St. Martin's Press is introducing its Modern Dramatist Series by focusing on two diametrically opposed playwrights. Bertolt Brecht and Tennessee Williams changed the face of 20th-Century drama, but there the similarity between them ends, both in form and content.
Senior editors Bruce and Adele King chose Ronald Spiers, who wrote an earlier Brecht study, and teaches at the University of Birmingham, to profile Brecht. Roger Boxill, a journalist and English professor at New York's City College, writes on Williams.
Brecht was an ideologue who fashioned drama according to his own philosophical lights, but according to Spiers achieved some of his greatest effects despite, not because of, his theories.
Still, what worked for Brecht and Williams was how they were able to make real their world-views. Brecht not only perceived the world from a dedicated dialectical materialist perspective, he sought to create a new kind of theater in which even the process of producing the play was a revolutionary act. You don't understand much about Brecht, whose best known work in this country is "Three Penny Opera," unless you know he was a German Communist who fled Hitler, ending up an exile in Los Angeles where he worked on "Galileo" and "The Caucasian Chalk Circle."