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Revolutionary Acts

Amateur Theater and the Soviet State, 1917-1938

by Lynn Mally

Publication Year: 2016

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License

"

During the Russian Revolution and Civil War, amateur theater groups sprang up in cities across the country. Workers, peasants, students, soldiers, and sailors provided entertainment ranging from improvisations to gymnastics and from propaganda sketches to the plays of Chekhov. In Revolutionary Acts, Lynn Mally reconstructs the history of the amateur stage in Soviet Russia from 1917 to the height of the Stalinist purges. Her book illustrates in fascinating detail how Soviet culture was transformed during the new regime's first two decades in power.

Of all the arts, theater had a special appeal for mass audiences in Russia, and with the coming of the revolution it took on an important role in the dissemination of the new socialist culture. Mally's analysis of amateur theater as a space where performers, their audiences, and the political authorities came into contact enables her to explore whether this culture emerged spontaneously ""from below"" or was imposed by the revolutionary elite. She shows that by the late 1920s, Soviet leaders had come to distrust the initiatives of the lower classes, and the amateur theaters fell increasingly under the guidance of artistic professionals. Within a few years, state agencies intervened to homogenize repertoire and performance style, and with the institutionalization of Socialist Realist principles, only those works in a unified Soviet canon were presented.

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Published by: Cornell University Press

Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

THIS BOOK began as a study of the Leningrad Theater of Working-Class Youth, known by its acronym TRAM. But as my work on this theater and its Moscow affiliate continued, I discovered that these popular youth stages were simply the most visible representatives of a much wider phenomenon of amateur theater that blossomed in the early Soviet period. My research then grew to include the amorphous...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

"THE YEAR since the last festival of the October Revolution will enter the history of Russian theater," proclaimed Adrian Piotrov­skii, a prominent Leningrad scholar, cultural activist, and local bureau­crat, in 1924. "It is the first year that the triumph of the mass movement known as amateur theater [samodeiatel'nyi teatr] has become apparent." Piotrovskii listed what he believed were amateur theater's significant...

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1. The Revolution Loves the Theater

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pp. 17-46

"THEATER IS the self-educator of the people," proclaimed a broadside published by the new state's cultural ministry in 1919. "The revolution loves the theater and in revolutionary times theater comes alive and blossoms."1 This statement attempted to explain the remark­able proliferation of theaters during the first years of the new regime....

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2. Small Forms on Small Stages

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pp. 47-80

THE CONCLUSION of the Russian Civil War brought new challenges to all those engaged in constructing a Soviet culture. Ef­forts to rebuild the shattered economic base of the country, begun in 1921, meant that there were substantially fewer state funds available for cultural projects. Optimistic plans to construct new club buildings and new stages for amateur theaters were put off for several years. In...

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3. From "Club Plays" to the Classics

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pp. 81-108

A 1926 editorial in the Moscow journal The New Viewer as­serted that Soviet theater was undergoing a fundamental transforma­tion. During the first period of revolutionary upheaval, amateur stages had been an important force in destroying old forms and challenging professional stages. That period, however, was over. Now the battle had begun for higher quality and a new kind of professionalism, a battle that...

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4. TRAM: The Vanguard of Amateur Art

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pp. 109-145

THE LENINGRAD Theater of Working-Class Youth (Teatr rabochei molodezhi), called by its acronym TRAM, was the best-known amateur stage of the NEP period, eventually achieving a national repu­tation. Its far-reaching claims for the creative potential of amateurs and the special interests of Soviet youth sparked contentious discussions in the cultural press. Its original repertoire, a large part of which was...

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5. Shock Workers on the Cultural Front

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pp. 146-180

DURING THE First Five-Year Plan, a new kind of amateur theater group emerged known as the agitprop brigade. These small, itin­erant circles had a hostile relationship to the drama workshops of late NEP, many of which had begun to devote themselves to honing their per­formance skills. Agitprop brigades loudly and aggressively rejected pro­fessional models and guidance. They not only reclaimed the performance...

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6. Amateurs in the Spectacle State

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pp. 181-212

IN HIS fascinating discussion of the differences between early Soviet culture and the 1930s, the architectural historian Vladimir Pa­pemyi argues that Stalinism was fixated on visual display.1 The architec­ture of the period began first with the façade as a means of illustrating power. Interior spaces featured grand foyers and decorative objects de­signed to impress users. While many theaters in the 1920s tried to...

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Conclusion

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pp. 213-222

IN THE 1927 film The House on Trubnaia Square (Dom na Trub­noi), a young peasant woman named Praskovia makes her way to Moscow. Instead of finding good employment, she ends up working as a maid for a couple quite contented with NEP. A trade union organizer discovers her and signs her up to join a union, also encouraging her to come to a theater performance at the local club. This marks the young...

Glossary

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pp. 223-224

Bibliography

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pp. 225-242

Index

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pp. 243-250


E-ISBN-13: 9781501706981
Print-ISBN-13: 9781501707209

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2016

OCLC Number: 606450650
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Revolutionary Acts