A young writer procures a copy of a 16th century British play, fascinating in its sharp social satire and timeliness. She translates the material herself and begins a modern German adaptation. As she works, she shares her script with her lover and regular collaborator - a charismatic, up-and-coming playwright and director. He shows scant interest until, sensing its commercial potential, he commandeers the project, hires a composer, and takes control of the contracts. Though the bulk of the writing is hers, she comes to be known as the translator - at best - or his secretary. When the show becomes a success, the credit and most of the money goes to him. The woman's name was Elisabeth Hauptmann. The man - Bertolt Brecht. The play was The Threepenny Opera.
Set against the ominous backdrop of rising Nazi Germany, The Pawnbroker tells the powerful and complex stories of Elisabeth Hauptmann, Marianne Zoff, Helene Weigel, Margarete Steffin, and Ruth Berlau - women whose contributions to Brecht's work have been shockingly overlooked. Seen through their eyes, The Pawnbroker asks the audience to confront the discrepancy between Brecht the theater icon, and Brecht the man.
Of relationships, Brecht concluded, "A woman must give up a lot." For the women in his life, that included their dignity, their sanity, even their place in history. Until now.