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City as Theatre: Bertolt Brecht in Weimar Berlin

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
Jennifer O’Donnell
University College Dublin Ireland
This dissertation emerges from a broad interest in how conditions of distance and proximity are produced and experienced in the modern city. It is primarily concerned with understanding how the human figure negotiates the built environment.

Initial research into this field began with the analysis of the figure in architectural representation. This quickly led to a study of Mies van der Rohe and in particular to the photomontages that he produced in the 1920s. The urban setting of Berlin at that time featured prominently in many of these iconic images, and it soon became clear that the city was significantly influencing the thoughts of those who lived and worked there. Furthermore, it was the city that produced this work insofar as it generated an understanding of what it meant to be part of the modern metropolis. The main focus of this study is, as a result, on the city of Berlin between 1920 and 1933.

The environment that so affected Mies also produced a new form of urban theatre, and it was through the early work of German playwright Bertolt Brecht that this reading of the city was best demonstrated. The particular perception of theatre that he developed in Berlin in those years became the means through which to position this study, which as a result draws mainly on his own output from that time. His diaries, poems, notes, letters and plays constitute the major sources used, accompanied by original documents and stage photographs held by the Bertolt Brecht Archive in Berlin. Only a small number of these photographs are included, of which hundreds more exist at the BBA. This dissertation focuses on Brecht as one of a remarkable number of influential and significant figures that assembled in Berlin during those particular, limited years of the Weimar Republic.

Jennifer O’Donnell

Dr Hugh Campbell
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