Bertolt Brecht's musical survival guide for oppression and tyranny as told through Schweyk and his hilarious travels throughout Europe and Russia: stealing and reselling dogs for the Gestapo, singing songs with a local bar maid and her crowd of rejects, and an unforgettable meeting with a vaudevillian puppet, Herr Hitler himself!
Note from the Director:
Schweyk in the Second World War by Bertolt Brecht will be a Chicago PREMIERE. I'm very excited about this little known play and proud that our passion for theatrical theater has allowed us to uncover it.
Brecht intended Schweyk to be a romantic comedy musical for Broadway. The play was commissioned while he was living in California, exiled from Germany. After contract fights with his long-time composer, Kurt Weil, Brecht decided to scrap the project even though the book was completed. The play was never produced during his life-time.
What's it about?
Picture a Bohemian pub in WWII occupied Czechoslovakia, where only the misfits, idiots, and cowards incapable of war remain. Here, these lowly men (liken to Dorothy and her friends in The Wizard of Oz) must tolerate the drunken Fascist Nazis who walk amongst them. One man, an "idiot" in the Shakespearian sense, dares to speak the truth (of sorts) to the occupiers. This is Schweyk, a dog-catcher who finds himself arrested, conscripted into the Nazi army, and wandering lost in Russia until he stumbles upon Hitler (a puppet vaudevillian character).
Meanwhile in the bar, our cast of broken characters struggle with love, lust, and fear of the day they too will snap and start talking. It's a play of small men with big hearts living as themselves, even when it's forbidden.
Did we mention Hitler is a puppet?
This play is a lovely comedic rose with lots of heart and color, but also with dangerous thorns attacking militarism, occupying forces, and national pride. "Schweyk" is an anti-war guide for the common man.
If it's so good, why hasn't it been done?
There was no music for the original production, and we weren't impressed with subsequent efforts. Red Theater has comissioned Chicago talents Nicholas Davio and Mike Evans to produce a Gypsy folk and Czech polka score with heart, culture, and charm. Brecht's lyrics are beautiful and smart, and these emotion-filled genres meet them in perfect balance to bring new life to a people and their history.
So, an unproduced audience-friendly Brecht with original music and the Red Theater aesthetic: Let's make it happen!
-Aaron Sawyer, Director