Bertolt_BrechtEugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and director now regarded as one of the most influential theater talents of the 20th century.

Although he occasionally claimed that he came fro a peasant family, Brecht was raised in a comfortable middle-class household by a Protestant mother and a Catholic father. He avoided WWI by studying medicine at Munich University, and began publishing newspaper articles in 1916. Soon thereafter he began writing plays, the second of which, Drums in the Night (1919) earned the praise of local critics and established him as a talent in the theater community. 

It was during this next phase of his creative journey that Brecht developed the two elements that would eventually define his work: his concept of the theater collective, and his interest in the writings of Karl Marx. 

During the inter-war years, Brecht began a series of creative collaborations with various writers and artists including Leon Feuchtwanger, Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill, and Helen Weigel. These collaborations produced some of Brecht's best-known works, including Edward II (1924), The Threepenny Opera (1928), and Man Equals Man (1926).

It was during the production of Man Equals Man that Brecht began studying the writings of Marx and even noted in his diary, "When I read Marx's Capital I understood my plays." Although he never joined the Communist Party, he remained committed to its philosophies for the rest of his life.

By 1933, the rise of the Nazism forced Brecht to flee Germany. He spent the next eight years in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland until finally arriving in the U.S. in 1941. He settled in Santa Monica, California. These years saw Brecht create some of his most famous plays (Galileo, Mother Courage and Her Children, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich) and even a few screenplays for Hollywood movies such as Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die, about the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich-- the Nazi Governor of German-occupied Prague, and a key architect of the Holocaust.

Eventually, Brecht’s Communist ideals led to his blacklisting in the movie industry and a hearing in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Brecht left the day after his appearance before the committee, returning to East Berlin, where he would live the remainder of his days.

He died of a heart attack in 1956.