I Bertolt Brecht

A Play with Music

by Victor Grauer


(All scenes continuous)

[Scene 1]

Voice from loudspeakers: Act III, Scene 1. Our story has come to a head. The day of judgement is at hand. And it's time to vote with your feet. Dream or no dream, that brazen computerized attack on the new world economy was clearly the last straw. Brecht, still firmly ensconced in the body of our hero, will finally be put on trial for his many crimes and misdemeanors. But first comes the obligatory demonstration. And the tree, will you recognize the tree? What does that stand for, I wonder?

[Street scene. Times Square, as in Act I, Scene 2, but with a courthouse in the foreground. Incised in stone above the two courthouse building entrances is, over the left: "The Quality of Mercy is not Strained." Over the right: "It falleth as the Gentle Rain from Heaven." A crowd of picketers is gathered in front of the courthouse, carrying signs that say "Free BB", "Free VG," "Free Mummia," "Down with the New Economy," "Down with the Old Economy," "Capitalism Unfair," "Communism Unfair," "Socialism Just Right", etc. One sign reads "Les Sujet en Proces." Marlene, wearing a worker's cap, ala Brecht, is conspicuously leading the most radical contingent. The elderly street person of Act I, scene 2, unobtrusively "works" the area, mainly picking up trash and depositing it in a big garbage bag, but also panhandling.

The voice of BB can be heard singing in German from a loudspeaker on one side of the stage. From a speaker on the other side we hear the Translator singing the English translation. From a third speaker, we hear VG's voice singing his own version of the same verses. All three voices are overlaid on top of one another, but with staggered entries, as in a fugue. As the singing progresses, the demonstrators become increasingly agitated. Fights break out. Sounds of wind and thunder can be heard growing more and more intense.]

BB: Wir sind gesessen ein leichtes Geschlechte

In Hausern, die fur unzerstoerbare galten

(So haben wir gebaut die langen Gehause des Eilands Manhattan

Und die dunnen Antennen, die das Atlantische Meer unterhalten).

The Translator: We, a heedless generation, have made ourselves at home

In buildings we thought immune to destruction

(Thus we erected the skyscrapers of Manhattan

And the thin antennae which bemuse the Atlantic Ocean).

VG: My generation has made itself homeless

In mad pursuit of some vague ideal

(Thus we dabbled in drugs and religion,

Trod the thin red line between the real and the unreal).

BB: Von diesen Staedten wird bleiben: der durch sie hindurchging, der Wind!

Froehlich machet das Haus den Esser: er leert es.

Wir wissen, dass wir Vorlaeufige sind

Und nach uns wird kommen: nichts Nennenswertes.

T: Of these cities will remain: that which passed through them -- the Wind!

The house makes the diner merry: he wolfs it down.

We know we're not here for long

And after us will come: nothing of much renown.

VG: Of our dreams will remain: that which fueled them -- hot air!

The balloon will lift slightly, then falter and sag.

We know we've been here much too long

Man, life can be an awful drag.

BB: Bei den Erdbeben, die kommen werden, werde ich hoffentlich

Meine Virginia nicht ausgehen lassen durch Bitterkeit

Ich, Bertolt Brecht, in die Asphaltstaedte verschlagen

Aus den schwartzen Waeldern in meiner Mutter in frueher Zeit.

T: In the earthquakes to come, I hope I won't

Let bitterness dim my cigar's red glow

I, Bertolt Brecht, smuggled to the asphalt city

From the dark forests in my mother long ago.

VG: In the disillusionment to come, I hope I won't

Start smoking again in desperation

I, Victor Grauer, forced on board that boat

To New York City by the older generation.

[The sounds of wind and intermittent thunder continue to build. Then die down. The two street musicians of Act I, Scene 2, appear, off to one side on stage right, getting ready to play (guitar and bass). Suddenly the following text scrolls across the electronic display of the Times Building:]

"This just in from the Associated Press, May 21, 2001: George W. Bush, Jr. calls for 'third stage' of war on poverty -- President makes his first commencement address at Notre Dame."

[As the display begins to scroll, the following excerpts from Bush speech are read over the loudspeaker. Everyone suddenly quiets down and listens.]

"The war on poverty established a federal commitment to the poor. The welfare reform legislation of 1996 made that commitment more effective. For the task ahead, we must move to the third stage of combating poverty in America. Our society must enlist, equip and empower idealistic Americans in works of compassion that only they can provide. . . Our nation has confronted welfare dependency. But our work is only half done. Now we must confront the second problem: to revive the spirit of citizenship -- to marshal the compassion of our people to meet the continuing needs of our nation."

[The people in the street react in various ways to this announcement. Marlene is visibly skeptical. Some disputes break out.

A street preacher arrives with a boom box, stations himself on the courthouse steps.]

Preacher: Thank you for that, Mr. President.

[He turns on his boom box, which plays a simple chordal accompaniment on guitar and bass as he sings the following text, "The Divine Image," from Wm. Blake's "Songs of Innocence". All fall silent as he sings:]

[As the text is sung, it is displayed, line by line, on the electronic display of the Times Building.]

Preacher: To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love,

All pray in their distress.

And to these virtues of delight

Return their thankfulness.

And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love,

Is God our father dear.

And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love

Is Man his child and care.

