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21 July 2016

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Brecht Symposium a Triumph

The 15th International Brecht Society Symposium at St Hugh’s College was a resounding success.

In late June, the College welcomed the 15th International Brecht Society Symposium to St Hugh’s. This was the first time that the symposium had been held in the UK. The society, which was founded in 1970, were this year focusing on the theme of Recycling Brecht, exploring the ideas of both Brecht as a recycler of ideas and the ways in which his work has been re-imagined.

Dr Tom Kuhn, Tutorial Fellow in German at St Hugh’s, leads the Writing Brecht project, an international research and translation undertaking that focuses on expanding the body of Brecht’s work that has been translated into English. The opening of the symposium saw Dr Kuhn in discussion with Pulitzer-prize winning dramatist and translator, Tony Kushner, in the first of the keynote addresses.

It proved a wide ranging talk principally focused around Mr Kushner’s interest in the poet and playwright. Perhaps most famously, Kushner’s translation of Mother Courage that ran on Broadway, New York in 2006 saw Meryl Streep in the starring role. In their talk, Mr Kushner and Dr Kuhn discussed topics as varied as the difficulty in relating to Brecht’s working practices, through to examples of how some productions and reviews had failed to grasp the themes and complexities at times.

The talk was the first keynote address of the symposium and took place at Oxford’s North Wall Arts Centre. You can view the full talk by clicking on the image below. The Symposium saw some 150 academics and scholars in attendance at the 5-day event with a broad programme of events, both cultural and academic.

Immediately following the discussion came a performance of a new translation by Dr Kuhn of Fatzer: Downfall of an Egoist. Brecht’s unfinished play had to be drawn together and reconstituted from multiple fragments and is the first time that the play has been performed in English. The unfinished play follows four deserters from the First World War battlefields. They make their way back behind friendly lines and attempt to eke out a life underground. But tensions – and the struggle between egoism and collective action – soon take over.

Video link to: Brecht - Tony Kushner & Dr Tom Kuhn in conversation
Click on the image to watch the video of the first keynote talk of the Symposium between Tony Kushner and Dr Tom Kuhn

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