Acting styles Epic Theatre

In the variety of acting styles Epic Theatre stands alone and strong as a specific style in which the audience is constantly made aware that they are watching a play. "It is most important that one of the main features of the ordinary theatre should be excluded from the engendering of illusion." (Brecht).

Epic Theatre is narrative theater and is also called the theater of alienation or political theater. The rise of the epic Theatre is dated at the beginning of the 20th century and is closely linked with the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht

Other names that are linked to this theatrical movement, by the theories and practice are Erwin Piscator, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold

In the range of acting styles Epic theatre arose in the early to mid-20th century. At that time the social and economic situation in Germany was poor, and Brecht wanted people to be more aware, in order to be able to change this. The traditional (realistic) theater should disappear because it had no other utility than the performance itself.

It shows how in contrast to other acting styles Epic theatre stands for appealing theatre, and at the same time make the audience more aware.

In order to achieve this he insisted that the spectator would clearly see that scene is played. Next to using specific acting techniques Epic theatre is about:

- The player will not identify with his own role.
- The spectator will not empathize but (as in sporting events) to be a critical player.
- Not the play, but that what you can learn is important.
- The spectator has always a critical distance to what is happening on the stage.

In summary, we can say, that all acting techniques Epic Theatre uses aime to achieve a sharpened awareness of the own social situation, with the underlying goal to change and improve this situation.

In order to break the illusion Brecht used all kinds of resources:

  • - He often uses masks or strange theatre make-up to create weird faces.
  • - There may be a figure, such as a master of ceremonies, who turned to the audience, commenting on the events or the scenes together.
  • - Also the actual characters while playing become increasingly clear to the audience that there are ' only ' acting: the players never completely identify with their role, they also are partially spectator of their own actions.
  • - As in the Medieval stage, there are frequent changes of place and time, which can be clarified with slide projections, place name signs or simple props.
  • - Decor swings often find take plave for the eye of the public, partly behind a curtain.
  • - Musicians and lighting mechanics can also be visible during the performance.
  • - Introductory texts; where the story is prejudice, not with the intention to focus the audience on how the story will end, but to indicate that the story is so and not otherwise. So it is not about the end but about how the story goes.
  • - Interrupting the story with songs; they usually indicate not the opinion of the character, but the whole situation, which usually is viewed from a distance. They make the problems more general instead of going about on that one case.
  • - The decor indicates theatre. Instead of a realistic/naturalistic decor you in the illusion of another world.
  • - Only the most necessary props are used.
  • -Film fragments break the decor.


This is how in all acting styles Epic theatre can be recognized by. And they still have the impact that the audience is aware of seeing a play in stead of dreaming away in a beautiful story. And Epic theatre can still make people aware, because they are really adressed.

B├╝chner is the forerunner of expression, followed by Wedekind and Strindberg. The style is then traced from Kaiser and Toller to O'Neill, Wilder and the later O'Casey. Important producers are Reinhardt and Meyerhold. Epic theatre is studied from Piscator and Brecht to D├╝rrenmatt and Weiss, Arden and Bond, and is seen as flourishing in offshoots of documentary theatre. This book was first published in 1981.