[At this point, Marlene gets up, signaling the two street musicians, who "wake up" to play a reprise of their number from Act I, Scene 2. Conducted vigorously by Marlene, her radical band of picketers defiantly sing along, to the following text, "The Human Abstract," from Blake's "Songs of Experience." This too is displayed, line by line, on the Times building:

Picketers: Pity would be no more

If we didn't make somebody poor.

And Mercy could no more be

If all were as happy as we.

And mutual fear brings Peace

Till the selfish Loves increase.

[At this point some of the picketers begin to mime the text, one taking the role of "Cruelty," knitting his snares, another playing "Humility," etc. The street person joins in, sometimes miming along with them, sometimes mocking them. As the song continues, the tree described in the text is constructed, from the roots up. When complete, this tree will be a replica of the tree seen at the beginning of Act I, only it will be standing in a large pot.]

Then Cruelty knits a snare

And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with Holy fears

And waters the ground with tears.

Then humility takes its root

Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade

Of Mystery over his head.

And the Caterpillar and Fly

Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit

Ruddy and sweet to eat.

And the Raven his nest has made

In its deepest shade.

The Gods of the Earth and Sea

[Now the picketers mime the Gods, hands cupped over their eyes, searching in this direction and that for the tree, which they will never find, though it is right before their eyes.]

Sought through Nature to find this tree.

But their search was all in vain.

There grows one in the human brain.

All clutch their heads in their hands, writhing in agony. Then all grab their pickets and run offstage in various directions, leaving only Marlene and the musicians, who lift the tree and carry it to stage center. As they do so, the set is transformed to the interior of the courthouse, with the judge's desk at stage center [the tree is placed beside it, with it's branches draped just above the judge's head].

[Scene 2]
Voice from loudspeakers: Act III, Scene 2. Somehow our legal proceedings get all mixed up with some other proceedings, from many years ago, when Brecht was called upon to testify before the House Unamerican Activities Committee regarding his pro-Communist leanings and associations. You'll hear a strange dialogue between present and past. And somewhere in the middle, a fight breaks out. Disorder in the court!

[The picketers then reappear as spectators and take their seats in the courthouse, as do VG, the Secretary, the Translator, Marlene, Dean Fairchild, the Professor and Mrs. Grauer. The street person (referred to from now on as SP) appears and immediately assumes the role of janitor, complete with brush broom, dust rag and bucket. Throughout the act SP will be on his/her feet, active, mostly unobtrusively, sometimes obtrusively, sweeping, dusting and picking up trash. This character should be given license to improvise and feel free to move anywhere around the set at any time, even to the point of being "in the way". For example SP might, at times, dust off one of the other characters like a piece of furniture. None of them will take the slightest notice of SP, who must never speak. It is important that this character be assertive from time to time, but, for the most part, restrained. SP's actions should always be amusing, but never overly obtrusive.]

[All rise as the judge enters and seats himself.]

Judge: [pounding the gavel several times] Order. Order in the court. Order. I must insist. Order. All must be silent in this courtroom.

[At this point, what we hear is from the Folkways recording of Brecht's hearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee on October 30, 1947. As the recording is playing, everyone remains frozen in place.]

Mr. Stripling: Mr. Berthold Brecht.

The Chairman: Mr. Brecht, will you stand, please, and raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Mr. Brecht: I do.

The Chairman. Sit down, please.

Mr. Stripling: Mr. Brecht, will you please state your full name and present address for the record, please? Speak into the microphone.

Mr. Brecht: My name is Berthold Brecht. I am living at 34 West Seventy Third Street, New York. I was born in Augsburg, Germany, February 10, 19 -- 1898. [The recording is now turned off, and the players resume as before.]

The Judge: Now if you please, state the charges:

[One of the spectators rises and speaks.]

Accuser 1: Mr. Bertolt Brecht is charged with the wanton destruction of the Global Economy, on which so many millionaires had pinned their hopes, by means of a computer worm which systematically invaded thousands of banks and businesses, most of the world's stock markets, the entire US power grid and the offices of all the professional sports teams of North and South America.

The Translator [functioning here as defense attorney]: My client is totally innocent. That was the work of his student, Ms. Marlene Leftkowitz, a well known Communist sympathizer and dangerous computer hacker.

Marlene: [shouting] How dare you! Do you hear that, Comrades? Regardless of any such assertions, you will never succeed in turning me against Professor Brecht.

The Judge: Order in the court. Mr. Brecht, how do you plead?

VG: [in a trance] I am Bertolt Brecht, the human fighting machine.

Accuser 2 [rises]: Mr. Bertolt Brecht is charged with wanton breach of contract with the Greater Manhattan University of Higher Learning and Nasty Tenure Disputes [GMUHLNTD].

The Translator: My client honored that contract to the letter! And there were lots of other things he did too, which I will not mention here -- to keep everyone happy.

Dean Fairchild: Your Honor, he contracted with us to direct one of his plays, but instead of directing it, altered it beyond recognition. Made me into a subject of mockery. And demoralized the student body.

The Judge: Mr. Brecht, how do you plead?

VG: I am Bertolt Brecht, the human writing machine.

Accuser 3 [rises]: Mr. Bertolt Brecht is charged with the wanton kidnaping and/or murder of one Victor Grauer, part time visiting adjunct instructor at the Lesser Pittsburgh Community College for Underachieving and Undeserving Students (LPCCUUS).

The Translator: Who is this person you mention? My client has no knowledge of him.

