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Bertolt Brecht before the Committee on Un-American Activities: An Historical Encounter, Presented by Eric Bentley

Bertolt Brecht before the Committee on Un-American Activities: An Historical Encounter, Presented by Eric Bentley

October 24, 2006
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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By Bradley Weismann on March 2, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
OK, not the catchiest title. However, if you learn the context behind this recording, it becomes a riveting piece of theater, one composed on the fly by the master playwright Brecht himself – under the threat of imprisonment and deportation.

Bertolt Brecht is the one of the most influential playwrights and poets of the 20th century. Coming of age in chaotic Weimar Germany of the 1920s, he began his career as a balladeer and cabaret performer of anarchist bent. Beginning in 1926, his study of Marx and socialism led him to develop stunning works that eviscerated the capitalist system and what we now term the military/industrial complex – in plays such as “The Threepenny Opera,” “Mahagonny,” and “Mother Courage.” He also worked with writing collectives to create a didactic “teaching theater” that would hasten a people’s revolution, preferably a Communist one.

Of course, Hitler didn’t like this at all. In February 1933, Brecht began his long hopscotching exile from Germany, settling first in Denmark and then, as German troops moved closer, to America. From 1941 through 1947 Brecht joined the American colony of European writers and artists dispossessed by the Nazis. During his time in New York and Los Angeles, he became familiar with prominent American theater and film people. He wrote “Galileo” for Charles Laughton, and penned the screenplay for “Hangmen Also Die!”, a thriller based on the assassination of fearsome Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in 1942.

Unfortunately, Brecht made the American government just as nervous as the Nazi government. The FBI began tracking his movements and monitoring his phone calls and mail almost from the moment he landed.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This was an excellent surprise. Just to hear Brecht's voice intellectually responding to cultural bullies with little or no humanity was a true treat. I'm not surprised that he returned to Europe following this experience. For anyone who has any interest in these dark days of our homeland, I truly recommend a listen.
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