Irondale Ensemble Project Presents Classic Radio Drama of Brecht's MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN

Mother Courage and Her Children is Bertolt Brecht’s passionate and profound statement against war and a tribute to the indomitable survival of the individual.

By: Apr. 02, 2021
Irondale Ensemble Project Presents Classic Radio Drama of Brecht's MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN

Irondale will present a radio drama of Mother Courage and Her Children, April 15-May 1, as the third and final installment of their three-part Bertolt Brecht series Brecht in Exile. Following last winter's production of The Good Soul of Setzuan and their Winter 2019 production of The Life of Galileo, the ensemble, physically exiled from their theater space for a year, continue to honor and explore Brecht's commitment to bring together both art and politics in a play that continues to speak to audiences at any moment in history.

Widely considered one of the great dramatic creations of the Modern Stage, Mother Courage and Her Children is Bertolt Brecht's passionate and profound statement against war and, at the same time a tribute to the indomitable survival of the individual. Set in the seventeenth century, the play follows Anna Fierling, nicknamed "Mother Courage," an itinerant trader, as she pulls her wagon of wares and her children through the blood and carnage of Europe's religious wars. Battered by hardships and brutality, the worldly-wise "Mother Courage" seeks her fortune selling goods to the soldiers. But the war exacts a price- as war always does- and Mother Courage's soaring profits come at the price of searing loss. Through the degradation and death of her children, she ultimately finds herself alone with the one thing in which she truly believes-her crumbling wagon with its tattered flag and freight of boots and brandy. Fitting herself in its harness, the old woman manages, with the last of her strength, to drag it onward to the next battle. In the enduring figure of Mother Courage, Bertolt Brecht has created one of the most extraordinary characters in literature, housing a strong sense of self-preservation and impressive flexibility of character going through everything a human can endure.

Committed to completing this timely trilogy never before presented as an interlocking cycle, the Irondale ensemble will present the work as their first radio drama, employing a cast of 5 playing more than 29 roles. Before Brecht fled Berlin in 1932, his last production there was a radio version of his play Saint Joan of the Stockyards, as he had a specific appreciation of how radio had the ability to reach out to listeners on a one-to-one basis and to actively engage them as if the speaker were there in the room speaking only to them. Additionally, Brecht's script, in John Willet's translation has been reconceived and adapted for radio by Irondale's Artistic Director, Jim Niesen. Rather than putting a microphone in front of actors acting out a staged version, the insertion of a narrator speaking intimately to the listener turns the events over many years' time into bedtime stories. The characters and the plot move nimbly between the heavy implications of war and greed to musical interludes that celebrate the influence of vaudeville, German comedy and the American Screwball films of the 1930 and 40's.

"Our Initial workshop version of this epic project was a collaboration centered on a reunion of long-term Irondale company actors with between them ninety plus years of years working together to create a shared artistic bond and vision," explains Niesen. "We've faced a lot of challenges over the last year, and while art doesn't solve, it does provoke, stimulate, arouse and best of all entertains-- making you take a good look at what's around you," he continues. "Like a play of Shakespeare, we can only scoop out enough of this masterpiece to prepare one meal at a time. This is our meal right now, and we get back to the theater we'll serve it up in a different way. As an ensemble, we learned that the radio version of Mother Courage is not a poor substitute for live performance but is an exciting adventure into a very New Medium which serves much the same goals that we are trying to accomplish with our live, fully staged plays."


Mother Courage will be available for listeners from April 15 through May 1.


Access to steam is $20 and available at

Ticket holders will have access for 48 hours following their purchase. It is recommended that the 3-act play be streamed in one sitting, but listeners can also stream it in segments, at their leisure, during the access period.