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York's Brecht-Fest to feature several short plays by German playwright

David Hansen (left) and Katharine Bartosz rehearse their roles in Bertolt Brecht's "The Informer" in preparation for York Community High School's Brecht-Fest.
David Hansen (left) and Katharine Bartosz rehearse their roles in Bertolt Brecht's "The Informer" in preparation for York Community High School's Brecht-Fest.

ELMHURST – York Community High School students will showcase several of German playwright Bertolt Brecht's plays in Brecht-Fest, which is slated for performances Feb. 1 to 4.

Director John Forsythe, a math teacher at York, said he chose Brecht because of his influence on modern theater.

"Modern theater wouldn't be what it is without Brecht," he said.

Brecht introduced plays that involved common people and a "more political bent" than previous theatrical performances had, Forsythe said. Brecht's style also involved "Verfremdungseffekt," which "allows us to see things from another perspective" through turning the tables with the characters, he said.

In the first act, students will perform eight of Brecht's short plays – some of which are only about a minute in length – that he wrote early in World War II, prior to the United States' involvement. Forsythe said Brecht wanted to show what ordinary life was like within Nazi Germany. Stage directors will preview each of the plays individually by telling about Brecht's innovations in theater, he said.

The second act of the festival of performances is "The Wedding Party," which is a 40-minute farce that involves slapstick humor. Forsythe said a farce is a play "where everything that can go wrong does."

Carina Kanzler stars with Mike Bindeman in "The Jewish Wife," in which Kanzler delivers a 10-minute monologue about leaving her husband in light of anti-Semitism.

Kanzler said she read the script aloud from different perspectives and "pieced together what made the most sense." In a part where the woman is saying goodbye to her friend, she visualized what it would be like to say goodbye to her own friend, she added.

David Hansen, Olivia Rosenberg, Lucy Valeski and Katharine Bartosz will perform "The Informer," in which a husband and wife – played by Hansen and Bartosz, respectively – believe their daughter, played by Rosenberg, has informed the Hitler Youth of certain remarks they have made.

Rosenberg, a freshman, said this was her second play for York, and she was a little nervous when she started participating in theater, but she soon became comfortable.

"I felt like I fit right in and made a lot of close friends," she said.

Rosenberg said she has learned performing in a play is a lot more than just learning the lines of a script. It also includes focusing on the emotions and the personal history of the character.

She said she believes the message of "The Informer" is to avoid jumping to conclusions about other people.

Hansen and Bartosz said they had to focus on the details of their characters and make sure they coordinated the timing of their gestures since the cast for the play is small.

"It makes you work off your partner," Hansen said.

Bartosz said she added tics to her character to make the character more realistic, and she and Hansen practiced their performance during lunch at school.

"We're lucky to have a comedy scene, but even if it's a dramatic scene, I still have a lot of fun with the people I'm with," Hansen said.


If you go

WHAT: York Community High School's Brecht-Fest

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1, 2 and 3, and 2 p.m. Feb. 4

WHERE: York Community High School auditorium, 355 W. St. Charles Road, Elmhurst

COST: $10 for the public, free for York students


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