About the Work of TheaterAngelusNovus at the Example of Brecht and Homer1
Translated by Bernhard Gaul
The true events are often the none-events in the sense of popular spectacle and public perception. If the number of visitors is considered, then the two productions, which are the subject of this text, could almost be called closed ones.
The doors were wide open, though, as from 27th to 28th June 1986, 72 years after Sarajevo, Homer’s Iliad was read in the very centre of Vienna. The location was a high rectangular hall in the Theater im Künstlerhaus, empty, a grid of black floor plates, black ceiling and walls with a gallery all around on which, diagonally opposed, two speakers stood in front of books, the size of medieval bibles. Three doors at the long side, open towards the pedestrian area at the front of the Haus des Musikvereins, another, bigger one, at the front wall open towards the Karlsplatz, bustling with traffic. A second reading location a floor higher: canteen, in the middle a big table with a mountain of oranges, bananas, apples, dark grapes and flat breads; chairs all around the wall. Here, too, a big open door to the balcony with view to the dome of the Karlskirche. The closed-off, always somewhat ‘holy’ theatre space was broken open. The outer world, environment, nature (e.g. the birds before sunrise) and the voices of the speaking melt into each other, into a poetic-musical whole.
The second event, a production of the Fatzer Fragment by Bertolt Brecht, took place a year earlier in a huge, almost football field size hall at the central repair workshop of the Austrian Federal Railway Services in Wien Simmering: the 3000 square meters of the playing field were cordoned off at the left and right with red and white plastic tape as used on building sites; behind that train carriages in need of repair; at the front of the hall cloudy factory glazing, behind which, like shadows, trains traverse the set in larger intervals. In front of that a platform. At the centre left in front of the carriages, painted on transparent foil, oversized and illuminated, a knight of the Renaissance, even then out-dated as far as arms are concerned, a solo-fighter, the ‘individual’ par excellence. In front of that a sofa on which two people sit throughout the production, the only two (including the audience!) in common every day wear.
While the ‘audience’ created their own choreography in the Iliad: walking alone or in groups, standing, rocking, kneeling on the floor, sitting, lying; there are single chairs set-up for them spread out over the entire Fatzer hall. In between some step ladders, airplane boarding ramps as pulpits or elevated speaker platforms. The production, the active play stretches over the whole of the hall. Interspersed Times
In Brecht’s Theory of the Learning Play he mentions once that time has to be measured visibly during playing. In Fatzer one of the two people on the sofa gets up every 15 minutes and walks, stepping loudly (the only steps one hears) to the entrance and back, pausing shortly, a contra punt to the irregularly passing trains. The 24 books of the Iliad, recited in full without abbreviation or pause, section time on their own with their 500 to 800 verses each. Here too the contra punt outside, but having a stronger effect on the space inside: We step, at sunset, exactly at nine o’clock into the 9th year of the Trojan War; at eleven the increasing noise from ‘outside’ almost drowns out the voice of the speakers. Presence, here and now. And so every now and again during the next day: bells, human voices, increasing traffic provide the measure for real time during this 21 hours (plus).
Present and past, inner and outer time, asynchronicity made experience: the history-space of the Iliad, but two antiphonary ‘pulpits’, something of ‘church’, corresponding to the Karlskirche outside, looking somewhat strange from in here; and at the same time counter-church, the antique temple, but imploded into the black beyond the ability to grieve as an individual. Austerity of the black space and baroque lushness outside against a dark, sometimes cloudy sky, across which the half-moon travels and in the morning, still, again, the “rosy fingered Eos” followed by the gleaming carriage of Helios. We – now and 3000 years ago, the future pressing at the nape of our neck, history’s increasing heap of debris before us, Walter Benjamin’s Klee-interpretation: Angelus Novus. The Stepping Back of the Actor
The members of this theatre act in these or similar spaces, as if the compulsion for self-display, inherited from the 18th and 19th century, wouldn’t exist, the compulsive solo achievement of the actor, which aims at ‘geniality’ and therefore bores so often tediously. This may, initially, not be surprising for a production announced as HomerLesen (HomerReading). But behind the self-limitation to reciting from two high-desks, to attitudes and postures of speaking, the few walks to and from the desks, to the observation of the rule, that everybody reads as long as he or she can or wants at the moment, then being relieved by the other at the opposite desk, already waiting – behind these reductions to the bare essential lies a method.
