Theory and Practice
The relationship between Brecht’s theories on theatre and their practical implementation lies at the heart of this website. First, let’s consider the nature of each and then how they might work together.
Theories are not facts about reality, but speculations on it. These speculations need not be fanciful, but based on close observation and/or intellectual rigour. They aim to be broad and to account for general aspects of our existence of experience.
Practice is always specific. In the theatre, practice may apply to the particular staging of a particular play.
The Relationship between the Two
Clearly, theory and practice are two separate things, and this is why there is no clear mapping of one theoretical position onto one practical manifestation. However, theory underpins everything that is done in the theatre because directors and actors are concerned with notions of how reality works and how people function within that reality. Theory thus allows theatre-makers to develop an awareness of the stakes of a theatrical production and perhaps gives them some ideas about how to realize those ideas. The specificity of practice, however, means that there is never a standard, reproducible response to the theories and this is what can make Brecht’s theories difficult to understand in the context of real theatre production. They may exist to provoke certain ways of working, and so practitioners may find themselves responding to theories in a variety of lively and imaginative ways. Theories may thus be understood as catalytic because they can drive a process that is never fully accounted for by a theory. (Conversely, theatrical cliché and unengaging performance arise when theatre-makers rely on standard responses to theoretical positions, and Brecht’s ideas have also been subject to such treatment over the years).