Oskar Eustis is the creative director of the Public Theatre that put on Bertolt Brecht’s play Mother Courage and Her Children in the summer of 2006, translated by Tony Kushner and starring Meryl Streep. John Walter is a director that made the film Theatre of War documenting the production of the play that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday.
We thought this would be a good opportunity to ask whether the presence of film crews at typically private rehearsals bothered the shaggy-haired and bearded Mr. Eustis.
“The process of making theatre is a little bit like sausage, sometimes you don’t want to look too closely at the particles,” he said. “But we had Meryl at the head of the cast, who is totally not a Diva–she was pulling that cart around Central Park in 100 degree heat and never complained. And you better believe that if Meryl Streep didn’t complain, no one else in the cast did either.”
Mr. Walter seemed equally enchanted by the actress. “It’s interesting because at first it’s Meryl Streep working—she goes to work and prepares for a role—and then mysteriously you find that you stepped over this line and you’re suddenly watching Mother Courage,” Mr. Walter told the Observer.
The two men might agree about Ms. Streep’s talents, but on Marxism—an underlying theme of the play—not so much.
“I would describe myself as a recovering Marxist,” said Mr. Eustis. “What that means is that an awful lot of things about socialism have proven to have more disastrous results than Marx thought, but that doesn’t mean that the alternative is working.”
“I’m making a film about Brecht who was a Marxist, but I am not myself a Marxist,” Mr. Walter said. “I’m just telling the story of people putting on this play and the reasons they are putting it on are self-evident,” he said. “I think it was Mark Twain that said history may not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” he added, giving a nod to the play’s anti-war and anti-capitalistic message.
But Mr. Eustis pointed out that in the decision to stage this play now, the rhyme was obviously intentional, given the current war in Iraq.
“It was the whole point!” he said.