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Reading Brecht, Writing Brecht

In response to:

Giving the Devil His Due from the December 1, 1994 issue

To the Editors:

Michael Meyer is to be congratulated for his entertaining response to recent books about Bertolt Brecht. Unfortunately, Mr. Meyer himself has some misconceptions about the nature of Brecht’s accomplishments as a stage director.

Mr. Meyer cites three productions from the 1950s as proof of Brecht’s directorial mastery: Mother Courage, Galileo and Arturo Ui. I would not disagree that each of these were important theatrical events. It is just that Bertolt Brecht can only take partial credit for their excellence.

Mother Courage was staged in collaboration with Erich Engel who, unlike the numerous women ghostwriters of many of Brecht’s plays, was always given full credit for his labors and listed as the play’s co-director. More importantly, Engel was always considered the sole director of Galileo, which premiered at the Berliner Ensemble five months after Brecht’s death.

Mr. Meyer’s other favorite, Arturo Ui, possibly the most remarkable production of all, was conceived and directed by Brecht’s young proteges Peter Palitzsch and Manfred Wekwerth and received its premiere in March, 1959, over two and a half years after the master’s (“master’s”?) death.

Ian Strasfogel
New York City

Michael Meyer replies:

I am grateful to Ronald Speirs, John Willett, and Ian Strasfogel for pointing out these additional errors. But Fuegi’s main thesis, that many of Brecht’s best-known works owed much to collaborators whom he failed to acknowledge and repeatedly swindled, seems to remain valid, much as Brecht’s disciples would have it otherwise.

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