In Fatzer the physical action claims more space than in the Iliad, but it is action which has more to do with dance choreography than acting: encompassing space. In ever new lines, curves, diagrams, the actors step or run through the hall, all in red rugby jerseys, only distinguished by player numbers, reciting the Fatzer texts, at the beginning behind the carriages – sound arising from the distance –, then between the visitors, occasionally stopping abruptly, sometimes climbing up the step ladders, from there arguing with each other: disputation with changing number of speakers. Towards the end then all at the back of the hall, again squatting far away from the platform, getting up hastily in turns for a few sentences. “The biggest mistake would be the grotesque”
It is, as if the production took literally note of the following quote Brecht’s, dating from the same period as Fatzer, but from another fragment, From Nothing Comes Nothing (Aus Nichts wird Nichts):
“The biggest mistake would be the grotesque would the people be in white work suits now three now two everything very serious like [!] acrobats are very serious and they are not like clowns the role models then the events could be absolved simply like ceremonies fury or regret as simple operations (handgriffe) the terrible (the main character of the play, R.ST.) mustn’t be a character at all but me or someone else like simply everyone would be able to do like readers read should these actors act in the sense that no one plays someone particular for themselves or him but try to elaborate the few basic ideas like a football team whereas it is permissible that some parts which only define the contexts be quickly spoken down and recited almost outside the enactment proper the falling-by-the-wayside as stylistic element all must act so as if they thought of something else which is the whole.” (Quoted after Steinweg 1972, p. 164) 2
All elements of this text are taken up in the Fatzer production or even exaggerated: There are no fixed characters; each actor speaks sentences form each character, sometimes switching in mid-sentence; the football or rugby team; ‘acrobatic’ the quick, elastic and inaudible step through the hall, sometimes and immediate freezing of action; the text – although, unlike in the Iliad, recited from memory – like read aloud; the end of each verse marked almost mechanically, in multiple repetitions, overlaps, refractions indeed presenting some fundamental ideas – with total neglect of the plot which remains indeed not understandable for the larger part of the audience who doesn’t know the (unpublished) Fatzer fragment.
After the event it turns out that the members of the theatre don’t know the text quoted above, only published at an obscure location (after the publication of Brecht’s collected works). Brecht could hardly follow this path, established 1930, himself under the pressure of circumstances (exile, Social Realism as unavoidable context). But it speaks for his dramatic insight, as for TheaterAngelusNovus that this path, after having run subterraneously for so long, has now surfaced so convincingly. Language and Ritual
But what about the plot? On the one hand the Fatzer material is evidence of the sheer desperate attempt Brecht’s to forge the subject into a plot: almost 50 layouts, always new beginnings and variations, with a few unchanged basic elements, only a few elaborated scenes (mostly chorus sections and in particular fragments of ‘speeches’ of the 'egotist’ Fatzer and his comrades, among them Keuner, who want to ‘collectify’ him and, as this proofs impossible, kill him at the end – knowing very well that this, too, brings about their own violent death). On the other hand it is exactly the failure of this attempt to find a plot which is significant: The material refuses it, is richer, more dimensional than any plot.
TheaterAngelusNovus has emphasized the material-aspect, even in the title of the production: FatzerMaterial. The event starts with texts which would be rather at the end of the multiple overlapping strands of plots. The ‘story’ gets ‘de-charged’ from the outset – from the end working through to the beginnings, finding the reasons for this horrific end: a devastated room, dead people, who once deserted so successfully and full of hope from the (First World) War. At the same time any chronology is refused by the production, any ‘red thread’: living in an era which only knows ‘multifactorial configurations’ but no clear causalities anymore any ‘dramaturgy of the red thread’ can only be an anachronism. (See also Schnell/Vaßen, 1984). The dramatic story is replaced by stories. Everyday stories are usually not accessible to the conscious, often ritualised, unconsciously routinized or under compulsion of repetition. All the more so, since the consciously absolved rituals are more and more displaced from their sacral niches.
