Recently PJ and I watched a documentary titled Theater of War, which is about The Public Theater’s 2006 production of Mother Courage and Her Children starring Meryl Streep. The stage production was directed by George C. Wolfe and was newly translated into English by Tony Kushner.

Here’s a clip about the production that I found on YouTube:

We had just received our Netflix for Wii and wanted to watch something just to try it out. Of course anything starring Streep was going to catch our eye, and we both love the theater and Bertolt Brecht’s work in particular. Theater of War turns out to be an excellent and engrossing documentary that covers a lot more than just this one production.

Here’s a taste of the documentary:

The documentary begins with a behind the scenes look at the production, but it also covers a lot more than just that. It also looks at Brecht himself and his biography. I actually knew very little about Brecht, so I found this part fascinating too. He and his family fled Germany when the Nazis were coming to power and beginning their pogroms against Jews. The filmmaker interviews Brecht’s daughter, who talks about her father as a person and his views on America after World War II. Brecht was also called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the documentary shows the masterful way in which he avoided talking about his political views (without getting into trouble).

As the above clip shows, it also interview Streep and other members of the production to see how and why they wanted to be a part of it. It was interesting to hear Streep talk about acting and what appealed to her about this play.

The documentary also delves into Mother Courage and Her Children as an anti-war play, looking at parallels between the work and its new political context, the Iraq and Afghani Wars.

Theater of War is an excellent documentary that teaches us a lot about Brecht, his play, and the theater more generally. It made me wish that I had seen the 2006 production too. I highly recommend it (on Netflix on Wii or not!)

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