Title

The (un)written heart in Brecht’s Baal and Journeys of the god of happiness : heart matters in the development of a playwright and his ideas on acting

Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Maggi Phillips

Abstract

In the 1918 and 1919 versions of his play Baal, Brecht had used
autobiographical material about a heart problem that he suffered from and
had recorded in his diaries since 1913. When he revised the 1919 version
and the play was first published in 1922, it seemed that this very personal
connection had disappeared. An observable shift in his work began to take
place, which led to his adopting an apparently unambiguous rationalist take
on theatre. However, his extremely critical, sometimes polemical position on
the intertwined subject of heart and emotions raises questions about the
motivations for the move towards the head as locus of control in his work.
The question of whether this shift was caused by an inner necessity or by
outer influences has led me to a third possibility, that these two strands are
interwoven and complementary. I also discovered that Brecht did not
rigorously eliminate his heart problem and related fear of death from the Baal
versions after 1919. He replaced it in an enciphered form into the 1922
version. By analysing this, I have indicated Brecht’s developing camouflage
technique. His camouflaging and masking of his vulnerable heart in the
progression of Baal drew my attention to a related play fragment.
Journeys of the God of Happiness was “based on the same
fundamental idea” as Baal: “It is impossible to entirely kill the human urge for
happiness.” It was Brecht’s attempt to transform Baal into something more
compatible with his developing Marxist interpretation of how the “human urge
for happiness” should be channeled. His 1950 formula seemed simple:
“Happiness is: Communism”. The fact that the heart was not mentioned once
in Journeys of the God of Happiness led me to the idea to implant the word
‘heart’, the image of the organ, its beat, the metaphorical and symbolic
radiance that it potentially has, into my adaption and production of the
fragment. After workshopping Baal with a group of students in 2006, I began
to prepare Journeys of the Happy Buddha, the creative component of my
doctoral studies, which premiered in 2008.

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