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A History of the Berliner Ensemble


Part of Cambridge Studies in Modern Theatre

  • Date Published: February 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107663763

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About the Authors
  • The Berliner Ensemble was founded by Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel in 1949. The company soon gained international prominence, and its productions and philosophy influenced the work of theatre-makers around the world. David Barnett's book is the first study of the company in any language. Based on extensive archival research, it uncovers Brecht's working methods and those of the company's most important directors after his death. The book considers the boon and burden of Brecht's legacy, and provides new insights into battles waged behind the scenes for the preservation of the Brechtian tradition. The Berliner Ensemble was also the German Democratic Republic's most prestigious cultural export, attracting attention from the highest circles of government, and from the Stasi, before it privatised itself after German reunification in 1990. Barnett pieces together a complex history that sheds light on both the company's groundbreaking productions and their turbulent times.

    • The first history of the Berliner Ensemble, one of the twentieth century's most important and influential theatre companies
    • Explores the company's rehearsal practices, productions, organisation, internal and external politics and interaction with the German Democratic Republic and Federal Republic of Germany
    • Examines Brecht as theatre director in detail and traces the development of the Brechtian tradition of theatre-making after his death in 1956
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Barnett's history of the company is a major achievement and a fascinating read.' Laura Bradley, University of Edinburgh

    'Remarkably, Barnett's is the first history of the Berliner Ensemble to appear in any language. Written in English, this volume redressed that balance, reaching beyond Brecht scholars to theater practitioners and general audiences internationally.' Sam Williams, Das Brecht-Jahrbuch

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107663763
    • length: 507 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 153 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.77kg
    • contains: 21 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The Berliner Ensemble as an opportunity to establish a new type of theatre
    2. The founding and the first season of the Berliner Ensemble
    3. The Berliner Ensemble's years at the Deutsches Theater:
    4. Brecht's last seasons at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm:
    5. Developing the Brechtian legacy:
    6. Making theatre politically after the Berlin Wall:
    7. Years of crisis:
    8. A new beginning:
    9. A new crisis:
    10. A safe pair of hands:
    11. Crisis and stagnation:
    12. Wekwerth's last stand:
    13. From gang of five to power of one:
    14. The last hurrahs:

  • Author

    David Barnett, University of Sussex
    David Barnett is Reader in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Sussex. He is the author of Brecht in Practice: Theatre, Theory and Performance (2014), Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the German Theatre (Cambridge, 2005) and Literature versus Theatre: Textual Problems and Theatrical Realization in the Later Plays of Heiner Müller (1998). He has also edited the ninth volume of Brecht's collected plays in English, the Berliner Ensemble Adaptations (2014). He writes extensively on political and post-dramatic theatre in Europe and has published articles in Modern Drama and Contemporary Theatre Review on Brechtian and post-Brechtian theatre.

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