Mrs. Grauer: Don't deny it. Your honor, I saw my husband with Mr. Brecht's "associates" just before he disappeared. He was acting strangely, trying to pretend he was someone else. So I followed him straight to this place where Mr. Brecht's friends had some kind of strange laboratory. But they shut the door on me and locked it. When they came back out, Mr. Brecht here was with them, but my husband was gone. Your honor, I need him to sign these divorce papers and now he's nowhere to be found. I've looked everywhere. [Begins to cry.]

The Judge: Mr. Brecht, how do you plead?

VG: I am Bertolt Brecht, the human inciting machine.

Accuser 4 [rises]: On behalf of the Home Unfeminist Activities Committee of the Congress of Irate Women (HUACCIW), I accuse Bertolt Brecht of being a male chauvinist PIG, wantonly exploiting the women in his life, shamelessly seducing them, appropriating their creative work as his own and paying them little or nothing for their strenuous efforts on his behalf.

Marlene: [Being restrained as she tries to rise.] Lies! All lies! Professor Brecht is a feminist. He himself explained that to me. [Members of her faction wrestle with the person restraining Marlene. There is some minor scuffling.]

The Judge: [Pounding gavel.] Order! Order in the court!

The Translator: My client is totally innocent. And besides what they wrote always needed revision, it was more work than it was worth [withering glance in the direction of the Secretary]. And he took good care of them, mostly, when he had the time and the cash. And when he was around. Which he was not always able to be. Because of pressing business elsewhere.

The Secretary: Oh, yes, your Honor, I can attest to that. Only he always seemed to be "elsewhere." He was never around except when he needed something. And he took care of us all right. When it suited him.

Marlene: Silence, witch! I know your type. Women like you are only after one thing. [Again Marlene is restrained and there is more scuffling.]

The Judge: Silence! I'm warning all of you. [Pounds gavel.] Mr. Brecht, how do you plead?

VG: I am Bertolt Brecht, the human delighting machine.

[Now once again we hear an excerpt from the HUAC recording. All remain frozen in place.] Mr. Stripling: Uh, Mr. Brecht are you a member of the communist party or have you ever been a member of the communist party?

Mr. Brecht: Mr. Chairman, I have heard my colleagues when they considered this question as not proper, but I am a guest in this country and do not want to enter into any legal arguments, so I will answer your question as fully as I can. I was not a member or am not a member of any Communist Party.

[End of recording.]

Marlene: Do you hear that? I knew it!!! What a disgrace that he should even be asked such a question. Professor Brecht has always been innocent of any crime. Always he has simply fought for justice, compassion, against greed, exploitation, intimidation and fear! Down with the repressive neo-capitalist system! Down with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the New Economy! Down with greed, the market, neo-colonialism, racism, sexism. Down down down!!!

[Marlene's followers now join in vigorously, loudly echoing these slogans, raising their hands in the clenched fist "worker's" salute.]

[Now the street preacher rises, spreading his hands in a sort of benediction.]

Preacher: Brethren, only the Lord can calm such stormy seas. Have faith and all will be restored to thee. [A group of his followers rises. All sing the following verse, as he conducts:]

When I a ship see on the seas

Cuft with those wa'try savages,

And therewithal behold it hath

In all that way no beaten path,

Then with a wonder I confesse

Thou art our way in the wilderness.

[Marlene and her group now rise in defiance. She conducts them in the following verses, to the same music:]

When I a child see in the streets

Cuffed by the authority of the police,

And therewithal behold he had

In custody been beaten bad,

Is it no wonder he'll confesse?

That is the way of the wildernesse.


I see the mayor of our town

Always a player when the deals go down,

And therewithal behold his pack

In ev'ry vote get beaten back.

Is it no wonder, nevertheless,

He'll get his way in this wildernesse.

[Some in the preacher's group start shouting "Blasphemy" and move toward Marlene and her faction. There is some shoving. The judge pounds his gavel continually through this episode. The gavel pounding will be gradually reinforced by percussion instruments, increasing in loudness as things get more intense. Some guards try to restrain the militant group, who seem eager to shove back. A fight breaks out. Soon everyone in the courtroom is fighting, as the judge continues to pound his gavel along with the percussion of the orchestra. An extended fight scene ensues as the gaveling/drumming grows increasing loud and rhythmic. The courtroom is trashed.]

[At the height of the melee, a mysterious figure, wearing a violet robe and hood, appears from behind the curtain at stage right and very slowly and painfully makes his way to the witness stand. The gavel and percussion cease. One by one, each person in the courtroom notices him and freezes in place, including Marlene and SP. As he hobbles along, the Secretary sings the following (from "Bericht vom Zeck," by Brecht, translated by VG.):

Report on the Tick
S: Through our childhood dreams
In the milk white bed
Haunting the apple trees
The man in violet.
Down in the dust before him
Watching him sitting there:
Lazy. Petting his dove.
Sunning himself on the way.
Loves the smallest gift,
Sucks blood night and day.
So you'll have only him
He takes all else away.
And if you find some pleasures
And laugh, just a little
He's sure to take stern measures
And play some funeral airs.
In a bed of death
Is where he likes to get.
Haunting your final breath
The man in violet.

Man in Violet: [Speaking very slowly in a shaky voice] Mr. Brecht, are you now . . . or have you ever been . . . . Dead?

