Maple Ridge actress cast in Bertolt Brecht’s Kabaret

Political messages of 1930 and 1940s still relevant today

Maple Ridge resident Laura Shortt plays the role of Kikka Metzger.

Maple Ridge resident Laura Shortt plays the role of Kikka Metzger.

German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s political messages of the 1930 and ’40s are brought to life in Brecht’s Kabaret, a production being put on by the Douglas College theatre department this month.Compiled and directed by instructor Allan Lysell, the piece is set in an old, rundown cabaret club, similar to the ones Brecht visited during his youth in Munich. The performers use the closeness of the audience to converse about war, class struggle, how to act and even how to be an audience member.“As with all great artists, Brecht’s observations of his own world of the early 20th century speak eloquently and passionately to us today,” says Lysell. “A lot of Brecht’s work was about freeing people from tyranny. As we look around today at the Irans, the Afghanistans, the Egypts, we see that so many people are being tyrannized. So the question remains: how do we, as a society, move out of that to create a more democratic world?”Maple Ridge resident Laura Shortt plays the role of Kikka Metzger in the production.One of the most influential theatre practitioners of the 20th century, Brecht is best known for his plays, which include The Threepenny Opera, The Good Person of Szechwan and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Brecht’s Kabaret, however, examines the playwright in a new light: through his poems.“Mostly we think of Brecht through his theatrical productions, but this time I thought we’d look at him through his poetry, with excerpts from plays, plus music and songs, to get a different feeling of who Brecht was and how he influenced theatre and performance style,” said Lysell.Brecht’s Kabaret focuses on two important aspects of Brecht’s artistic life: the political and the theatrical. His political work includes vehement anti-Nazi poetry and commentary, as the rise of Nazism coincided with Brecht’s rise as an artist. The other aspect explored is Brecht’s theatrical life and the creation of “epic theatre” – a form of didactic drama that presents a series of loosely connected scenes that avoid illusion and often interrupt the storyline to address the audience directly with analysis, argument or documentation.“His whole mode of acting advanced in the last half of the 20th century,” says Lysell. “We regard it today as just being modern acting, but when he created it, it was revolutionary.”• Brecht’s Kabaret runs March 4 to March 12 at the Douglas College Studio Theatre on the New Westminster campus. Tickets are $8 to $15 and available at http://tickets.masseytheatre.com. It comes with warnings for coarse language, adult themes and “puppet violence,” and is not recommended for children under 17.