In another text from the same period Brecht answers the question, how one should imagine further theatrical realisations: “Spiritual, ceremonial, ritual.” And he continues: “Not closer should the audience and the actors get, instead they should distance themselves from each other. Everybody should get distanced from himself, otherwise the horror doesn’t occur, the horror necessary for re-cognition”3 (Brecht, GW 15, S. 189). Therefore theatre as (horrific) ritual to facilitate cognition? In fact, nobody who witnessed TheaterAngelusNovus’ Iliad or Fatzer production can withdraw themselves form a certain – even though irritatingly broken – sacral ‘aura’. “Fury and regret as operations”, the return of the same, i.e. the same or very similar attitudes of speaking and – evoked by that reduction to the bare essential – movements, gestures: de-routinizing and centring – of thinking and the actions resulting from it in reality – through conscious and strict display of ritual, almost ceremonial (although within limits flexible) actions in a context in which they are anything else but ‘natural’ and familiar.
The effect of the production is indeed, though in different ways, initial alienation through non-comprehension, ‘distancing’ of the audience from the actors (sometimes physical, too), horror. It results from omitting the ‘aesthetical individuation’ (still highly regarded by Adorno), the scenic ‘incorporation’ of the plot, but first of all through the immediate and irreconcilable confrontation with the violence of the language.
It is this which is a core focus of the productions, proportional to the stepping back of the actors: through strong emphasis on rhythm, chiselling each verse – the “Fatzer verse”, which Brecht later thought of as his best, as well as the hexameter of the Iliad. Therefore everything else but pale conventional speech (bubble) or even reading theatre. The language, the rhythm pulls the ‘spectator’ along, rolls over him, in a single huge wave, lifts him up, long before he even understands a single sentence or the context of a section. But if he lets himself be lifted, not anxiously clinging, like to straws, to the apparent logos of the words, he will notice after a while, that the rhythm of this language carries, also ‘meaning’. But it is a different one than the usual. The Autonomisation of the Spectator
TheaterAngelusNovus doesn’t present the spectator anything commonly pre-conceived, no ‘conclusive’ interpretation of the play, no world view. That and the denial of the common theatre situation (that is finding support in the compact mass of spectators against the actors in the beyond of the stage) deny the mere recognition of the already familiar. The spectator is left with only two options: either think for himself or withdraw completely. Who chooses the first is entirely thrown onto himself – in the ‘stage’ set of the Fatzer production: set apart. The language carries into the world of the specifically own, individually different images, becomes ‘spiritual’, ‘material’ for associations. And the longer one exposes oneself subjectively to the objective process of the language, the more intense they become. The 21-hour-duration of the Iliad has an almost therapeutic meaning. What appears as trivial at first sight, like connections between simple sentences and previous thoughts or the personal everyday life, what appears at one moment as a ‘recognition-after-all’, transforms into deep reaching horror, when dimensions of the fundamentally different become apparent below the surface of the seemingly ‘recognised’: the violence of human history, the ungraspable, unimaginable suddenly in us.
I have to bring two contradictions to the point, though, before I substantiate this with two examples from the two productions. The first one concerns the arrangement of the productions. So far we have only gotten to know one side of it. The other one, which also ‘outwardly’ drives the autonomisation of the spectator, is the possibility of sensual-active engagement.
The Iliad provided one of the big, specially manufactured Iliad books on the floor in the middle of the hall, accompanied by a torch, to read along or to read out loud. Here, at the base of the dark art-room, nobody dared. But in the canteen, facing the colourful hill of fruit, where, too, the whole Iliad was read from beginning to end and where several Iliad editions lay around, bye and bye the ‘spectators’, too, started to take up ‘book and word’, recite parts of a chapter – towards the end even in Greek. At times leading to quite dense communication between ‘spectators’ and members of the theatre.
