Sparing Bertolt Brecht from liberal bowdlerization is one of my life’s more minor sidequests, but one I hold dear since I think it’s ahistorical and shortsighted of what I still hope is the American theater’s emergent left to ignore our forefather because he was a bit of a whore and a plagiarist. And as Frederic Jameson starts Brecht and Method: “Brecht would have been delighted… at an argument not for his greatness, or his canonicity, not even for a new and unexpected value of posterity, as rather for his usefulness,”1 just as we argue for and against the utility of Marx or even Stalin.
Until recently, my Brecht background was just a scooch beyond the lone V-effect PowerPoint slide the average theater undergrad gets in a history survey course, in that I dramaturged a Brecht and a Churchill in consecutive academic seasons, but I sure was 19 during the 2016 election, so you might understand how I fell short. Now I seriously question how theater higher ed teaches Brecht at even the ever-receding doctoral level, nevermind MFAs, because I can’t imagine a better introduction to historical materialism for artists than his later writings on the epic theater. Late like, the midcentury, fuck “On Chinese Acting” for a lot of reasons. And I believe the American theater would not be this soulless if Brecht was given his due in our training, but I guess the current generation of artistic leaders was in school during the Cold War.
Per the love of my life, AstroDataBank, Brecht was born at 4:30 a.m., Feb. 10, 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria, rock solid data from his birth certificate. This makes him a Sagittarius rising, so I’ll start by talking about Jupiter. If I were reading for him as a client I would be so frickin jazzed because he has 3 sets of conjunctions, which cuts down my work So Much.
His Jupiter ♃ is conjunct the Moon ☽ in Libra ♎︎ and his 11th house, and by virtue of where Pisces ♓︎ falls, it rules both his 1st and 4th houses. For comparison, Taylor Swift also has a Moon-Jupiter conjunction, hers being in Cancer. If ever I were to teach an astrology workshop, I would absolutely bring these two charts in. While Taylor’s conjunction is ultra dignified by sign (the Moon rules Cancer, Cancer exalts Jupiter), Brecht’s Jupiter sits in the house where it joys.
The 11th house is the realm of groups and community, from the micro level of friends and colleagues to the macro of nation, society, humanity. Astrologers often ascribe it to membership orgs like unions, and in Brecht’s case we can look at the ensembles he worked with, from being a resident dramaturg in his youth to founding the Berliner Ensemble. So it makes sense that Jupiter, whose nature is giving and optimistic, belongs here.
What the Moon brings to this arrangement is something much smaller and more intimate than Jupiter. “The theatre of the scientific age is in a position to make dialectics into a source of enjoyment,”2 is the most Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Libra and the 11th house thing I can think of, and very beautiful to me. Emotion is lunar, the Moon as light-borrower reacting to the world, and for Brecht to describe filtering experience through reason as fun is some air sign nerd shit, ending on a wonderfully humanist 11th house note:
…The unexpectedness of logically progressive or zigzag development, the instability of every circumstance, the joke of contradiction and so forth: all these are ways of enjoying the liveliness of men, things and processes, and they heighten both our capacity for life and our pleasure in it. Every art contributes to the greatest art of all, the art of living.
Later in this text he quotes Lenin on the unity of opposites, and what is that if not Libra? What are dialectics if not a scale? I think Brecht would call the more facile descriptors of Libra as “seeking harmony” as a bourgeois need for resolution, but Libra as I know it vibrates with tension, and a scale is no static thing.
That said, Jupiter loves neither an air or a cardinal sign, which Libra is both. Libra can really only focus on one contradiction at a time, certainly from the distance and with the broad scope that Jupiter favors. But its status as a cardinal sign, the initiator who picks a single direction and sticks with it, stifles Jupiter’s tendency toward excess, and its Sagittarian/Piscean need to keep every option open. Look at his vast body of work, and the vast array of women around him and said work, and the vast expanse of earth he crossed in exile. I could go on about his 4th house some more, but it rules home: your physical house, your family and ancestors, your homeland. These countries’ figurative doors closed behind him. His movement, especially to Hollywood, was forced by depriving him possibility. And the same could be said of his conga line of neglected, abused, and overlapping romantic partners-slash-collaborators.
Brecht being born hours to sunrise makes the Moon his sect light, which I can grossly oversimplify as its significance relative to the Sun is a bit more potent than if he were born in the day. What makes his Sun ☉ interesting is it conjoins Venus ♀ within 2°. They’re in Aquarius ♒︎ and his 3rd house, so much like the Moon and Jupiter, we have a luminary and benefic sharing an air sign. But conjunctions with the sun get specific on a math level, and Brecht’s Venus is combust.
