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Berea Presents ''Mother Courage and Her Children''

Opening its 2006-2007 season at the McGaw Theatre, the Berea College Theatre Laboratory presented the politically charged play Mother Courage and Her Children, written by Bertolt Brecht. Starting October 13, the play, written by Brecht while in exile during the World War II, told the story of Mother Courage, a strong and resilient woman who leads her wagon and three children through the turbulent 30 Years War as she tried to make a living by selling goods.

The performance of Mother Courage and Her Children

Known widely for his strong political views against capitalism, Brecht’s Mother Courage, played by Sarah Griffin, served as a representation of capitalism’s resilience and its inevitable downfall. Pushing through the long war, Courage paid the ultimate price with the loss of her children. Broken by the war, she faded away off stage. Brecht utilized song and situational irony to convey the affects of war on the lives of his characters.

During his 1949 premier in Germany, Brecht explained what he was truly trying to convey in his play by saying that“in the wartime the big profits are not made by little people. That war, which is a continuation of business by other means, makes the human virtues fatal even to their possessors. That no sacrifice is too great for struggles against war.”

“For me, personally,” states director Deborah Martin, “The play wrestles with the question about the value of human life, and if that sacrifice it too great.”

An ensemble of twenty students formed the play’s main cast. Features and lighting were designed by Shan Ayers and costumes designed by Mary Ann Shupe. In addition to the main cast, an improvisational troupe of five Berea students provided satirical skits between selected scenes. Utilizing the modern war in Iraq, the troupe voiced the opinions of Americans. Through the assistance of the Second City improvisational troupe members, Clay Goodpasture ’03 and Mckenzie Condon, the troupe constructed its own skits.

“I think for the first time at Berea I saw a representation of what people truly think about the war in Iraq,” said Dee Sanders, a sophomore. By uniting the past with the present, Martin created a more contemporary view of the play for a younger audience.

Brecht is also known for his unique set design. He abstained from using a fourth wall or backdrop, an intentional maneuver to remind the viewer that they were indeed in a theatre. Audience members were allowed to see the actors and stage props off stage. “He wanted patrons to focus more on the message of the play, that they were indeed sitting and observing a play,” explained Brandi Wager, a sophomore performer in the improvisation troupe.

Brecht’s vision, although politically motivated, offered a historical and compelling look at the affects of war on human life and its destructive qualities.

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