Paraphrase notes Brecht’s Short Organum for the Theatre.
1. Theater is representations of happenings between humans with the purpose of entertainment.
2. The noblest function of theatre is to give entertainment.
3. Theatre must remain superfluous and enjoyable. We should not attempt to convey morality or teach to the detriment of entertainment.
4. We should not ask or expect more than entertainment/pleasure from theatre.
5. Art itself is neutral of hierarchy. (High/Low art)
6. There is no High/Low but there are weaker/stronger simple/complex
7. Different times/cultures require different pleasures
8. Character/narration must reflect societal context.
9. Incorrectness/improbability in representation has never been an obstacle.
10. Historical representations can still give contemporary pleasure.
11. Have we failed to discover the proper methods of entertainment for our contemporary age?
12. Today’s methods of of appreciation are not appropriate to historical methods of representation.
13. Our relationships to represented relationships are different from those of our predecessors.
14. Our lives have been changed by scientific advance and along with this, our appreciations also have changed.
15. Scientific industrial advance revolutionised trades which had been unchanged for a thousand years.
16. Harnessing powers of nature has created exponential leaps of progress in which one generation would not imagine the advances of the next.
17. The new scientific approach to nature was not applied to social relations.
18. “What might be progress for all then becomes advancement for a few”. Instead of social relations, science is applied to the art of destruction.
19. Those in a position of power brought about by scientific advance seek to avoid applying science to social rule. However the working class has been created in scientific circumstances and so is inherently scientific though it may not know it.
20. Science maintains, Art entertains. In the new age art will entertain through science.
21. What will the attitude of an entertaining scientific art be?
22. The attitude of the worker – that which seeks to undertake work which fulfills its task – must be maintained when that worker is handed society through art.
23. Theatre of the scientific age must go to the scientific producers, those “forcibly kept apart”. A “science of society” must be developed for them.
“A theatre which makes productivity its main source of entertainment has also to take it for its theme, and with greater keenness than ever now that man is everywhere hampered by men from self-production.”
24. Theatre can “edge close” to education and mass communication, and can teach and enquire without the burden of knowledge which would endanger enjoyment.
25. Theatre can present anything for entertainment and is not constrained by ethics of censoring the anti-social. If society knows how to deal with it, any subject matter can be put to good use.
26. Current theatre is not adequate for this however. It zombifies the audience. As we do not approve of the hypnosis created by realistic acting, acting should be bad.
27. It is incredible that such an emotional effect can be created by such a poor representation in theatre, when the reality does not create anything like that emotional response.
28. The accuracy of the representation matters little, the spectator is seeking to replace their reality with a wish-fulfilled dream world created through the stage.
29. This theatre is what we face, and it is effective in hypnotising and controlling the children of the scientific age.
30. Social realism’s attempts to break the spell by showing life ‘as it really is’ ultimately only supply the same old spectacle in a less enjoyable form.
31. Theatres have always been the “amusement centres” of those who wish to deny the scientific spirit access to social relations. The working class have needed the old entertainment as relief from labour.
32. This is the situation we are in. We must do something about it.
33. Current theatre shows the structure of society as unchangeable. Let us create a theatre which shows that it can be changed.
34. How much longer will we continue to put ourselves into the places of characters which reinforce our inadequate social structure and give us nothing we didn’t already know?
35. We need a theatre which does not only reflect the way life is, but ways it could be different.
36. We should avoid creating the appearance that characters and situations are similar to our own, as this reinforces permanence of commonality. Rather we should represent humans and situations in all their difference and impermanence to reinforce our own impermanence.
37. Characters must be shown to react to social impulses according to the historical situation. The spectator mut not be offered the option of thinking that they would do the very same thing, but must be forced to qualify with “under these circumstances, I would …”
Conversely a play dealing with a situation of similar circumstances to the spectator’s own must be treated in a historical way to make the spectator see the strangeness in his own actions.
38. Creation of this “historical condition” must be shown to be a construct of men.
39. A man must be portrayed in all his complex contradiction.
40.The spectator will be left with their intellect freed to make judgements as to motivational forces.
41. It is a process of sketching, where ‘the way it is’ is accompanied by a multitude of possibilities of ways ‘it could be’.
42. The Alienation effect was used in classical theatre with masks and music etc. The purpose of their alienation is different from ours.
43. The new Alienation effect is “designed to free socially-conditioned phenomena from that stamp of familiarity which protects them against our grasp today.”
44. Things which never seem to change seem to us unchangeable. The viewer must be amazed by the familiar and through this come to question and interrogate normality.