What the hell does that mean? Keep in mind Venus is a morning star, which we lose sight of as the sun rises. Being that close to the Sun in a birth chart more or less blots Venus out. Venus, despite being Brecht’s sect benefic, has less power to support the houses it rules: the 6th house and our old friend the 11th. Add that the Sun is detrimented in Aquarius, and I’ll quote astrolger Cam White: Aquarius is more Leo than Leo. The Sun flung across the sky from its domicile performs even more to feel seen, any nearby planets be damned. I think this is where we can find any accusations of Brecht having a massive fucking ego. Sociable as Jupiter may make him, it’s in a house ruled by combusted Venus. He stands apart as an individual, shining so loud and bright we forget how much he worked in community.
For contrast, let me cite Phoebe Bridgers’ unaspected Venus, because isolation is not dissimilar to combustion. Venus rules her 3rd and 8th houses while Brecht’s Venus is in his 3rd. The 3rd house is by nature daily and mundane, dealing with habits like daily commute, and continuous work like writing. Writing! So for both of them, Venus’ symbolism of connection and creation is verbose, and generative, relating to people by working togethe. Phoebe has an affinity for Venusian collaborators (just oodles of Tauruses), but names her people and openly claims discomfort with writing alone, all throughout her virtual Punisher press tour. She works in deep collaboration and worries about dependency. Brecht can easily be read as that fear’s worst externalization, either straight up stealing or more charitably, being evasive about how much said partners contributed to the work. I’m most familiar with Elisabeth Hauptmann’s *sub**stan**tial* role in writing The Threepenny Opera and Happy End, both Kurt Weill cocreations, but it’s a pattern with all his mistress-collaborators.
If this wasn’t over a thousand words, I’d hit his Mercury-Mars conjunction (quick reading: Mercury-Mars as polemicist denied the 2nd house comforts of stable income), and his firmly 11th house midheaven, but I’ll end with Saturn. Saturn ♄ is a mere 6° behind his ascendant in Sagittarius. In a night chart, Saturn is the worse malefic, and any planet in the 1st house is considered rising—in some ways, fighting with the asendant ruler (Jupiter) to assert itself. It’s a real unfortunate trait that again, he shares with Phoebe Bridgers? It’s like try as he might, or if he does nothing at all, he leads with and is remembered for his worst qualities. I see it for Phoebe with polarized, yes very Taylor Swift-ish reactions to her success.
For Brecht, Saturn rules his 2nd and 3rd houses. He was an asshole, but yes, a useful one. Saturn as ruler of Capricorn and Aquarius, forbidding nature and daddy issues aside, builds structure. Rules and theory give us a foundation. And for my last comparison: Marx was an Aquarius rising, also with an 11th house midheaven.
tl/dr; I love Brecht. We are both Jupiter-ruled with air benefics, and we have the same villain orgin story of being spared high school expulsion by a chill priest. And you should grab Brecht on Theatre for free over here.
Some news from me:
I’m part of the Ashland New Plays Festival New Voices Emerging Playwrights Retreat! I’ll be working on my gender dysphoria anti-imperialist opera séance I’ve vaguetweeted about. The lamest way I can describe it right now is Master Class meets untitled fuck Miss Saigon play.
I was a finalist for the Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theater and Artists at Play’s Emerging Playwright Commission! I heard recipient Ankita Raturi’s audio play Backwaters a few weeks ago and highly, highly recommend. It’s on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, et al.
In September I will be going to god grad school. It’s the MA Theology and the Arts program at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. I’m almost completely certain my thesis will be pasyon play, whose barest wisp of a first act is up on New Play Exchange.
My current passion is cold soups, namely zaru soba and naengmyeon, so if anyone has any recipe recs for some *hwhiter* cold soups, lmk.
You can book a sliding scale birth chart reading with me here, from $66–100. I’m donating three readings to my dear friend Alex’s facial feminization surgery, which you can also donate to directly at the GoFundMe link!
I *barely* edited this letter but just wanna say hi! I am back. Ish. Absolutely no promises of regularity. If you liked this you can slide me some yarn money at paypal.me/kdlrose or @kdlrose on Venmo, or I enabled a Subsack paid tier, where I last published even more about Phoebe Bridgers.
Jameson, Frederic, Brecht and Method.
Brecht, Bertolt and John Willett, “Appendices to the Short Organum,” Brecht on Theatre.