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Epilogue 241 The February Revolution of 1917 inspired new hope for the democratization of culture, hope mixed with the apprehension that the people might well destroy Russia’s artistic heritage unless they were taught to appreciate it. The end of the autocracy’s control over the popular theaters brought many changes, some of them surprising to contemporaries.The abolition of censorship, contrary to expectations, did not result in an outpouring of new plays reflecting the new freedom of expression.1 Many of the people’s theaters were taken over by municipal governments or district soviets, but they either functioned largely as before or were used for political meetings and occasional lowbrow entertainments. At the same time, a multitude of new cultural-educational departments, sections, and societies sprang up with the goal of introducing the people to the various branches of the arts, particularly theater. New professional theaters were organized by workers’ organizations , while the number of amateur workers’ theaters mushroomed. Yet although the people gained unprecedented freedom in their choice of entertainments , their choices seldom lived up to the hopes of those educated Russians who believed that the autocracy was the main impediment to the development of didactic popular theater and that the people would choose edifying entertainment if only they were offered it.Ill.16abouthere. Efforts to democratize theater after February took two forms. First, the democratization of the existing theatrical culture through free performances , special subscriptions for soldiers’ and workers’ committees, and the establishment of new theaters dedicated expressly to serving the lower classes. This was essentially a continuation of the old people’s theater idea. In April, actors from the Moscow Art Theater set up a “people’s art theater” in barracks on Deviche Field, the home of the fairground theaters in bygone days. One factory’s enlightenment commission rented the Vasilevskii Island Theater to stage topical plays that highlighted the class struggle, such as V. Evdokimov’s Children of Sin, in which an unscrupulous factory owner preys on a young woman worker and pays with his life when her boyfriend learns what he has done. A reserve battalion organized a “soldiers’ theater” in Krestovskii Park, staging plays that included Belaia’s The Unemployed, Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and Ostrovsky’s A Much Frequented Spot. The cultural-educational section of the Moscow Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies was especially active in organizing performances for soldiers from the Moscow garrison and also sent troupes of mobilized actors on tours of the front.The cultural-educational section of the Petrograd duma, headed by the Bolshevik Anatoly Lunacharsky, took over the theaters of the city’s temperance guardianship and assigned one-time Moscow Art Theater actress Mariia Andreeva to introduce a more “artistic” repertoire. The former imperial 242 / Epilogue Figure 16. Cartoon entitled “Free Theater,” satirizing the lowbrow entertainments that characterized many of the popular theaters that sprang up after the February Revolution in 1917. It unfairly likens the theater of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies to a fairground puppet show. Binoculars, no. 1 (1917). theaters distributed discounted or free tickets to factories and regiments, as did the Moscow Art Theater. Plans were even considered to convert the Mikhailovskii and Malyi theaters into people’s theaters.The Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies rented a theater and hired the entire troupe to perform operas for workers, while the soldiers’ soviet opened its own theater devoted to drama. Interestingly, the “soviet” theaters adopted a traditional Kulturträger line with regard to repertoire, which was to be purely “artistic ,” without regard to politics. On the evening of 25 October, the day the Bolsheviks and their supporters seized power in Petrograd, Moscow’s Soldier’s Theater opened with a performance of that old favorite by Ostrovsky, Poverty Is No Vice.2 A new audience now filled the upmarket theaters, rubbing shoulders with the old theatergoing public in the stalls and occupying the boxes of grand dukes in the former imperial theaters. It was often an undisciplined audience, unused to the conventions of behavior in the theater. People smoked, talked, and chewed seeds during performances. On one occasion a group of soldiers demanded seats at gunpoint, while audiences sometimes intervened to stop performances that offended their political sensibilities. In May, for example, soldiers protested against variety shows that satirized Lenin, and in October a sailor fired shots at an actor for singing “Christ Is Risen” at a charity concert for the families of sailors killed in battle.3 By the end of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780520925878
Related ISBN
9780520225947
MARC Record
OCLC
52862196
Pages
364
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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