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Passionate Amateurs

Theatre, Communism, and Love

Nicholas Ridout

Publication Year: 2013

Passionate Amateurs tells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Berlin, in the Paris of the 1960s, and in a spectrum of contemporary performance in Europe and the United States. This is a work of historical materialist theater scholarship, which combines a materialism grounded in a socialist tradition of cultural studies with some of the insights developed in recent years by theorists of affect, and addresses some fundamental questions about the social function and political potential of theater within modern capitalism. Passionate Amateurs argues that theater in modern capitalism can help us think afresh about notions of work, time, and freedom. Its title concept is a theoretical and historical figure, someone whose work in theater is undertaken within capitalism, but motivated by a love that desires something different. In addition to its theoretical originality, it offers a significant new reading of a major Chekhov play, the most sustained scholarly engagement to date with Benjamin’s “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” the first major consideration of Godard’s La chinoise as a “theatrical” work, and the first chapter-length discussion of the work of The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, an American company rapidly gaining a profile in the European theater scene. Passionate Amateurs contributes to the development of theater and performance studies in a way that moves beyond debates over the differences between theater and performance in order to tell a powerful, historically grounded story about what theater and performance are for in the modern world.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance


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p. 1-1

Title Page, About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

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pp. vii-viii

Throughout the writing of this book I was fortunate to work in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University of London. Colleagues and students alike made the department a truly stimulating and supportive place to be, to work, and to think. I am grateful to them all. I owe particular thanks, for conversations that contributed in tangible ways to the development...


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-4

The Yetis came as a surprise. That they possessed redemptive power was also unexpected. They appeared about half an hour through the performance of B.#03, the Berlin episode of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio’s Tragedia Endogonidia, presented at the Hebbel Theater in 2003.1 They were white, hairy, and amiable. They enclosed part of the stage—which had recently...

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One. Theatre and Communism after Athens

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pp. 5-32

We are sitting in the theatre, and we are worrying about community. We are not alone; much work has already preceded us in thinking about the relationship between our attendance at the theatre and our participation in both the social and the political dimensions of community. In this chapter my aim is to move between the first of the three terms with which this...

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Two. Of Work and Time

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pp. 33-57

It’s all over. The Professor and his wife, Yelena, have gone to Kharkov, unable to stand life in the country a moment longer. The Professor fears, perhaps, that Vanya will take another pop at him with the gun. Yelena needs to escape from the potential entanglements arising from her feelings for the Doctor and Vanya’s feelings for her. Feelings we might care to...

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Three. All Theatre, All the Time

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pp. 58-85

In the autumn of 1928 the Latvian theatre director Asja Lacis visited Berlin as part of her work for Narkompros, the culture and education department of the government of the Soviet Union.1 Among her priorities for this visit, undertaken as a member of the film section of the Soviet trade mission, was to make contact, on behalf of the “Proletarian Theatre” group...

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Four. Of Work, Time, and Revolution

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pp. 86-110

The theatre is about to open. Someone is speaking across the end of the opening titles: “Un film en train de se faire.”1 As the titles give way to the film they authorize—“ Visa de contrôle numéro 32862”—the lights, if you like, come up on a forestage, a kind of balcony or terrace, it seems, upon which a young man holding a book is pacing, reading aloud from his...

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Five. Of Work, Time, and (Telephone) Conversation

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pp. 111-137

Once upon a time, back in the second decade of neocapitalism, or, as it is now more familiarly known, post-Fordism, a telecommunications monopoly, still quite recently released into the private sector, numbered among its subsidiaries a market research company that employed a shifting population of mostly young theatre professionals to conduct telephone...

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Six. Solitude in Relation

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pp. 138-162

The thing about Yetis is that no one knows what they want. They come from nowhere and return there. Not only do they live outside human society, but they are unconstrained by historical time. They are, of course, the productions of a utopian imaginary, mysterious inhabitants of a Shangri-La preserved among snowy peaks against the contaminations of capitalist...


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pp. 163-186


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pp. 187-198


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pp. 199-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029594
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472119073

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance