It’s 1949. You are sitting in the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, watching the Berliner Ensemble present Mother Courage and Her Children when you notice the most horrifying stench. You ask around and find out that it was the hat worn by Soldier Number 2. Brecht wanted it to stink like war, and it did. To intensify the experience, they never washed it, neither in rehearsal nor during performance. Walking out, you think to yourself: At least I’ll never have to smell anything like that again.
Pulling off the hat trick
Surprise! That very hat is back, and it still hasn’t been washed. A few years ago, the driving artistic force behind Sister Sylvester, Kathryn Hamilton, got a tip from a tipsy technician at the Berliner Ensemble about the hat’s existence and the fact that it was still in its original condition.
Liberating it, she brought it to Genspace, a community biolab in Brooklyn, and verified that there was still DNA from the original members of the Berliner Ensemble on the hat. Unsure what to do with this finding, but possessed of an interest in science and technology, Hamilton began to read about Brecht, and discovered that he wanted his theatre to be a “science experiment for the scientific age.”
Using this as foundation, Sister Sylvester created Brecht Forensics as a performance lecture based on DNA extracted from the hat. In addition, the piece will feature genetically modified actors who are part human, part jellyfish, and part bacteria.
Mystery science theater
Unlike Brecht, Hamilton prefers freshness in her work, and therefore the performances will be showings of what was developed with Bryn Mawr arts and biology students over the last week. If you have ever wondered what it would have been like to live in Berlin in 1949 or wanted to be a member of Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble, this is your chance, as part of the evening will be a cocktail featuring the DNA found on the hat as an ingredient.
What, When, Where:
Sister Sylvester presents Brecht Forensics: Genetically Modified Theater at Bryn Mawr College, Hepburn Teaching Theater, Goodhart Hall. 150 North Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 at 8pm. Go online or call (610) 526-5300 for tickets.
Both Goodhart Hall and the Hepburn Theater are wheelchair accessible. For people with disability parking placards, there is a small number of accessible parking spots on the right side of Old Library. If you have special needs or accommodations due to your disability, contact the Arts Office at (610) 526-5300. If the office is not staffed, call campus safety at (610) 526-7911.
If you do not have a disability parking placard or if all spots are taken, please note that the nearest parking lots are 5-10 minutes away, at either the Gateway Building, 801 Yarrow Street or the Campus Center, 816 New Gulph Road.