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Professor Edward Braun, 1936-2017

Emeritus Professor of Drama Edward Braun

3 May 2017

Edward Braun, Emeritus Professor of Drama, has died. Martin White, Emeritus Professor of Theatre, recalls the life and work of a close friend and colleague.

Ted Braun (as he was more usually known), who has died at the age of 81, was born in London and educated at the City of Bath boys' school.

During his national service with the RAF he learned Russian, and following a spell monitoring Soviet intelligence in Berlin won an undergraduate place at St John’s College, Cambridge. His BA was followed by doctoral research on the work of the Russian director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and included a year at the Leningrad State Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinema. The book that evolved from his research - Meyerhold on Theatre, a collection of Meyerhold’s writings, translated by Ted -- was published in 1969 and brought for the first time the radical ideas of this major figure of 20th century theatre to the attention of the English-speaking theatre. Its impact was tremendous, and it rapidly became the definitive study in Britain and the United States.

He followed this in 1979 with The Theatre of Meyerhold, the first major critical study of the director’s work to appear in English, which has never been out of print. Together, these ground-breaking books opened up a new area of study and provided the foundation for subsequent work by other scholars. In 1971, he was one of four experts who created the major Arts Council exhibition, Art in Revolution, which opened at the Hayward Gallery before touring to North America, Canada and Europe.

Ted’s interests stretched beyond Russian theatre. In 1973 he curated another Arts Council exhibition, Staging the Romans, which focused on Trevor Nunn’s Roman season for the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1982, he published The Director and the Stage, which has sold over 30,000 copies to date, and has become the standard work.

In 1969, Ted came to the Bristol Department of Drama as a Lecturer in modern European and British theatre, and in time expanded the curriculum to include women’s theatre and -- another enthusiasm -- television drama. In 1986, he was appointed to the Chair of Drama, also becoming Head of Department. He was a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher, supervisor and colleague, qualities that since his death have been underlined by the number of deeply affectionate memories sent by former students and staff. He retired in 1996.

Ted was engaged in a wide range of activities beyond the University: as an active supporter of the Standing Conference of Drama Departments (the national Subject Association); as the Chair of the 1989 Gulbenkian Enquiry into director training; as the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Bristol Old Vic; and as a long-standing member of the AUT and the Labour Party. He was a passionate lover of all things European, as well as cricket, opera, wine, cooking -- and a robust, good-natured argument.

In 1963 Ted met Sarah Brooke at a New Year’s Eve party and they married two years later. Together they created a home that always offered a convivial welcome and the certainty of great hospitality and lively conversation. Sarah survives him, as do their sons, Felix and Joe, and their three grandchildren.

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