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(1898-1956) German dramatist and poet, one of the most influential figures in 20th-century theater. A committed Marxist, he sought to develop an “epic theater” which aimed to destroy the “suspension of disbelief” usual in the theater and so encourage audiences to develop an active and critical attitude to a play’s subject. He adapted John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera as Die Dreigroschenoper/The Threepenny Opera 1928, set to music by Kurt Weill. Later plays include Mutter Courage/Mother Courage 194l, set during the Thirty Years’ War, and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis/The Caucasian Chalk Circle 1949. He established the Berliner Ensemble theater group in East Germany 1949, and in the same year published A Short Organum for the Theatre, a concise expression of his theatrical philosophy.
As an anti-Nazi, he left Germany 1933 for Scandinavia and the US; he became an Austrian citizen after World War II. His other works include Galileo 1938, Der gute Mensch von Setzuan/The Good Woman of Setzuan 1943, and Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg der Arturo Ui/The Preventable Rise of Arturo Ui 1958.