Soviet Theaters, 1917-1941

Soviet Theaters, 1917-1941

Soviet Theaters, 1917-1941

Soviet Theaters, 1917-1941

Excerpt

Soviet and Western histories of the Soviet theater often sound like the histories of theater in two entirely different countries. Official Soviet theater historians see the development of theater and drama since the Revolution as a struggle for a socialist repertoire and style of production in the face of the corruption of this aim by formalists and bourgeois decadents devoted to the doctrine of art for art's sake. Every new decree or pronouncement by the government or the Communist Party on the subject of theatrical spectacles is regarded by these writers as another advance in the continuing process of defining the role of art in a socialist society. Each new play which satisfactorily expresses the political aims of the moment is viewed as another step toward the realization of the desired goal: a theater which furthers the aims of the state and the Party.

To such historians the years since 1917 provide a progressive revelation of the rules for socialist art in the theater. The triumphs are all at the expense of the prerevolutionary theater, which is officially regarded as a theater for the elite, a theater more interested in form than content, a theater whose content was as doomed as the class it entertained. One Soviet writer, willing to take something from each of the giants of the pre-Soviet theater, nevertheless dismisses Stanislavski as too "mystic" and Meierhold and Tairov as too "aesthetic" for the new socialist theater. The aim of the new theater, according to the official view, has been to bring the heritage of the classics to the masses and to create new plays to teach the people how to behave in the new society. The classics, of course, are selected and reinterpreted . . .

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