[Suddenly a very deep gong is heard and all the lights go out, revealing only a single Jewish Memorial candle. A soft spotlight gradually illuminates VG, who rises, walks to BB, just visible at extreme stage left, who, as they share the spotlight, offers him a cigar. VG then goes to the memorial candle and lights the cigar with it, then blows it out. The spot goes out at exactly the same instant. The following is sung by him, in duet with BB, in total darkness, except for the light of the cigar, which he waves as he sings.]

[VG and BB sing a duet, BB in his original German, VG in his own English translation.]

BB: In die Staedte kam ich zur Zeit der unordnung

Als da Hunger herrschte.

Unter die Menschen kam ich zu der Zeit des Aufruhrs

Und ich empoerte mich mit ihnen.

So verging meine Zeit

Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

VG: I came to the cities during a time of disorder

When hunger ruled.

I came among the people during a time of revolution

And I rebelled along with them.

This is how I spent the time

That had been granted me on Earth.

BB: Mein Essen ass ich zwischen den Schlachten

Schlafen legte ich mich unter die Moerder

Der Liebe pflegte ich achtlos

Und die Natur sah ich ohne Geduld.

So verging meine Zeit

Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

VG: I ate my meals between battles

I slept among murderers

Made love promiscuously

And observed nature impatiently.

This is how I spent the time

That had been granted me on Earth.

BB: Die Strassen fuerten in den Sumpf zu meiner Zeit.

Die Sprache verriet mit dem Schlaechter.

Ich vermochte nur wenig. Aber die Herrschenden

Sassen ohne mich sicherer, das hoffte ich.

So verging meine Zeit

Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

VG: In my day, all roads flowed into a river of shit.

My big mouth betrayed me to the butchers.

I could do only a little. But the ruling class

Sat more secure in my absence, or so I hoped.

This is how I spent the time

That had been granted me on Earth.

BB: Die Kraefte waren gering. Das Ziel

Lag in grosser Ferne

Es war deutlich sichtbar, wenn auch fuer mich

Kaum zu erriechen.

So verging meine Zeit

Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

VG: Our strength was slight. Our goal

Lay at a very great distance.

It could clearly be seen, but for me

Was hardly attainable.

This is how I spent the time

That had been granted me on Earth.

[From "An die Nachgeborenen," by Bertold Brecht, Collected Edition, Suhrkamp Verlag, pp. 723-724. Translation by VG.]

[Scene 3]
Voice from loudspeakers: Act III, Scene 3. Our case has taken an unexpected turn. And our hero no longer knows exactly who -- or what -- he is. Or where he stands. Do you know who you are, tonight?

[The spot gradually fades in on BB, standing at extreme stage left. Another spot gradually illuminates the tree. He beckons to VG and he, now with a spot following him, walks slowly to BB. Throughout this section, SP should once again be active, sweeping and picking up trash, working around and among the other characters, always ignored by them.]

VG: What's going on? I feel strange. Lost. Am I really you inside? And if so, then who are you, the phantom standing here beside me?

BB: There's someone I want you to meet. [The violet robed figure appears from behind the curtain. Now one spotlight opens out to encompass all three figures.] Comrade, this is an old companion of mine: the Angel of Death.

VG: Oh my. You mean. This is . . . It's time for . . .

AoL: No no no no no, my friend. It's not your time, no. I'm here to keep tabs on him.

[BB lights a cigar.]

AoD: You know that's not good for you.

BB: [takes a long drag] "The doctor told me 'Calmly smoke your cigars!

Sooner or later, with or without them, just around the corner, death awaits everyone." [from "Von seiner Sterblichkeit" in Die Gedichte von Bertolt Brecht in einem Band, Suhrkamp, 1997, p. 114.]

VG: [takes a short drag on his cigar] I smoke very rarely. Only on special occasions, such as this.

BB: Special occasions? There are no special occasions. All occasions are the same. Life is life, always and forever, always the same. Every moment just as worthless just as pointless as the next. If you like cigars, just smoke them. Why live your life in fear?

AoD: Memento Mori.

BB: How can I forget? Once dead always dead! What a drag! [takes a long drag on his cigar] I'm nothing but a specter, a spook, admitted. [to VG] But when you're alive, then think about life. Show some spirit. Moment to moment, live your life, have no fear, fear no one and no thing. Not even . . . [nods toward AoD] him.

VG: I'm so confused. I hardly know who I am. Yesterday morning. Was it yesterday? Marelene and I. We made love, passionate, magical . . . What a beautiful, radiant young . . . woman. Then we worked together. For hours. All night long. It went so well. We discussed the whole concept, thought everything through. She got out her portable computer, "La Laptop." And we took turns typing it out, a complete revision of the final scenes. I have to admit, the best ideas were hers. She found it so inspiring. To be in the presence of the great "Bertolt Brecht." I didn't have the guts to explain. . . . what had happened. What you'd put me through. The role I agreed to play.

BB: So you knew all along?

