Erwin (Friedrich Max) Piscator

Definition

Theater

  • (1893 - 1966) German director, noted for his ingeniousstaging techniques and his influence on the development of EpicTheatre and documentary theater. A member of the GermanCommunist Party from 1918, Piscator saw the theater as a means ofboth explaining issues and influencing voters.

    Piscator's innovative productions made use of machinery, newsreels,film clips, photographs, and audio recordings to create an experienceof total theater. Notable among his early productions were DespiteAll! (1925), which gained him a job at the Berlin Volksb├╝hne,Storm Over Gottland (1927), which lost him the job, Rasputin(1927), and The Good Soldier Schweik (1928). The last two productionswere staged in collaboration with Brecht.

    The Political Theatre, Piscator's book of photographsand writings on the theater, was published in 1929 and had a profoundeffect upon the Federal Theatre Project's Living Newspaperproductions, as well as Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshopproductions.

    Following his arrest in 1931 for failing to pay entertainmenttax, Piscator moved to the Soviet Union; in 1938 he moved to New York,where he remained until 1951. During this time in America Piscatortaught at the Dramatic Workshop, where he influenced such writersas Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.

    After returning to West Germany in 1951, Piscator remainedlargely inactive until his appointment (1962) as artistic directorof the West Berlin Volksb├╝hne. Here he staged a number of highlycontroversial works of documentary theater by such writers as Hochhuthand Peter Weiss.

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