Brecht and Stunted Trees

DUE April 3

  1. Pay particular attention to my recorded lecture on Brecht, minutes 3:30 – 33:30 and Chemers’ summary of Brecht on Digital Theatre +.  Watch the video-taped production of “Stunted Trees” on Digital Theatre +.
  2. Choose TWO Brechtian ideas and/or methods from the recorded lecture and/or Chemers to discuss elements of “Stunted Trees.” For instance, one of the things I discuss in the lecture is how Brecht used set design to “alienate” his audience. How does the set design of “Stunted Trees” express this Brechtian idea? Explain. Make sure you cite the scene from the production by listing the minute/second mark in the video.
  3. Take ONE of the Brechtian ideas that you discussed above, and imagine how it could be applied to the story of any of the productions we have watched this semester so far (Antigone, Henry V, A Doll’s House). Discuss how the production we saw would look if Brecht had directed it or re-written the story. How would it have been staged (set, structure of story, or acting). 

Discussion due April 10

Respond to one of your classmates by ADDING to their idea of a re-staging of one of the plays we saw. For instance, if one of your classmates writes about how in Henry V the actors would speak directly to the audience to create the Brechtian “alienation effect”, add another idea of a Brechtian re-staging of the same production (change in set design for instance). 

Feel free to write to me if you have any questions at all about this assignment. 

9 thoughts on “Brecht and Stunted Trees

  1. Winson Chen

    In the production, Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges, Brechtian ideas were used in the performance. One of these ideas has to do with the set. Throughout the production, the same set is used which is 2 small set of stairs, blocks placed next to each other that serve as a platform, and a screen for the background. The set never changes and throughout the performance, the set is used in different ways such as in the scene around 6:41 where a compartment in one block is shown to hold props and a changeable part of the platform is used as a brain scanner. This gets the audience used to the set and “alienates” them by having them focus more on the characters and how they act. Another Brechtian idea used is having gestures and evocative language to engage with the audience. There a few monologues in the performance such as in 12:04 where the main character talks about how he knows he is in control of himself and then talks about a dream that serves as a contradiction to what he just said. These techniques are used here to direct the words to the audience rather than any other character in the story. It alienates the audience by having them think about what was just said.

    I believe that these ideas could also be used in Antigone. In the part of the story where Antigone is going to hang herself, a monologue could be used here where Antigone would reflect on her actions and what led up to this moment and how things could have gone differently. In the end, she reaffirms herself and takes her next action. This could get the audience to think about morality and family.

  2. Deondre Marcelle

    One of Brecht’s idea shown in “Stunted Trees” is his love for audience participation. In the beginning of the movie the main character was getting his brained scanned. (10 min) She revels that she was there for the original brain scanning meaning she was part of the audience watching. That can be the only explanation because she is seen leaving the stage. (5:52) So a person form the audience ending up being a part of the play. Another one of his ideas was his idea of emotionalism. In the story its told that the main character has metal issues from because of his mother (33:22). The character acknowledges this and tries to grow from it but is presented with obstacles that overall makes him stay stannate. This is because Brecht didn’t want to much emotion within plays. He didn’t want the audience to forget the story and be in love with the main character.

    Since the stage doesn’t change only the projected picture in the background the perception of time makes it seem as if the play is happing really fast. Not allowing you to get invested with the characters but allowing you to see how each character is treated. For example the main character getting treated as a poor child when its revelated that he has mental problems. Or the nerd getting treated like a weird guy.

    If Henry V took the Brecht’s idea of emotionalism the whole act 4 scene 1 would be different. The point of the scene is to see how the other soldiers feel about the king. This gives the background characters a personality which can cause connections. Also it allows King Henry to reflect and redeem himself because of the words he’s hearing. If it was Brecht the scene would have been a continuous “assault” on the king name in that scene the king would never have been able to grow and he would only have resentment for his troops after. Or that scene wouldn’t have been included.

  3. Jesus Diyarza

    In the production “Stunted Trees”, two Brechtian elements that are commonly used are the revealing of mechanisms of the production to alienate the audience from illusion and emotion, where the set in the production does not change other than some slides projected on the back wall of the set. In the scene (25:00) where Miles is in a lab that he created, he pulls out a lab coat and a drill from one of the cubbies that have been there for all the other scenes. This backs up the idea that the audience is meant to have their attention on the production and the audience insteads of scene changes, which are made distinguishable when another character is introduced into the scene or the actions of the character(s) changes. The other element is that the production is meant to provoke a thoughtful response to the moral and political problems that it is representing to the audience rather than an emotional response. Miles lets Enderson know that defendants have been pleading for diminished responsibility in assault trials, and lawyers are using brain imaging to argue that the defendant has a brain disorder, which would allow their sentences to be reduced because it has been shown that those convicted were not able to control themselves. 