With Fatzer, too, the spectators had the opportunity to enlarge their space of action beyond their own chair. This was communicated to them quite clearly right from the beginning: we were picked up in small groups at the porter’s lodge of the vast railway services compound by actors in white laboratory frocks, each visitor getting one for himself, to be worn throughout the performance. The most stupid use of this freedom was made by the premiere audience, who didn’t have a better idea than to quickly put all chairs together and so establish, in a makeshift way, the familiar theatre situation to shelter and exclude themselves. During later performances, though, visitors got up, stood at the sides, walked up and down, accompanied the actors on their routes, tried out postures and ways of walking of their own in response to the texts. But they didn’t have active access to them. The Iliad process was, in this respect, a clear further development and improvement of the arrangement.
Contradictions, as mentioned: immediate, active communication between actors and spectators and: “Not closer should the audience and the actors get, they should distance themselves from each other”. In Fatzer the actors sometimes spoke directly to individual visitors, at times even laying the hand on their shoulder. In the Iliad canteen the members of the theatre sat together with the spectators, took turns with them at reading, could let themselves be affected by voice, tone, attitude of speaking of the other in closest proximity. It was distanciation – hardly an everyday word, communication only via the difficult, inaccessible texts, the alien and closeness together, including the arm around the shoulder, providing solace, if someone was visibly shaken and upset to the limits of the bearable. Second contradiction: such shake-ups about the terrifying within ourselves, hence getting closer to one-self, but: “Everybody should acquire distance from oneself.”
This can only be measured at the factual.
Two experiences. A quote from Fatzer:
“the battle didn’t kill us but
at calm air in the quiet room
we kill ourselves.”
This was the moment, in which I, in the last third of the performance, couldn’t remain on my chair, in which I was driven as by furies onto the playing field: only possibility to withstand this previously experienced but not reflected truth; to bear it without extenuation, trivialization or repression. More intense in the Iliad: during reading out the 20th book I suddenly felt that terrifying, previously completely and utterly unimaginable joy of slaughter, at the most concrete at:
“Little hindered the ore, but through it went
Shattering the iron point into the skull him, and his brain was
Utterly mashed with blood (...)
(...) the iron spear in the back;
And he sighed out the spirit and dully groaned (...)
Then now hit with the lance the brave runner Achilles
As he flew by, at the spine (...)
But through to the navel stormed through him the iron point;
Howling he fell onto the knee, and the clouds of death engulfed him
Black, and up he scrambled the intestines with his hands, curling up.”
Here, too, again both: Distancing from the self-ideal and daily self-perception, closeness to something from the collective history in me, which I didn’t know, never wouldn’t have wanted to be true, if I wouldn’t have witnessed it now hyper-clearly. Grieve, despair, almost a breakdown. The War: in Us – Splitting or Future
We know from psychoanalysis: the split-off, the repressed, always catches up with us, paralyses and destroys our powers and capabilities of shaping vital, constructive relationships within our environment until we allow it to be accessed by our consciousness, to recognise it in horror and often terrible pain. Psychotherapy deals with humans as individuals, their personal life story and only via that, too, with the big collectives: War as determining factor of individual life stories, or, too, as dream-fear, but not as collective phenomenon, not as part of a continuum and simultaneously a polarity of person and collective. (Individual or collective is the deadly wrong question in Fatzer). But this interrelation can be accessibly experienced in a theatre like that: I call it “Theatre of the Future”, because our collective future, the future of the human species, depends on whether we will succeed also to access the collective parts of the repressed. Us: as individuals and as collective.
The Iliad quote just mentioned is easily read over if you read it, isolated, just for yourself, silently. The eyes rush over such parts, of which there are so many in this epic, to remain the longer at the often so amusing and all-to-human scenes of the gods. Reading and reading is not the same. Only after exposing myself for 16 hours to this language and situation broke the defence down – this language perceived with the senses, the ears and the vocal cords, which make no difference between such ‘awful’ details and beautiful sections, but roll on evenly, washing up everything that’s there.
