Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Performance as Ideological Weapon Transferring the New Man on Stage 1

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Performance as Ideological Weapon Transferring the New Man on Stage 1

Article excerpt

Soviet plays constitute, for post war Romanian theatre, the model for both creative writing and theatre practice. During the first five years after 1945 soviet playwrights and theatre practitioners were the first to show Romanian audiences the soviet man and the society s/he fought for and achieved in the first proletarian state. These were weapon performances2 (spectacole arma). They had to inspire the new audiences to act, to re-forge themselves and their society, to fight for achieving socialism. Such an approach, however, implied a very specific understanding of reception in the theatre. Performances were no longer opened to various interpretations but finite. There was just one correct way of interpreting, producing a play and that was achieved scientifically through the method of socialist realism. Unlike pre-Meyerholdian theatre, post Meyerholdian theatre3 was keen on bringing on the stage "a slice of life" imbued with revolutionary ideals. If in theory both brands of theatre aimed to transform society, in practice, the socialist realist method only achieved an ideologically stultifying didactic naturalism. Instead of being incited to action, audiences were now absorbed by a total illusion which offered always an utterly optimist view on life and history.

The present article enquires upon the process by which this transformation is achieved with a focus on performative events that are particularly relevant for the socialist reconfiguration of the Romanian theatre. This approach will allow not only to draw a parallel with the soviet civilizational model but to also show how this process of cultural adaptation actually worked in a particular cultural field, that of the theatre. Although there is much discussion on the civilizational transfer in Romania after 19454, when it comes to the process of adaptation to Stalinist cultural values present day scholarship rarely takes a look at the mechanics of this process. By considering a specific cluster of performative events I will attempt to flesh out the progressive stages by witch Romanian theatre becomes a utilitarian art geared to a specific purpose, that of rearing a new man and a new society.

The process of transforming the Romanian theatre meant the implementation of an ideological education program that started soon after the war5. The reciprocal visits, the strategy of learning by example practiced in the earlier years6, transformed after 1947 in a fully fledged institutionalized ideological program. It insured that before any message could be delivered to the masses, the artists themselves had to be convinced of the validity of the transformist project. In order to play the new soviet men on stage in such a way as to inspire in their audiences the will to change, theatre practitioners were the first who had to become new men and women. This ideological training was achieved with the help of the Party under the direction of the Agitprop Department, guided by reviews published in Scânteia and by participation to activities organized by the USASZ (The United Syndicates of Artists, Writers and Reporters). This particular organization planned the directors' circle, the famous and dreaded production meetings, and the public discussions debating production approaches for ongoing plays held each Tuesday beginning with 19477. The governing idea behind all these actions was that training and exposure to the subject matter of the soviet plays and their compulsory production method transformed theatre artists, directors especially, into pedagogues who guided the audiences in their process of becoming new men and women.

The press discussed at length the process of raising the communist consciousness of Romanian theatre practitioners. This pedagogic program was a condition for better understanding the new soviet men and, consequently, to be able "to dictate to the spectator"8 the forward ideological content of the plays. The soviet plays and the characters they introduced were the means for achieving a new aesthetic and a new ethic in the theatre. …

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