    The Brechtian idea of having a production provoke a thoughtful response to the moral and political problems instead of an emotional response for the audience can be incorporated to Antigone. It could discuss the tension between democracy and traditional religion, as well as gender and power. Antigone focuses on the protagonist giving her brother a proper burial and is seen going against the government, but it could have done more in achieving equality for other women because it was only the men who were allowed to vote and rule. The new structure of the production could still have Antigone wanting to bury her brother, and gathering other women who have faced the same level of corruption from the government. Instead of having her getting caught, she would have fought instead of being taken and have the other women come to her defense because they also want to see a change in equality between men and women. The set of the production would only have the chair that belonged to Creon but the attire of the soldiers and people would still be the same 

  4. Habib Bodunrin

    There were two moments in Stunted Trees and Broken Bridges. The first moment was  around the 10:00 to 11:00 minute sector when the forensic specialist put the brain scanner on Emerson. In this scene she was using a scanner to look for memories and it makes the audience think about the use of technology. As well as question morally if it is wrong for people to use technology to solve crime. Secondly another time Brechitan ideas were discussed was around the 41:00 – 42:00 where the forensic specialist, Doctor Winta was being questioned about the scanner.  Concept of Brechitan ideas was being portrayed through a series of questions, where the man questioned Doctor Winta about the scanner she was using and how it managed to identify Emerson brain disorder. This instance portrays to the audience about the credibility of technology as well as whether or not Emerson was a “normal person” or he was different from everyone else. In a sense it conveyed a concept of differentiation, showing how Emerson can’t just be the normal person in society but more different than everybody else.

    Furthermore, I think if the scene around 10:00 to 11:00 was played in Doll House, I think it would change the story in terms of props and story structure. Since the scanner was advanced technology, they would need to place it in a room or do it in a police station. Which would in turn let Nora go to the police station and scan her brain of her own memories. That way it would make it easier for her to find herself. Which would also let her find her identity less. 

  5. Alexis Cisneros

    In “Stunted Trees” the Brechtian idea of alienation is shown around minutes 16 – 18:10. The set is a mix of a background picture and a stage that can be moved around and interacted with by the actors. There is also the use of props. These elements were chosen to be implemented into the scene to alienate the audience. The stage acts as a barrier separating the actors from the audience and is further emphasized throughout the scene by the way the actors interact with the space. Another Idea shown is the idea of Epic Theatre. This is shown in around minutes 8:11 – 10:20. In this scene Emerson is with the forensics specialist and he is going through a lie detector. The scene shifts from what is going on about the investigation to delving into the topic of neuro forensics. It makes the audience wonder and think allowing them to detach from Emerson to further understand the specialist. The specialist explains how advanced we have gotten in technology. This presents a debate topic with 2 sides Emmerson and the specialist each having their opinion on this technology. This idea to think about besides the main story makes it an Epic Theatre.

    A Brechtian idea that would be good to implement is the idea of alienation. This idea would fit well into the production “A Doll’s House” This is because emphasizing the alienation within this production would allow for the audience to feel as if what they are seeing is actually real. It would further captivate the audiences attention and it would be as if they are looking in to someone else’s world. The actors interaction with the space around them would further create this affect since it is as if the audience is not there for the actors.

  6. Tshari Yancey

    “Stunted Tress and Broken Bridges” effectively incorporates Brecht ideas through Epic theatre (the minimalist set and abstract design). The stage space is an alley design with square boxes as the platform but there is a floor space in the middle, while the actors use these squares to jump like parkour or stand in one place at a time. This forces the audience to view the underling social and political messages of the play, he also does use juxtaposition in the 43:15 mark Miles is spraying a love spray and dancing. This is a comedic moment from the overall tone of Emerson unfortunate life of losing his mom and having a brain disorder that causes him to be put in a mental institution.

    In a Doll’s house the rotating stage to different rooms would be considered as Epic theatre because of the abstract set. In a Brechtian production of “A Doll’s House,” the set might feature minimalist, symbolic elements that emphasize the play’s themes and the characters’ entrapment within societal norms. Maybe he would put a cage in the middle of the stage with Nora in it most of the performance while she talks to everyone as if nothing is wrong.

