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Life and career
The son of playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht and actress Helene Weigel, Stefan Brecht was born in Berlin. He chose to stay in the United States when his family, who had arrived in Santa Monica, California in 1941, returned to Europe. Brecht studied at UCLA and Harvard on the G.I. Bill, and after receiving a doctorate in philosophy at Harvard he taught philosophy at the University of Miami. He pursued further study of Hegel and Marx at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris. A son was born in Germany in 1954.
After moving to New York City in about 1966 with his wife, costume designer Mary McDonough Brecht (now deceased) and their two children born in Paris in the early 60's, he became immersed in the radical theatre just beginning then and started writing what he projected as a series of seven books, The Original Theatre of the City of New York: From the Mid-Sixties to the Mid-Seventies. Descriptions of performances by Jack Smith and Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, among others, formed the core of Queer Theatre (Suhrkamp, 1978). He performed with Ludlam and also with Robert Wilson in the 1960s and 1970s; The Theatre of Visions: Robert Wilson was published in 1978 (Suhrkamp) and is being translated into German in abridged version for publication in 2006. Peter Schumann's Bread and Puppet Theatre (Methuen, 1988) includes the early history of the theatre and describes in detail many performances and street parades of the 1960s and 1970s, with comments on Schumann's masks. A fourth book in this series, on the origins and early work of Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theater, is being prepared for publication in 2010.
A collection of poems, self-published in 1976, was picked up by Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights and appeared in their City Lights Pocket Poets Series in 1977 as Stefan Brecht: Poems. A small collection of poems in the German language, Gedichte, was published by Aufbau-Verlag in 1984.
8th Avenue Poems (Spuyten Duyvil, 2006) is a collection of poems written as he walked to and from the Chelsea Hotel, where he wrote, from the mid-1970s to 2001; his photographs of 8th Avenue pavements, taken to accompany the poems, appear as 8th Avenue, an artist's book from onestar press, Paris (2006).
Brecht was the US administrator of the estate of his father. At the time of his death he was married to Rena Gill, a longtime friend whose Victoria Falls clothing store was a 1970s landmark in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.
- The Theatre of Visions: Robert Wilson (1972)
- Stefan Brecht: Poems (1978)
- Queer Theatre (1982)
- Bread and Puppet Theatre (1987)
- 8th Avenue (2006) (Poems)
- Weber, Bruce. Stefan Brecht, Theater Historian, Is Dead at 84. (Obituary.) New York Times, April 22, 2009.
- Stefan Brecht website Stefan Brecht.