I ask my students to provide a thesis for all they do. So it’s only fitting I provide a thesis for my rationale for “Mother Courage and Her Children” by Bertolt Brecht. This is even more pressing as I have been challenged by a parent who questions the validity of doing such a work and thus “wasting” the talents of our students. So OK Woody! What ya got for us and can you explain yourself and your choices? What is your thesis and your rationale?
So, let’s follow the formula I have put to them.
War, for us, is something for others in other parts of the world. Thankfully, we don’t see or experience it on a daily basis.
Brecht’s play, “Mother Courage and Her Children” utilizes a Marxist idea that commerce or economics over-ride individual choice and decision making when it comes to war. But theatre isn’t about dry economic theory. It must engage and entertain. So how does it integrate the two areas?
Recognized by the education web site Shmoop as “hands down, the best play of the last hundred years”, “Mother Courage and Her Children” by Bertolt Brecht will provide the ideal vehicle for our theatre as an agent of enlightenment to challenge our community’s understanding of war and its effects.
So there is my stab at creating a thesis. But how does this have anything to do with the actual production? Maybe worth 7 / 10?? Certainly NOT an “A”. But our production must be A+
We have an obligation to inspire our students and audiences to look beyond the walls of cultural isolation. Our theatre is one of the final bastions where challenge to corporate and state affirmations can take place. We must acknowledge that the contemporary world-view is formed less by religion and more by deliberate marketing ploys of profit seeking corporations.
We make play choices from within the guidelines of the DTC Daramalan Theatre Company policy 2019. This detailed document was developed by Jennifer Wright, Joe Woodward and the DTC cast in 2007 at Caloola Farm. It still maintains the key elements of those discussions in 2007 while being updated regularly.
WHY DO THEATRE? ANY THEATRE?
There is something so therapeutic and yet intimidating about being in the presence of someone taking on a persona that might entail our fears, hopes and secret desires. The theatre has power when done well and that power is worth preserving and engaging. Comedy and tragedy and simple stories on stage can touch us all.
SURE, BUT WHY “MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN” BY BERTOLT BRECHT?
“Mother Courage and Her Children” is regarded as one of the best plays ever written. DTC is fortunate to have some outstanding young actors including a student who speaks fluent German and who has a natural talent to play the title role.
Additionally, young people throughout the world are waking up to their own responsibility to overthrow the stagnation of their parents sense of inertia. They seek to tackle the corruption of society to seek and set in motion a better world. Whether it is gun controls in the US or climate change, there is a desire for action. There is the urgency to tackle head-on the generational betrayal of humanity as represented by the status quo.
In Brecht’s play, the children are sacrificed on the altar of business. The war rages for over thirty years. Anna Fierling, MOTHER COURAGE, sees no option but to trade on the war for her own survival. It doesn’t take too much thinking to see how the generational divide is stacked in favour of the status quo and their support for the on-going war … even as it kills our kids. Replace “war” with “climate change” see how the outcome is the same!
And with constant talk of war with China and articles drawing similarities with pre-world war one Europe, shouldn’t our young people be made aware of choices that can be made and thus provide them with options to oppose and challenge what otherwise might seem inevitable?
This is the rationale for “Mother Courage and Her Children”.
THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT AND DISTRACTION FROM THE LEVERS OF POWER AND DESTRUCTION
So while we enjoy the cabaret and drink our beer and enjoy the songs of the young woman at the microphone, there is another world that parallels our fictional distraction. AS teachers, perhaps we claim to be fostering a critical thinking approach; yet all the while we fear any challenging of our privilege. Any art or theatre that draws attention to the darker aspects of our chosen reality is shunned into a marginalized corner. I have even seen teachers put down students just because they participated in a Shakespeare production; a production that seemingly was only for weird people! Forget about the four hundred years of respect given to his work! The fear of art and theatre is very real and no doubt “Mother Courage and Her Children” might well draw out some of this fear.
ALL LICENSED FOOL
Art and theatre need not be a distraction from the levers of power. It may well serve as the “all licensed fool” as seen in Shakespeare and recorded as part of Elizabethan history. It may well jab the powerful elites and our own relationship with culture and society drawing attention to our absurdity and our willingness to support ideas, structures and approaches that ultimately are not in our long term interest as the human species.
I suggest that as audiences sit at our cafe tables around the stage and enjoy nibbles and drinks that they relax into an adventure that is both thrilling and tragic; that they know this is only a play and that the real thing is beyond the theatre. I further suggest they don’t preempt any messages or politically correct positions. Just let the theatre roll over them and then take away any disturbance of the mind that might occur so that it might engender discussion and further thought at a later time … perhaps on the way home in the car or over dinner a week later!
Enjoy the licensed bar and drinks, the German style nibbles, the cabaret performances and the skills and talents of the young performers.
Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children” will be performed at McCowage Hall, Daramalan from 27 April to 4 May 2019 at 7.30pm with Cabaret and Bar open at 6.45 for light German style refreshments and drinks. Bookings can now be made at: https://www.trybooking.com/ZDUD
Daramalan Theatre Company is presenting “Mother Courage and Her Children” by Bertolt Brecht; translated by Tony Kushner; directed by Joe Woodward; new music by Lloyd Allison-Young; costumes and masks by Jo Howard; additional music by Bartholomew Bunk; technical designs and facilitation by David Kurthi; dramaturgy and text coaching by Tony Allan; animation by Corey Goodberg; design assistance by Zoe Davis; assistant direction by Mitch Dwyer; production management by Angela Dunn; poster design by Konrad Lenz