Piscator, Erwin [key], 1893–1966, German theatrical director and producer who, with Bertolt Brecht, was the foremost exponent of epic theater, a genre that emphasizes the sociopolitical context rather than the emotional content or aesthetics of the play. He worked experimentally in Berlin after 1919. As director of the Volksbühne (1924–27), and later at his own theater (on Nollendorfplatz), he produced social and political plays especially suited to his theories. His dramatic aims were utilitarian—to influence voters or clarify Communist policies. He used mechanized sets, lectures, movies, and mechanical devices that appealed to his audiences. In 1927 he produced a notable adaptation of a Czech novel (tr. The Good Soldier Schweik). Piscator went to the United States in 1939 and became director of the Dramatic Workshop and the Studio Theater, which he founded in New York City. He returned to Germany c.1958; he was appointed manager and director of the Volksbühne in West Berlin and received honors from the West German government for his contribution to the arts. His influence on European and American production methods was extensive.
See C. D. Innes, Erwin Piscator's Political Theatre (1974).
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