Dr Korczak Staging the play

Dr Korczak ‘s
Staging the play
“Dr Korczak’s example” is influenced by the ideas and style of
Bertolt Brecht (picture moving lips!)
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was a German writer and director.
Brecht wanted to use theatre to try and make audiences think about
political and moral issues. He did not want the audiences to identify
emotionally with the characters and actions but he wanted them to
watch a play and judge the characters actions and motives with
their minds. Brecht believed this way that a spectator could make a
more rational decision on the ideas and themes. Brecht introduced a
number of distancing techniques to help the spectator realise they
were watching a play.
These included.
 A Brightly lit theatre and stage. No lighting effects.
 Use of placards at the beginning of scenes to indicate location,
mood or theme of the scene.
 Using a narrator to set the scene or to move story forward in
 The set should suggest location rather than be realistic.
 Music was key in helping to establish mood and atmosphere.
Brecht wanted the musicians to be an integral part of the
performance and would place them on the stage.
 Actors would multi-role the different characters within the
play, using costume to suggest a character.
Keep your distance
David Greig uses lots of “Distancing Techniques” in Dr Korczaks
Use this activity to help you understanding why and where they are
The style of the play will have a huge effect on how a director/
designer decides to stage it.
When the Royal Exchange Manchester staged the play, the director
Amy Leach commented:
“One of the things I liked most about the play was how much
space David Greig left for the individual director and Creative
Director to use their own imaginations and to play. So it was
important that the first weeks of rehearsals included
exercises which encouraged playing and exploration.”
The emphasis in that production was minimalism. The play was
staged in the round with the audience on both sides. The furniture
was made up out of 1940’s style suitcases. A greatcoat on a hanger
suggests the ever-present German guard, while assorted pairs of
shoes stand in for some of the 200 children in the orphanage.
Gwent Theatre Company also used suitcases in their production.
The reviewer, Nia Liversuch, commented :
“By far the most the moving and interesting piece of imagery in the
play was the use of suitcases to represent the children. The
suitcases represented many things at one time- the rootless life of
an orphan and the few possessions that the Jewish people were
allowed in the ghetto- but the absence of children from the play
suggested that the Jewish people were simply numbers to Hitler and
the Nazis. However, the suitcases became extremely relevant when
they were transformed from an object used to carry belongings,
into tiny coffins at the end of the play. An emotive and thoughtprovoking moment.”
Using the ideas above think of some of the different ways you could
portray the children.
Proscenium, Arch or In the Round?
One of the most difficult decisions a director and designer has to
make is whether to stage a play on a proscenium arch stage or
whether it would be more effective in the round, There are Pros and
Cons for each space.
Most productions of Dr Ko.
Example has taken place in the round.
 This kind of staging allows for a more immediate proximity of
the actors and audience.
 Movement can be more natural rather than static.
 Ideal space for fast moving productions with lots of different
 Because the audience are so close and surrounds the action,
attention to detail in set, costume and scenery is important.
 The size of furniture must be considered so as to not block
sight lines.
 Scenes cannot be static for too long as some sections of the
audience are left looking at the actors back!!
 Designs are usually symbolic and minimalist
What shall we use for scenery?
When we are designing for a production in the round we have to
use our imaginations.
 Floor cloths- These allow you to create symbolic or realistic
images e.g. In a production of Dr K the floor cloth could
represent cold grey stone to represent both the street of
the Ghetto and the orphanage or it show black and white
photos of the children’s parents symbolically showing what
they had lost.
 Hanging scenery – A designer will usually use the space
above the actors to create some sort of impact. E.g. A
swastika to indicate the ever-present threat from the Nazis
or a screen with the rights that Dr Korczak believed every
child should have.
 Actual furniture or a more imaginative alternative like the
suitcases in the Royal Exchanges that created the desk and
can move and be adapted as your production moves.
Use the following activities to help you think how to stage the
play and what to use.
Exercise one
For this activity you will need sheets of paper, some simple
but suitable props e.g. cardboard boxes, suitcases, shoes,
flower pots, music.
On a large sheet of paper, write a list of all the different
locations featured in the play e.g. The playground, orphanage
canteen Dr K office etc.
Once the list is complete stand in silence and listens to the
following music. After a minute or so choose a prop and place
it to create the first location on the list.
EG The playground A small white football is placed in the
centre, two open suitcases are used either side to create the
goals, pairs of shoes create the presence of the goalies
Use your ideas to help you create imaginative but a minimalist
Look at the following scenes from the play
Scene 1 in the playground,
Scene 16 As Stephanie and Adzio are walking through the
streets of the Ghetto
Scene 18 when Adzio and Stephanie meet the priest
Scene 24 and 25 in the orphanage.
Think of some ideas of how these scenes could be staged In
the Round?
Draw a ground plan; don’t forget to label the entrances and
exits and audience position. Think about where you are going
to position the set, what colours you are going to use and the
type of atmosphere you are trying to create.
Different styles of Acting Area
Although the play has been staged in theatre in the round,
you could think about using other types of Acting areas
Proscenium Arch: The backdrop could show an image of the
Warsaw Ghetto and the use of levels could create the different
Traverse: Would create the intimacy between actor and
audience. Particularly effective for scenes of confrontation e.g.
the court scene and well suited to dynamic fast paced action.
Like theatre in the round your set would need to be
(Would it be possible to have diagrams of the different stages
inserted here)?