VG: Yes, I knew. Or thought I knew. Now I'm not sure what exactly happened. Whether I'm you or me, dead or only half dead. [pause] I decided to go along with it. Well, something in me decided. What was that, I wonder. Maybe it doesn't matter. Then, at the rehearsal. It was all going so well. We were pleased and excited. Everyone was really into it. But then, the Dean. Dean Fairchild. Emmanuella, she . . . she got so upset. I think she was jealous. Tried to stop us. Wanted to cancel the whole thing, tear up the contract. Then someone made a speech. And I think I fell asleep. When I awoke it was like we were all inside the last two scenes, as though it was really happening. The original version, in German, was also being played out. At the same time. But it all seemed real. I was so confused. Then Marlene appeared. I'm not sure if that was in the script or not. She was . . . absolutely determined. No stopping her. She hooked "La Laptop" up to the worldwide telecommunications network. Somehow. It was never supposed to happen for real. Just . . . you know . . . the "Estrangement effect" -- in the spirit of your play, your work. At the time I was sure we . . . I . . . was dreaming. It was all so real.

Now . . . I don't believe it. I . . . "Bertolt Brecht." I'm on trial. Accused of all sorts of fantastic crimes. [Suddenly looks BB directly in the eye.] You. You arranged all this. It was you, you. Behind the scenes. You and your pals. Like the soldiers in your play. Playing me for a sucker. Leading me on. Mr. nice guy . . . only trying to be helpful, to do what was right. And where did it get me? I now stand accused. Indicted! How could you do this to me? [Holds his head in his hands and sinks to the floor.]

AoD: [Puts on a pair of granny glasses and takes out a book (Specters of Marx, by Jacques Derrida), which he opens, and places on his lap. Then, removing his glasses, staring straight ahead, without looking at the book, he begins to read (starting at the beginning of Chapter 5). VG and BB will interrupt him after 4 or 5 sentences.] "An articulation assures the movement of this relentless indictment. It gives some play. It plays between the spirit (Geist) and the specter (Gespenst), between the spirit on the one hand, the ghost or the revenant on the other. This articulation often remains inaccessible, eclipsed in its turn in shadow, where it moves about and puts one off the trail. First of all, let us once again underscore that Geist can also mean specter, as do the words "esprit" or "spirit." . . . Next, The German Ideology uses and abuses this equivocation. It is its principal weapon. And especially, although it operates with constancy or consistency, and even if it is less tenable than Marx himself thinks, the argument that permits him to distinguish between spirit and specter remains discreet and subtle. The specter is of the spirit, it participates in the latter and stems from it even as it follows it as its ghostly double. The difference between the two is precisely what tends to disappear in the ghost effect, just as the concept of such a difference or the argumentative movement that puts it to work in the rhetoric tends to vanish. All the more so in that this rhetoric is in advance devoted to the polemic, in any case to the strategy of a hunt or chase. And even to a counter-sophistics that at every moment runs the risk of replicating the reply, reproducing in a mirror the logic of the adversary at the moment of the retort, piling it on there where one accuses the other of abusing language." [The Angel of Death should continue reading from the same source if he needs more material, as the dialogue between VG and BB progresses.]

VG: [Angry. Interrupting AoD -- the following dialogue, beginning shortly after AoD's fourth or fifth sentence [above] should overlay his reading from Derrida, but be louder, more audible -- yet punctuated by silences.] You know I can see right through you.


VG: I mean, I can see through this attitude you're trying to project, this attitude you've always projected, this "Mr. Tough Guy" routine of yours. The cigar. The worker's cap. The short cropped hair. The oh so confident swagger. The sarcastic remarks. The negativity.

BB: [Pulls out yet another book and begins to read, while pacing the floor nervously.] "Physical attitude, tone of voice and facial expression are all determined by a social gest: the characters are cursing, flattering, instructing one another, and so on. . . . The actor masters his character by paying critical attention to its manifold utterances, as also to those of his counterparts and of all the other characters involved." [from "A Short Organum for the Theater," in Brecht on Theater, ed. and translated by John Willett, Hill and Wang, 1957, p. 198.]

VG: So that's it? It's all about acting with you? It's all just a big act?

BB: "Unless the actor is satisfied to be a parrot or a monkey he must master our period's knowledge of human social life by himself joining in the war of the classes. Some people may find this to be degrading because they rank art, once the money side has been settled, as one of the highest things; but mankind's highest decisions are in fact fought out here on Earth, not in the heavens; in the 'external' world, not in people's heads. Nobody can stand above the warring classes, for nobody can stand above the human race. . . . Thus for art to be 'unpolitical' means only to ally itself with the ruling group." [ibid., p. 196.]

VG: To insist on the politization of art is to play the Philistine . . . the Commissar. I refuse to lower my art to the level of propaganda. Even for the best of causes. I have no need to persuade. I want to experiment with perception, consciousness, to create new levels of awareness. And to accomplish this one must insist on the artist's freedom to be irresponsible.

BB: Spoken like a true "artiste." Yes. You retreated from the storms of political involvement to the cloistered shelter of your sensitive Ego, to simply "make art". You know, it would be wonderful to place art first, politics second. This is what I would have loved to do. But I had certain responsibilities. I had a need to make myself useful.

AoD: Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. We're not here to squabble. We are here to . . . [pauses]

BB: Please continue. I'm wondering myself what we're doing here. My time is too valuable to waste in this sort of conversation.

VG: Your time? You've been dead for years. So have your plays. You have no time. Or else you have all the time in the world -- an eternity. I'm still alive. It's my time that's valuable, my time that's being wasted in this pointless confrontation. If I'm so damned hopeless, why did you appear to me in the first place. Why choose me, of all people?

