Bertolt Brecht (German, 1898-1956)

Brecht was a German author, playwright, and poet who fled Nazi Germany to the United States. Due to his Marxist leanings, he was kept under surveillance by the FBI and returned to East Berlin after the war, where he established the Berliner Ensemble theater company with his wife and partner, actress and artistic director Helene Weigel. Brecht is the father of a theory of theater called “Epic theatre,” which proposed that plays should not focus on climatic catharsis of emotion from the audience, but instead provoke “rational self-reflection.” He believed in the inherent political nature of the stage and wanted to use it to encourage his audiences to take a critical perspective of the play in order to recognize the injustices of the outside world. Brecht’s legacy, therefore, is not only as a poet and playwright, but as a political and social philosopher.