  7. Henry

    Two Brechtian ideas or methods that can be discussed in relation to the set design of “Stunted Trees” the alienation effect, and the use of episodic structure in storytelling. These concepts are central to Brecht’s approach to theatre and aim to encourage critical thinking and analysis in the audience, rather than emotional identifying with the characters and story.

    Alienation Effect: Brecht believed in creating a theatre experience that would prevent the audience from becoming emotionally immersed in the story, encouraging them to view the play critically and reflect on its themes and the societal issues it represents. In “Stunted Trees,” the set design could embody this idea by being deliberately simplistic, abstract, or fragmented. Instead of a realistic, fully formed backdrop that creates the illusion of a real-life setting, the set could consist of minimal props, stark lighting, and symbolic elements that draw attention to their artificiality. For example, trees on the set might be fake or stylized, representing the “stunted” growth of the characters or themes in the play. This approach reminds the audience that they are watching a created representation of reality, prompting them to consider the underlying message of the play rather than getting lost in its narrative. (20:50-23:00)

    Episodic Structure: Brecht’s use of episodic structure in his plays, where the story is broken down into a series of loosely connected scenes or episodes, can also be reflected in the set design of “Stunted Trees.” This method messes with the traditional linear narrative flow, allowing for commentary and in depth look between the scenes. The set for “Stunted Trees” could facilitate this by being modular or easily transformable, enabling quick changes between scenes that are visually distinct yet thematically connected. Each segment of the set could represent a different aspect or environment related to the play’s themes, with clear demarcations between them. This physical fragmentation of the space complements the episodic nature of the narrative, reinforcing the audience’s role as active analyzers rather than passive observers of the story.

    In a Brechtian adaptation of “A Doll’s House,” the set would be minimal and symbolic, using simplistic designs to highlight the play’s environment. The story would be structured episodically, emphasizing critical themes and societal critiques, and encouraging audience reflection. Actors would perform in a gestural, stylized manner, often breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly, thereby emphasizing the characters as social archetypes and the play’s constructed nature. This approach would transform the play into a critical commentary on gender roles, marriage, and personal freedom, engaging the audience in a reflective, analytical experience rather than an emotional one.

  8. jacqueline_f

    jacqueline flores D273

    In one of the points made in the lecture, you commented that Brecht focused more on the story than the emotions. This correlates back to the Nazis who used emotions to connect with the people such as anger, xenophobia, etc. The production of Stunted Trees focuses more on the story than emotions. Rather an emotion should be something where you reflect question and learn from it. Stunted Trees scene 55:20:00-56:30:00 Hayley is now a lawyer and has met the technician who’s diagnosed people with abnormal brains. Hayley argues what makes their brains different from others, who are we the right to justify what a brain is supposed to be, and many others whose brains we have yet to deem normal. This scene makes the audience acknowledge who are we to judge others if they are alright or not. We can’t always trust the idea that someone has a “normal brain”. Another idea from Brecht was agitprop which agitates the audience and looks at it as having debates between the characters to push a certain message. Stunted Trees we get a glimpse of scene 11:47:00-12:02:00 where the technician states “People like you” and when he asks her what she responds “Nothing”. I wanted to know what she meant by people like you, what she meant by those words as it gets a reaction out of the audience as she looks at him. 

    Doll’s house there was a lot of emotion by the end of it, as we see Nora slowly spiral from being blackmailed. If Brecht had directed it, he might have focused more on the story. We learn why Nora acts the way she does in the production. In the story, you begin to worry with her as to when her secret is going to come out and how. What would her husband do to her when he found out? You start questioning the what-ifs and as Bercht stated you lose focus on the story and that’s what happens in Doll’s House you start worrying for the characters. For, him I feel he would tone down all the events and spiral and wonder so the story can be seen more.

  9. obeek

    One Brect Idea I noticed in stunted trees was alienation. When Miles address the audience at 18:11 It reminds them that they are watching a play. Another Brect them used throughout stunted trees was Epic theater. Stunted trees jumps from one scene to another very quickly which makes the pacing of the play feel fragmented as well as quick. Between 32:00 – 43:00 they move between the dr’s office to a dream sequence, the courts & finally Miles lab. The story never stays in one scene too long and this is very Brechtian. I think the idea of Epic Theater could be applied to Antigone by incorporating more scenes other than the main scene with the stairs. There were many events that took place off set which the characters later discussed on set such as Antigone burying her brother or Crions wife taking her own life. These moments could have been more Brechtian if they were actually shown to the audience and included their own scenes. Scenes like when Antigone was arguing with her sister outside could have been set in an outside scene like a market, complete with stalls and things for the women to hide behind while speaking in hushed tones about breaking the law as guards on patrol walked by

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