BB: You? Why would I choose you? It was you who sought me out. I came only because you . . . something in you . . . was desperate with guilt, shame -- and boredom.

AoD: Please be patient, gentlemen, please. Try to understand. We have important matters to discuss, problems to resolve, decisions to make.

BB: There is only one problem. "What is to be done?" All around us the mass of humanity is struggling against oppression. Moreso now than ever. The struggle of the masses should inspire everyone.

VG: Well, sure I too have been "inspired" by political issues, the great dream of liberating all mankind from the exploiters. My first teaching job was in the early 70's at the University of Pittsburgh, where I was an activist from day one. Radicalized during the student protests of the 60's, I was determined to work for change within the system. Civil rights, women's rights, get out of Vietnam, eliminate grades, total reform of the University system. I stuck my neck out very far and, to make a long story short, got my head cut off. So much for idealism.

BB: Socialism has too many "ideals." Communism, true Communism has none. I did NOT subscribe to the Liberal agenda, my friend. I had no interest in "doing good." Communism requires people who are entirely cold-blooded, disciplined, operatives, people willing and able to participate in a historic struggle.

VG: Pardon me while I guffaw in your face. Your rhetoric is outdated. Your "cause" has been lost. Communism is dead. Or haven't you heard? No one buys that line anymore. [pause] Mr. Brecht, how do you think you'll be judged by history? What will posterity make of your sympathy for a totalitarian regime, your support for Stalin, who, as we now know, destroyed the lives of millions of innocent people? You saw in Communism the great hope of liberating mankind from oppression, but it became, in fact, one of the most oppressive political systems ever conceived. What will history have to say about your role as propagandist in support of this madness?

[Suddenly Marlene appears at extreme stage left and slowly walks over to where VG is standing, confronting him. As her speech progresses she gradually turns toward the audience, addressing them. (SP should not interrupt this speech.)]

VG: M-Marlene. What are you doing here?

Marlene: History is bunk. There is no history. No one history. History is written to serve the interests of the ruling class. The white male ruling class, I might add. And then rewritten when power shifts. What is it you "now know" about Stalin — about Brecht? About master and slave, black and white, man and woman? Ideas are born, plans carried out. Struggles ensue. Alliances are formed. With each shift history must be rewritten. New heros, new villains, must be produced. And always, at some point, those in "power" realize how little power they actually have — and how dangerous life can be. And they too can become dangerous. I am not afraid. I can't be bothered worrying over what "history" will think of me. Like it or not, I am immersed in historical processes, political struggles, and forced, like it or not, to respond, to think, take positions, take sides -- and act.
[She consults a book she'd been carrying.]
Marlene [puts her glasses on and reads]: "In and by the state and religion, capitalism demands and consolidates the paranoid moment of the subject: a unity foreclosing the other and putting itself in the place of the other. . . . In such a context, . . . it falls upon [us] to exemplify the materialist overcoming of the process of negativity which dissolves subjective unity. Through a specific practice affecting the mechanisms of language itself . . . or affecting mythical or religious systems of representation . . ., [we present] society — even if only in its margins — with a sujet en procès [which is to say: a subject simultaneously in process and on trial], attacking all the stases of the unitary subject. [We thus attack] closed ideological systems, but also the structures of social domination (the state), [in] a revolution which, while remaining distinct and up until now ignored by socialist and communist revolutions, is not its utopian or anarchistic moment, but in fact points to the revolution's own blindness to the very movement which carries it. . . . What is at stake here is the survival of the social function of ‘art,' but also, beyond this cultural preoccupation, of the maintenance in modern society of signifying practices potentially appealing to mass audiences, opening the closure of the representamen and of the unitary subject, and subsequently opening up the closure of ideologies. . . . [Bourgeois ideology] can perfectly well accept experimental subjectivism but can hardly or not at all accept the critique of its own base through this experience. To join the textual mechanism of heterogeneous contradiction to a revolutionary critique of the social order is precisely what is intolerable for the dominant ideology and for the various defense mechanisms of liberalism and oppresion." [from Julia Kristeva, "The Subject in Process," in The Tel Quel Reader, ed. Patrick ffrench and Roland-Francois Lack, Routledge, 1998, pp. 136-137, 171.]
[She puts down the book and addresses the audience.]
I am the nachgeboren, the one "born after," the posterity to whom Brecht directed some of his most tormented lines. "Auch der Hass gegen die Niedrigkeit/ Verzerrt die Zuege." "Hatred, even of vileness, contorts the face." "Auch der Zorn ueber das Unrecht Macht die Stimme heiser." "Rage, even against injustice, makes the voice harsh." "Ach, wir/ Die wir den Boden bereiten wollten fuer Freundlichkeit/ Konnten selber nicht freundlich sein." "Alas, we, we who wanted to pave the way for friendship, could not ourselves be friendly." I willingly accept the torch he passes on to me, the bitter lesson burns deep down inside my heart. I am possessed by this friendly specter of unfriendliness.
I look around me and all I can see is injustice. Too many people are worn out with work, yet can't make enough to live. Too many are sick, dying, yes, even here, here in the United States. The forces of greed and ruthless power are alive and well and I must think of some way to thwart them. Forgive me. My face has become contorted. Anger makes my voice hard and my manner cruel. Forgive me. Forgive me. Where can I go to exorcize this savage Messianic love? [She runs offstage.]

