Mother Courage and Her Children - Performances

Performances

The play was originally produced at the Schauspielhaus Zürich, produced by Leopold Lindtberg in 1941. Music was written by Paul Dessau. The musicians were placed in view of the audience so that they could be seen, one of Brecht's many techniques in Epic Theatre. Therese Giehse, (a well-known actress at the time) took the title role.

The second production of Mother Courage took place in then East Berlin in 1949, with Brecht's (second) wife Helene Weigel, his main actress and later also director, as Mother Courage. This production would highly influence the formation of Brecht's company, the Berliner Ensemble, which would provide him a venue to direct many of his plays. Brecht died directing Galileo for the Ensemble. Brecht revised the play for this production in reaction to the reviews of the Zürich production, which empathized with the "heart-rending vitality of all maternal creatures." Even so, he wrote that the Berlin audience failed to see Mother Courage's crimes and participation in the war and focused on her suffering instead.

The next production (and second production in Germany), was directed by Brecht at the Munich Kammerspiele in 1950, with the original Mother Courage, Therese Giehse, with a set designed by Theo Otto (see photo, above.)

In Spanish, it was premiered in 1954 in Buenos Aires with Alejandra Boero and in 1958 in Montevideo with China Zorrilla.

In 1955, Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop gave the play its London première, with Littlewood performing the title role. In 1995/6, Diana Rigg was awarded an Evening Standard Theatre Award for her performance as Mother Courage, directed by Jonathan Kent, at the National Theatre.

From August to September 2006, Mother Courage and Her Children was produced by The Public Theatre in New York City with a new translation by playwright Tony Kushner. This production included new music by composer Jeanine Tesori and was directed by George C. Wolfe. Meryl Streep played Mother Courage with a supporting cast that included Kevin Kline and Austin Pendleton. This production was free to the public and played to full houses at the Public Theatre's Delacorte Theater in Central Park. It ran for four weeks.

This same Tony Kushner translation was performed in a new production at London's Royal National Theatre between September and December 2009, with Fiona Shaw in the title role, directed by Deborah Warner and with new songs performed live by Duke Special.

IN 1971 Joachim Tenschert directed a staging of Bertolt Brecht's original Berliner Ensemble production for the Melbourne Theatre Company. Hugh Colman supervised the original costume designs. The rigidity of Tenschert's direction caused some tension in the rehearsal room; however, it was a first-rate production by the time it opened at the Princess Theatre. Gloria Dawn played Mother Courage; Wendy Hughes, John Wood, Tony Llellwyn-Jones her children; Frank Thring the Chaplain; Frederick Parslow the cook; Jennifer Hagan played Yvette, and Peter Curtin. Roland Rocchiccioli was the stage manager and musical director for the Paul Dessau score. Tenschert – who was recognised as a world authority on the play, worked on the Brecht/Helene Weigal production in 1949 – considered Gloria Dawn the best Mother Courage after the German star.

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