The National Arts Club of New York will play host, Dec. 16, to theatre writer/critic Eric Bentley for a special seminar in conjunction with a book signing, for Bentley's latest book, "Bentley on Brecht."
Bentley, a professor at Harvard and theatre critic for "The New Republic," is widely considered the premiere expert on playwright Bertolt Brecht. Bentley first met Brecht in 1942, at UCLA. Since then, Bentley has translated a majority of Brecht's plays into English, edited a collection of essays on the playwright, as well as authored the 1986 book, "The Brecht Memoir." Other books by Bentley include: "The Pirandello Commentaries" and "The Kleist Variations."
Born in Augsburg, Germany, Brecht worked as a nurse before becoming a writer and quickly established himself as a prolific author of poems, cabaret sketches and short plays. Brecht rebelled against Stanislavski's acting method, not convinced that an audience member would ever surrender to the illusion of theatre. Brecht attempted to "alienate" audience members, continually reminding them that no matter how involved they were in the story, they were still sitting in a theatre, and the people on-stage were acting out roles they had memorized. Brecht found this different way of looking at theatre ideal for propaganda, especially for his own Marxist ideologies. It was no real surprise when in 1933, high on Hitler's blacklist, Brecht was exiled into Switzerland.
He arrived in California in 1941 and remained there until 1947 when, under pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee, he returned to Zurich and then to East Berlin, where he ran the Berliner Ensemble until his death in 1956.
Several of Brecht's plays have become twentieth century classics, including The Caucasian Chalk Circle,, The Good Woman of Setzuan., Mother Courage and Her Children, Galileo. For more information on this free event, call (212) 475-3424.
-- By Sean McGrath