AoD: [returning to his book] "One must magically chase away a specter, exorcise the possible return of a power held to be baleful in itself and whose demonic threat continues to haunt the century. . . . Vigilance therefore: the cadaver is perhaps not as dead, as simply dead as the conjuration tries to delude us into believing. The one who has disappeared appears still to be there, and his apparition is not nothing." [Specters of Marx, op. cit., p. 97.]

"If he loves justice at least, the 'scholar' of the future, the 'intellectual' of tomorrow should learn it and from the ghost. He should learn to live by learning not how to make conversation with the ghost but how to talk with him, with her, how to let them speak or how to give them back speech, even if it is in oneself, in the other, in the other in oneself: they are always here, specters, even if they do not exist, even if they are no longer, even if they are not yet. They give us to rethink the 'there' as soon as we open our mouths, even at a colloquium and especially when one speaks there in a foreign language." [ibid., p. 176.]

BB: [sings, this time alone]: Lerne das Einfachste! Fuer die

Deren Zeit gekommen ist

Ist es nie zu spaet!

Lerne das Abc, es genuegt nicht, aber

Lerne es! Lass es dich nicht verdriessen!

Fang an! Du musst alles wissen!

Du musst die Fuerung uebernehmen.

[from "Lob des Lernens", by Brecht, Collected Edition, Suhrkamp Verlag, pp. 462.

[As BB is about halfway through, we hear, overlaid, from the loudspeaker, the following translation, from the recording of Brecht's HUAC testimony, as recited by Mr. Stripling, his interrogator]:

Mr. Stripling: "Learn now the simple truth, you for whom the time has come at last; it is not too late.

Learn now the ABC. It is not enough but learn it still.

Fear not, be not downhearted.

You must learn the lesson, you must be ready to take over."

Mr. Brecht: No, excuse me, that is the wrong translation. This is not right. [Laughter.] Just one second, and I will give you the correct text.

Mr. Stripling: That is not a correct translation?

Mr. Brecht: That is not correct, no; that is not the meaning. It is not very beautful, but I am not speaking about that.

Mr. Stripling: What does it mean? I have here The Songs of The People, which was issued by the Communist Party of the United States, published by the Workers' Library Publishers. Page 24 says:

In praise of learning, by Bert Brecht; music by Hanns Eisler.

It says here:

"You must be ready to take over; learn it.

Men on the dole, learn it; men in the prisons learn it; women in the kitchen learn It; men of 65 learn it. You must be ready to take over"- and goes right on through. That is the core of it..- "You must he ready to take over."

Mr. Brecht: Mr. Stripling, maybe his translation.

Mr. Baumgardt: The correct translation would be, "You must take

the lead."

The Chairman: "You must take the lead"?

Mr. Baumgardt: "The lead." It definitely says, "The lead." It is not "You must take over." The translation is not a literal translation of the German.

Mr. Stripling: Well, Mr. Brecht, as it has been published in these publications of the Communist Party, then, if that is incorrect, what did you mean?

Mr. Brecht: I don't remember nto have -I never got that book myself.

I must not have been in the Country when it was published. I think

it was published as a song, one of the songs Eisler had written the

music to. I did not give any permission to publish it. I don't see --

I think I have never saw the translation.

Mr. Stripling: Do you have the words there before you?

Mr. Brecht: In German yes.

Mr. Stripling: Of the song?

Mr. Brecht: Oh. yes; in the book.

Mr. Stripling: Not in the original.

Mr. Brecht: In the German book.

Mr. Stripling: It goes on:

"You must he ready to take over; you must be ready to take over. Don't hesitate to ask questions stay in there. Don't hesitate to ask questions, comrade --.

Mr. Brecht: Why not let him translate from the German, word for word?

Mr. Baumgardt: I think you are mainly interested in this translation which comes from----

The Chairman: I cannot understand the interpreter any more than I can the witness.

Mr Baumgardt: Mr. Chairman, I apologize. I shall make use of this.

The Chairman: Just speak in that microphone and maybe we can make it out.

Mr. Baumgardt: The last line of all three verses is correctly to be translated:

"You must take over the lead," and not "You must take over'." "You must take the lead," would be the best, most correct, most accurate translation.

[End of the recording. There is a momentary silence. Then the stage lights gradually come up, revealing the Courtroom as before. It is still in some disarray. But all the spectators, including Marlene, are once again seated. SP is working hard to put everything back where it was.]

[Scene 4]
Voice from loudspeakers: Act III, Scene 4. Our hero is more puzzled than ever. But at least he knows who he is. Or does he? The judge is ready to pass sentence. So pay attention. The sentence will be harsher than it may seem. Then it's all over -- but the singing.

VG: [to himself -- but loudly] "You must take over." [pause] "You must take the lead." But how?

The Judge: [Pounding his gavel.] The Jury has heard all the evidence and is now prepared to render a verdict. All rise.

VG: [confused] A verdict? Already? What's been going on? Did I pass out? Your honor. Your honor.

The Judge: [Pounding his gavel.] Silence. There will be order in the Court. Mr. Foreman, will you announce the verdict?

The Foreman: I shall. The accused is guilty as charged -- on all counts.

VG: Guilty? Of what? Look, everyone. [Adjusting his hair, parting it to one side.] I'm not Bertolt Brecht. I'm not the man who did all this. I was just . . . impersonating him. It was all an act. [Laughing.] Actually, I was conned into this. It's all their fault [pointing to the Secretary and the Translator].