Everybody knows, at least after Tschernobyl, how close to the abyss we already are. Nuclear fission, in ‘peacful’ or belligerent attire, is the most remote and at the same time most enormous reflection of our own splitting. The continuum of this fission will continue without fail from that first war of European high culture to the last, if we don’t uncover it. And not just theoretically – that’s no big deal anymore these days (see Volmeg/Volmeg/Leithäuser, 1983), but in a praxis of feelings, which determine our behaviour and life, also and in particular as members of large political collectives. Pre-lingual Experimentation
Life is different with experiences like that behind you. Some prerequisites for the formation of such sensually dense, inextinguishable existentia are still to be defined.
We encountered some pre-lingual experiments of this theatre of the future already: Communication via voice and rhythm; the duration. Another one is the freedom of the spectator to make his or her own decisions: allow associations or not, get up or not, sleep at home or in the hall. Part of this is the freedom to find your own place, e.g. exactly on the centre line of that black art-room, with the perspectively narrowing view through the ‘Gate’ into reality, the gleaming sunlight outside. To expose yourself intensively to that perspective view as (one) origin of modern violence (Merlau Ponty, taken up in Christa Wolff’s Kassandra). Or: walk to and fro between the locations of lecture, that way selecting which passages you want to hear again; because in the smaller room the reading went faster than in the large one. To decide for yourself, how long, with or without breaks, you want to expose yourself to the stream of hexameters and its images, flowing along undeterred. Or the freedom to experiment with your own voice as a reader: what do I experience when I read how? The result for me: the more ‘objective’ und less personal-sentimental I let the voice, the rhythm sound and stream through myself, the closer I get to that “Centre of Fear”, as it is called in Fatzer, the foreign in me, hence myself.
But everyone may make his own experiences in this respect, as with finding positions in space, light and gaze. They have to be the own experiences, must be allowed to be, otherwise they are none. Some participants of the Iliad process remained almost exclusively in the art-room, fled the direct, almost intimate reading-communication of the canteen; others did just the opposite. For the intensification of my own capacity for experience it was the possibility of alternating between the two rooms, the large and the small one, which was essential; alternation between closeness and expanse, between listening to trained, full sounding voices and the speaking with one’s own lay-voice, though altered through the listening. And the perception of the hexameters still in semi-sleep, falling asleep and waking up in the stream of words. Asynchronous Spatial Music
In Fatzer there was yet another, quite important non-lingual component: the Fatzer music of the avant-garde composer Christian Ofenbauer: six tapes spread out along the fringes of the huge hall, no big speakers but simple tape recorder volume, sometimes almost fading to nothing in the 3000 square meters, sometimes commandingly present: cello, violin, piano and prepared piano, cembalo, glass, stones, computer music and sounds, organ and as voices Brecht at the House Committee on Un-American Activities 1947 and sections from Fatzer. Six different tapes, switched on in the space of ten minutes by the composer, hence an intensification at the middle of the performance, as all six tapes ran simultaneously, but from each and every spectator, depending on position of the seat and proximity to the origins of the sound, perceived differently. With each performance a different combination of the tapes was played, so that it was always a different music, as the actors acted differently each evening, within the strictly defined framework. At times serial music, many overlapping layers, lines, points, streaming tenderly in from the periphery, consciously keeping the borders to the outside open: Was this now a ‘real’ noise from the back of the hall, from a train rolling by, from a ventilation hatch, or was it the tape? This increased the capacity for resonance of reality, the pull to associate autonomously, link text and reality. Although the music was entirely independent, no ‘illustration’ of the Fatzer plot, no doubling of certain expressive phrases from the text, but informed by a single sentence Fatzer’s, of central importance to the composer: “I shit on the order of the world, I’m lost.” The connection to the production was rather structurally homologue, e.g. in the instructions to the pianist to find five paths through about 50 independent parts of musical material of a length of one or two bars and insert breaks between each individual part of a length she felt as being right at the moment. (A pneumatic drill captured on tape during the recording wasn’t removed). This way interfering waves emerged between the speaking of the actors, their movements and the music, spreading out and overlaying each other, centres of gravity, zones of amplification and phases of quiet. Pedagogium, Therapeuticum, Politaeum
What does this all lead to? Why do, relatively speaking, so few spectators take the unique chance offered here? I’d like to argue: Because they have wrong expectations, more precisely: none-expectations. ‘Theatre’ linked with the ambitious name Angelus Novus raises at first the expectation of rather formalistic avant-garde tinkering: something for the society, sensation and premiere audience. Which must be disappointed by definition. But the others, who face the pulling gale from Benjamin/Klee’s paradise, the terrifying angel, the debris of history and want to change for a liveable future, exist too, and in big numbers. They just go somewhere else, to the psychotherapists of different shades, to all sorts of self-experience groups and group dynamics exercises and, too, to seminars of ‘political education’ or ‘peace education’ in the widest sense. They have so far no reason to assume that their needs and interests could be met by the theatre. In the theory-texts regarding Fatzer Brecht talks about the transformation of theatres into “Pedagogiums” (Brecht, GW 17, p. 1022). He means locations at which one has continuously and each after their needs the opportunity to prepare for upcoming social exertions and endeavours using the means of the theatre, locations, which facilitate working through the individual and historical experiences, manifested in dispositions and attitudes of our bodies and (co)determining our behaviour, as well as the effects of individual factors of social situations.
