Erwin Piscator and the Dramatic Workshop
In 1920s Berlin, Erwin Piscator developed bold new theatrical methods to transmit political messages. Celebrated for innovating the epic theatre style, he employed expansive visual imagery and theatrical machinery to magnify the clash of social forces in revolutionary times in order to appeal strongly to the German working class. He used films and newsreels and many optical, acoustical, and mechanical devices, such as loudspeakers, flashing lights, sirens, and revolving sets, to amplify the immediacy of events and grip the audience.
Piscator ventured away from Germany during the Nazi era, directing his only film in Russia in 1934, Vostaniye rybakov (The Revolt of the Fishermen). In Paris in 1936, Piscator met and married Maria Ley, an Austrian Jewish dancer and actress studying literature at the Sorbonne. Fleeing Hitler's SS, they moved to Manhattan in 1939, founding the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. Piscator headed the Dramatic Workshop until 1951, when he left the United States due to political pressure during the McCarthy era. Many Dramatic Workshop students went on to become stars of theater and film, including Beatrice Arthur, Shelley Winters, Rod Steiger, Marlon Brando, Elaine Stritch, Tony Curtis, Tony Randall, Maureen Stapleton, and Harry Belafonte. Speakers hosted by the Dramatic Workshop included Paul Muni, Sinclair Lewis, Paul Robeson, and Bertolt Brecht.
The Erwin Piscator Vertical File Manuscript, 1915-1918, 1914, 1916, contains cards and letters written by Piscator to Svend Noldan during his military duty in World War I from 1915 to 1918, negatives of Piscator's apartment in 1914, and a photograph from the front lines dated April 26, 1916.
Piscator, Erwin. 1970. Political theatre, 1920-1966. [London]: [Arts Council of Great Britain].
Piscator, Erwin, and Hugh Rorrison. 1978. The political theatre. New York: Avon Books.
Willett, John. 1979. The theatre of Erwin Piscator. New York: Holmes & Meier.
Connelly, Stacey Jones. 1991. Forgotten debts: Erwin Piscator and the epic theatre.
Probst, Gerhard F. 1991. Erwin Piscator and the American theatre. New York: P. Lang.
Malina, Judith. 2012. The Piscator notebook. London: Routledge.