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CFA’s Fringe Festival: not your average theatrical experience

Three weekends of performances begin today

The cast of Brecht on Brecht perform Song of the German Mother by Bertolt Brecht and Hans Eisler. Photo by Michael Nelson

Brecht on Brecht, a humorous, philosophical love letter to German playwright Bertolt Brecht, “is not a typical play,” says acting major Tim Spears (CFA’06). “It’s a different kind of acting experience — a collage of Brecht’s poetry, scenes, and songs. I get to play a variety of parts.”

The play is one of three productions in CFA’s ninth annual Fall Fringe Festival, which combines the artistic forces of the college’s Opera Institute and school of theatre. Brecht on Brecht will be performed on Friday, October 14, Saturday, October 15, both at 8 p.m., and Sunday, October 16, at 7 p.m. There will also be performances on October 21, 22, 27, and 29, (click here for the Fringe Festival’s complete list of performances and times) all in Studio 210 of the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), one of modern drama’s most influential figures, was called before the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. The enigmatic theatrical innovator testified that he was not a Communist.

Brecht on Brecht is the only full-length play in this year’s festival. The other two productions are one-act operas: The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken and Mahogany Songspiel, and the latter’s recently conceived companion piece, Youkali.

The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken, by Kurt Weill, with libretto by George Kaiser, is a rarely produced political comic opera full of intrigue, including an assassination plot. The tsar, whose nation is unspecified, visits a photography studio to have his portrait taken. The villain, posing as a photographer, hides a gun in a camera. The opera will be performed by singers from CFA’s Opera Institute and Opera Programs.

Mahogany Songspiel, by Brecht and Weill, isn’t a typical opera. In fact, the label often applied is “anti-opera.” The term “is certainly a way of provoking an audience’s awareness that what they consider to be ‘conventional’ is not going to be in play,” says stage director Jim Petosa, who directs CFA’s school of theatre. “The montage, nonlinear, and Brechtian formulations make the experience of Mahogany Songspiel unique. It enters into its world and its tribe of characters in a way that defies the grand opera story formulas that came before. In effect, it’s written and performed in general defiance of the 19th-century precepts. After all, it’s about artistic, cultural, and political revolution.”

All Fringe Festival tickets are $5. Members of the BU community can receive one free ticket (subject to availability) with BU ID at the door on the day of the performance. To order tickets, visit www.BostonTheatreScene.com or call 617-933-8600.