Two Brechtian Women
By some hook or crook, on a dark and stormy night, when I was new to London, I found myself in a strange suburban flat at an even stranger party that I found pretty intimidating.
I can remember none of the details except my general uneasiness, which became specific when a pair of tough-looking German ladies of uncertain years from East Berlin got me into a corner, scaring me half to death with their grinding, gravelly baritone, broken English gospel of Bertolt Brecht.
They had that Bavarian swarthiness about them, skinny, muscular, dressed in working-class blacks and ready to make short work of me. I, poor bourgeois bastard that I was-- and sometimes still am-- who as yet knew all too little of the revolutionary Bert Brecht or of his politically and aesthetically explosive drama of and for the working class and world politics. Soon, I was to note, everyone in theatre circles was talking “Brecht”. And I got, as they say, with the program.
But right now, these ladies made it clear that if I cared anything at all about economic and social justice, to say nothing of art and culture In general, I would hie me back to the United States and carry the Gospel According to Brecht to every corner of the nation. I was being intellectually roughed-up. They made me feel almost childish in what I thought was my own commitment to a new theatre.
Those ladies were really something. I think they nailed me because I must have looked so pathetically vulnerable, a young (30) American who needed their proselytizing. And they did it to me-- in spades.
By the way: I took with me to London a favorite solid red tie, of the most gorgeous red worsted wool by Wembly. Wearing it one day, a friend at the League pulled me aside and said that in London only members of the “C P”. (the Communist Party) ever wear solid red ties. I needed to be warned.