But the term ‘Pedagogium’ is for the present time certainly to narrow, although all that has to be reported about TheaterAngelusNovus could be captured in it. As we have seen, that work has also therapeutic effects; but the term ‘Therapeuticum’, referring to another context, would be to narrow again, would only refer to the important, but not sufficient dimension of individual personal history.
Let’s try it, in an analogy to the Greek-Roman ‘Athenaeum’ (a school commonly providing education in rhetoric, philosophy, jurisprudence, etc.), with a neology: ‘Politaeum’ shall describe a place to which one goes to enlarge, by theatrical means, one’s ‘playing field’, one’s options of influencing the ‘polis’, the civic living space, the political space in the widest sense. A place at which, at the same time, the feminist motto “the political is personal; the personal is political” is regarded without fail. A place at which we can target, each for oneself, the collective splittings, attack them physically, yes physically, with our bodies.
In his Theory of Pedagogiums Brecht sums up this splitting:
“The bourgeois philosophers make a big difference between the active and the contemplating. The Thinking One doesn’t make this distinction. If you make that distinction then you leave politics to the active and philosophy to the contemplating, whereas in reality the politicians should be philosophers and the philosophers politicians. (...) Following this insight the Thinking One suggests educating young people through playing theatre.” (Brecht, GW 17, p.1022)
That is “playing theatre”, not watching played theatre. But trained actors, musicians, dramaturges and extraordinary directors like Josef Szeiler can have an important function in such a place, as we have seen. And the means can be multiple: From the Lehrstück in its purest sense, which knows only participants, to the antiques project of TheaterAngelusNovus, stretching over several years with the goal to lead, via steps like the Iliad, to the Oresteia. The Politaeum would, in this case, be a place to which you can go as a non-actor, any time, where you can participate in the research and development process of such an antiques project, in which this public process would be more important than the final result.
Such a Theatre-Politaeum would have two necessary conditions though: that actors never do what they do exclusively for others, but always, too, for themselves (see in this respect the chapter The Play Leader as Co-Player in Steinweg/Heidefuß/Petsch, 1986), and that directing is in its tendency collective. You could see that the members of TheaterAngelusNovus fulfil both these conditions. The reading of the Iliad, for instance, was continued even through the middle of the night, when there was nobody in the dark art-room than the readers themselves. In the last hours you could see individual actors walk into this room together with strangers, listening as attentively as they read before.
Having been asked, at the end of his live, about the type of the ‘Theatre of the Future’, Brecht referred, without hesitation, to plays of the type of Fatzer. Wouldn’t it be time, facing the global threats of the present, to give this other theatre, started bravely and stubbornly by TheatreAngelusNovus, its means and place?
