Brecht, Bertolt

Biography:

Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, Germany, on February 10, 1898. His study of philosophy and medicine at the University of Munich was interrupted by military service during WWI. After the war, he attended Artur Kutscher’s theater seminar and wrote his first play, “Baal” (1918). In 1922, his first play to be performed, “Drums in the Night,” opened in Munich and later at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. Thereafter Brecht’s plays began to be staged at many German theaters and, in 1924, he moved to Berlin.

 

In 1927, Brecht and the composer Kurt Weill worked on the first of many collaborations, the “Mahagonny” song cycle. The following year, they produced “The Threepenny Opera,” which became a Weimar-era theatrical sensation. Brecht also worked with composer Hanns Eisler – on “The Measures Taken” (1930) and, two years later, on the film production Kuhle Wampe, oder Wem gehört die Welt?

 

Brecht fled Nazi Germany in 1933, first to Switzerland, then settling in Denmark for a short while, moved to Sweden in 1939, then to Finland, and finally arrived in the United States in 1941. There, he met many other German exiles, including Thomas Mann, Arnold Schönberg, Theodor Adorno, and Fritz Lang, who asked him to co-author the script for Hangmen also Die. Brecht wrote some of his most important plays in exile, including “Galileo” (1938), “Mother Courage and Her Children” (1939), “The Good Person of Szechwan” (1940), and “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” (1944).

 

In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) interrogated Brecht and accused him of having communist sympathies. He left the United States for Switzerland and eventually moved to East Berlin in 1948, where he founded the Berliner Ensemble in 1949. The Berliner Ensemble performed “Mother Courage and Her Children” in Paris, during their first international tour in 1954; it was a sensation and catapulted Brecht into his position as one of the most important figures in 20th century theater. Bertolt Brecht died on August 14, 1956.

Bibliography & More:

1987 denn alles bewegt sich, mein Freund (Everything is Moving, My Friend, dir. Donat Schober, doc.)
1986 Zuerst habe ich Lieder geschrieben (First I Wrote Songs, dir. Donat Schober, doc.)
1978 Die Pflaumenbäume sind schon abgehauen (The Plum Trees Have No Doubt Been Chopped Down, dir. Kurt Tetzlaff, doc.)

 

Filmography:

1979 Der Schneider von Ulm (The Tailor of Ulm, based on his poem)
1958 Der kauksische Kreidekreis (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, script, TV)
1953 Lied der Ströme (Song of the Rivers, lyrics)
1953 Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar (Señora Carrar's Rifles, script,TV)
1943 Kuhle Wampe, oder Wem gehört die Welt? (Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?, script)
1931 Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera, script)
1923 Mysterien eines Frisiersalons (The Mysteries of a Hairdresser’s Shop, script, co-dir.)

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