The Judge: We've been all over that today. Makes no difference so far as I'm concerned. Mr. Brecht, Mr. Grauer, whatever you want to call yourself, do you have a statement to make before I render my sentence?

VG: I still don't know for sure who or what I am. Maybe I've become two people. Or more. "Men make their own history -- ihre eigene Geschichte -- but they do not make it just as they please -- aus freien Stuecken; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past -- ueberlieferten Umstaenden. The tradition of all the dead generations -- aller toten Geschlechter -- weighs -- lastet -- like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed -- noch nicht Dagewesenes zu schaffen -- precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up -- beschwoeren sie aengstlich -- the spirits of the past to their service -- die Geister der Vergangenheit zu ihrem Dienste herauf -- and borrow -- entlehnen -- from them names, battle-cries -- Schlachtparole -- and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language -- mit dieser erborgten Sprache. [from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louise Bonaparte, in Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 11, International Publishers, 1979, pp. 103-104, as quoted in Derrida, Specters of Marx, Op. Cit., p. 108.]

[The spectators now become very agitated, speaking loudly among themselves.]

The Judge: [Pounds the gavel several times.] Silence!!! [pause -- all are quiet.] Is that all you have to say for yourself?

VG: I accept that I am guilty. Of what I am not sure. I accept that I am haunted. By what I am not sure. Whatever it is I am willing to take the consequences. I am ready for your verdict. Be harsh. Show no pity. Have no mercy.

The spectators [singing]: "Pity would be no more/ If we didn't make somebody poor/ And Mercy could no more be/ If all were as happy as we."

The Judge: It is now my duty to pass sentence. [long pause, as he stares straight ahead at the audience] The prisoner is sentenced to: [Looking at VG.] LIFE [The judge pounds the gavel very hard one more time, turns and exits.]

VG: Life! [Bewildered, he looks from side to side. Gradually all in the courtroom with the exception of SP and VG exit the stage, assembling themselves along the periphery of the auditorium in preparation for the final chorus. On extreme stage right, BB appears with the man in the violet robe, who holds a bottle in one hand and three shot glasses in the other. He beckons to VG, who walks over to him, bewildered. Handing VG one of the glasses, and BB another, he pours some schnapps into them, then pours some into the remaining glass, which he holds up with his right hand.]

AoD: L'Chaim!

BB: L'Chaim!

VG: [Holding up his glass and chuckling, still confused.] L'Chaim.

[All three drink, then exit together.]

[SP finds a cigar butt on the floor, takes a chair, seats himself, lights the cigar and begins to smoke it. This is now the only person left on stage.]

[The recording from the HUAC hearing immediately resumes as follows, with SP reacting to the sounds, looking around, trying to locate the speakers:]

The Chairman: Mr. McDowell do you have any questions?

Mr. McDowell: No; no questions.

The Chairman: Mr. Vail?

Mr. Vail: No questions.

The Chairman: Mr. Stripling do you have any questions?

Mr. Stripling: I would like to ask Mr. Brecht whether or not he wrote a poem, a song, rather, entitled "Forward, We've Not Forgotten."

Mr. McDowell: "Forward" what?

Mr. Stripling: "Forward We've Not Forgotten."

Mr. Brecht: I can't think of that. The English title may be the reason.

Mr. Stripling: Would you translate it for him into German?

Mr. Brecht: Oh, now I know; yes..

Mr. Stripling: You are familiar with the words to that?

Mr. Brecht: Yes.

Mr. Stripling: Would the committee like me to read that?

The Chairman: Yes; without objection, go ahead.

[As Stripling reads, various members of the chorus (now arranged on the periphery of the auditorium) gradually join in, singing the words along with him. This develops into a full blown rendition with instrumental accompaniment, which comes to a rousing climax at the end. The singers should sing with fervor, raising their right arms in the air, fists clenched, in the Socialist salute. While the chorus sings, SP, still on stage, should mime various marching actions, slinging the broom over his/her shoulder, sometimes being "sincere," sometimes mocking the words -- occasionally lip synching -- but never uttering a sound. The Times display should present each line of text as it is sung by the chorus.]

Mr. Stripling [reading]: Forward, we've not forgotten

Our strength in the fights we have won!

No matter what may threaten

Forward, not forgotten,

How strong we are as one!

Only these our hands now aching

Built the roads, the walls, the towers.

All the world is of our making.

What of it can we call ours?

Forward, march on to power

Through the city, the land, the world.

Forward, advance the hour!

Just whose city is the city?

Just whose world is the world?

Forward we've not forgotten

Our union in hunger and pain.

No matter what may threaten

Forward, not forgotten,

We have a world to gain.

We shall free the world of shadow

Every shop and every room

Every road and every meadow,

All the world will be our own.

Forward, march on to power

Through the city, the land, the world.

Forward, advance the hour!

Just whose city is the city?

Just whose world is the world?

[Just as the choral version of this text comes to its completion, SP raises hands to lips, vigorously signaling that the audience remain silent as the HUAC recording continues]

Mr. Stripling: Did you write that Mr. Brecht?

Mr. Brecht: No. I wrote a German poem, but that is very different from this thing. [laughter]

[Now SP takes a deep bow, then waves both hands, signaling the rest of the cast to take theirs. All walk onstage and take their bows, as the audience applauds.]