In 1939, on the eve of the Nazi Holocaust, the great German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote Mother Courage and Her Children. For the setting of his play, he chose the Thirty Years' War, the senseless 17th century European conflict that pitted Protestants against Catholics and laid waste to whole lands and peoples. Spanning the years 1618-1648, it was the most destructive war in European history until modern times. It was a war which seemingly no one wanted but which no one could stop once it had gained its brutal momentum. The play came too late to be of consequence in World War Two, but it has played to great effect on the world stage ever since, becoming Brecht's most popular work after The Threepenny Opera. Mother Courage herself has become a theatre archetype of the indomitable, irrepressible human spirit.
For all its epic scope--rolling through Sweden, Poland, Saxony, Bavaria and Alsace--the play is an intensely personal journey. It centers on a woman, Mother...