog. A German shepherd named Rolf. :)

* If you have time or Netflix, check out this 2000 German film, which talks about the end of Brecht's life in a semi-factual way. The actors playing his mistresses look EXACTLY like the real women, it's scary. It's called "The Farewell." Here is a link with more information about the movie:

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