45. Situations are to be treated as processes in constant flux and internal disharmony.
46. We must not put ourselves in the place of the man who is to be changed, rather we are to face him representing ourselves.
47. The actor must abandon all attempts to get the audience to identify with the character. His speech must not flow in the way we expect an actors speech to flow “parsonical sing-song”.
48. The actor must not ‘become’ the character, he must ‘show’ the character.
49. The actor must demonstrate the thoughts and opinions of both the character and himself, leaving the viewer free to their own thoughts and opinions.
50. The actor no longer has to convince the audience that he is the character and also no longer has to pretend that he doesnt know how the play ends. The actor’s actions ‘now’ are portrayed as historical action in a known timeline.
51. In order that the viewer identifies the character as being the portrayal of a particular individual at a certain moment in a certain situation, all illusions that the actor is the character and the set is the location must be broken.
52. We must approach society with an experimental method. We must not presume that anyone ‘behaves’ in a certain way, but only that they have been observed behaving this way and may now behave differently according to environmental variables.
53. The actor may use empathy and self-identification with the character as a method of rehearsal, a method of observation. But it must come as part of a wider method of observation not only of how I might observe myself to act if placed in this situation, but how I have observed others acting in this situation.
54. The actor should observe and imitate through a considered process. Pure imitation only replicates observation. The actor must treat observation as advice to be processed to bring out character rather than caricature.
55. Participation in social class struggle is vital to mastering and proliferating knowledge of human social life.
Society cannot effectively communicate under class segregation. Art is not degraded by politics.
“mankind’s highest decisions are in fact fought out on earth not in the heavens; in the ‘external’ world, not inside people’s heads.”
56. Transformation of society is a liberating act. The theatre should convey the joy of this liberation.
57. The actor should not settle on a fixed perspective, but must maintain the active memory of all his first reactions.
58. Actors must develop and learn together. The smallest social unit is two people. Development for social ends must be socially produced.
59. In traditional theatres, the supporting actors are forced to work for the main actor, to supplement his acting with their reacting. Actors should play each others parts to understand the other and bring fresh aspects and knowledge of the social whole.
60. A character develops exponentially when introduced/exposed to the other characters of the play. The actor must retain his understanding of this from the script, but also add the dimension of experienced social relations/attitudes learned from rehearsal.
61. “Gest” is the holistic attitude adopted and displayed by the character in interaction. The expression of a gest is highly complex and care must be taken by the actor not to overly emphasise one element at the loss of another.
62. The actor masters his character by closely studying all actions and interactions of his own and of all the other characters.
[63. Brecht gets into some detail of the complexity of the gest in the character of Galileo in his play.]
64. Walking around all of the individual elements allows the actor to master the whole story and create the complete character.
65. “The ‘story’ is the theatres great operation” … “it is what happens between people that provides them with all the material that they can discuss, criticize, alter.”
66. Each basic gestic incident must be conveyed with elegance and beauty in movement on the stage which sets out the material of that gest.
67. Episodes in the play must be presented in a way which shows the structure and allows a chance for thinking. Using titles which imply a generally accepted principle even to an unknown event, giving it the appearance of unquestioned acceptance, is a mechanism to alienation. The act of questioning whether it should be accepted alienates the incident.
68. The theatre must “speak up decisively for the interests of its own time.”
[Brecht interprets Hamlet in a manner that he sees as fitting his own time and context]
69. Brecht sees scientific progress as the gateway to societal change. [?]
70. The main business of the theatre is conveying the story through alienation. This is the task of the theatre as a whole, not just the actors.
71. Songs should be used to demonstrate something, not as emotional expression/discharge. They should be separated from the flow of the play.
Music can be used in independence to the action.
72. The composer is liberated in no longer having to create an atmosphere to aid spectator immersion. Likewise the set-designer no longer has to create the illusion of an actual place. The set should give hints of greater interest than a mimetic representation would.
73. “Stylization should not remove the natural element but should heighten it.”
74. Brecht invites drama’s “sister arts” to join in the common task of mutual alienation in their own different ways.
75. We must remember that the goal is entertainment. Brecht is conscious that it is easy to get philosophical and miss the point, or become very earnest and miss out on all the fun.
76. The delivery to the audience is delivery of a finished article. It is delivered and received with “eyes open”.
77. Pleasure should be found in finding that society is changeable.
“Let us hope that their theatre may allow them to enjoy as entertainment that terrible and never-ending labour which should ensure their maintenance, together with the terror of their unceasing transformation. Let them here produce their own lives in the simplest way; for the simplest way of living is in art.”