1 This article was first published in Falter 23/1986 and then again in Szeiler 1990.
2 For comparison the German original: “Der größte fehler wäre das groteske wären die leute in weißen arbeitsanzügen bald drei bald zwei alles sehr ernst sowie [!] akrobaten sehr ernst sind und sie nicht wie clowns sind die vorbilder dann können die vorgänge einfach wie zeremonien absolviert werden zorn oder reue als handgriffe der furchtbare darf überhaupt keine figur sein sondern ich oder ein anderer wie eben jeder in der lage wäre sowie leser lesen sollen diese spieler spielen indem keiner einen bestimmten für sich oder ihn spielt sondern alle bestrebt sind die wenigen grundgedanken herasuzustellen wie eine fußballmannschaft dabei ist es erlaubt daß gewisse partien die nur voraussetzungen schaffen schnell heruntergesprochen und deklamiert werden fast außerhalb der eigentlichen darstellung das unter den tisch fallen als stilelement alle müssen so agieren als dächten sie an anderes nämlich das ganze.“
3 “Nicht nahe kommen sollen sich Zuschauer und Schauspieler, sondern entfernen sollen sie sich voneinander. Jeder sollte sich von sich selber entfernen, sonst fällt der Schrecken weg, der zum Erkennen notwendig ist.“
- Brecht GW = Bertolt Brecht: Gesammelte Werke [Collected Works]. Frankfurt/Main 1967-1982.
- Ralf Schnell, Florian Vaßen: Ästhetische Erfahrung als Widerstandsform. Zur gestischen Interpretation des 'Fatzer'-Fragments. In: Gerd Koch, Reiner Steinweg, Florian Vaßen (ed.): Assoziales Theater. Spielversuche mit Lehrstücken und Anstiftung zur Praxis. Cologne 1984.
- Steinweg, Reiner: Das Lehrstück. Brechts Theorie einer politisch-ästhetischen Erziehung. Stuttgart 1972.
- Reiner Steinweg, Wolfgang Heidefuß, Peter Petsch: Weil wir ohne Waffen sind. Ein theaterpädagogisches Forschungsprojekt zur Politischen Bildung. Frankfurt/Main 1986.
- Josef Szeiler (ed.): FatzerMaterial. Vienna, Cologne 1990 (= Maske und Kothurn, Jg. 34, H. 1-4, 1988).
- Birgit Volmweg, Ute Volmweg, Thomas Leithäuser: Kriegsängste und Sicherheitsbedürfnis. Frankfurt/Main 1983.
Photo © Ulrike Pichler
About this Publication
Reiner Steinweg was a collaborator with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt from 1974-1987 and since then leads the branch Linz of the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. During the 1960s he meticulously researched Brecht's legacy of texts regarding the concept of a Lehrstück or learning play theory - effectively a multitude of often short notes, various fragments and approaches, which Reiner Steinweg managed to (re)establish as Brecht's most radical and advanced work, pedagogically as well as aesthetically, abandoned less through formal maturation Brecht's but external circumstance: the fight against Nazism, exile and then Brecht's engagement in establishing the newly formed GDR.
Reiner Steinweg not only derived his own practical model of learning through theatre from this research, which focuses heavily on gaining social awareness and competency in conflict resolution (see Reiner Steinweg: Two Chapters from "Learning Play and Epic Theatre") and gave rise to a whole range of more-or-less further developed models of such "theatre in education", but also provided invaluable material for more aesthetically oriented groups such as TheaterAngelusNovus.
TheaterAngelusNovus was a radical avant-garde theatre group, working in Vienna between 1981 and 1988, which abandoned the concept of elaborating stage productions as two-hourly evening performances every few months in favour of taking the liberty of continuously working on theatre first of all as a means of research and elaboration for the members themselves, however, still providing, roughly once a year, events open to the public. The text published here is about two such productions: FatzerMaterial - Fragment (1985) and HomerLesen (1986), the latter being the first stage of an (eventually not fully realised) 3‑year elaboration of Aeschylus' Oresteia.
This text, equally informed by Reiner Steinweg's unique knowledge of Brecht, his own practical experience with the learning play as well as his personal history and interest, having dedicated his life to peace research and conflict resolution, does not only provide an introduction to the (at least in English) still not that well known Fatzer Fragment Brecht's and give fundamental insights to the work of TheaterAngelusNovus, but is effectively a unique and essential text regarding the very fundamentals and possibilities of theatre.
I am delighted, that the author gave me permission to translate the text and publish it here for the first time in English.
Bernhard Gaul, March 2011