Theatre and Politics

Hooligan Communism: Why Did The Bolsheviks Ban Their Very First Propaganda Performance?

Despite being a revolutionary and futuristic masterpiece by Mayakovsky, Meyerhold, and Malevich, Mystery Bouffe was the first victim of Soviet censorship. On a warm day one hundred years ago a small group of friends heard the first-ever play by a Soviet dramatist. Poet Vladimir Mayakovsky was reading Mystery Bouffe to a group that included the Commissar of Enlightenment, Anatoly Lunacharsky, and the famous theater director, Vsevolod Meyerhold. The play was an aggressive piece of Bolshevik propaganda, opening at the Petrograd Conservatoire in 1918 for three performances, with stage decorations and costumes designed by Kazimir Malevich. This first piece of Soviet theater seemed...

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Following The #MeToo Movement In Korean Theatre

In the past few months, the Korean theatre scene has been under intense public scrutiny as artists—mostly women—publicly shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Adopting the #MeToo and #WithYou hashtags that motivated similar revelations in other countries, the victims called out prominent theatre artists and celebrities such as Lee Youn-taek, Oh Tae-seok, Jo Min-ki, Jo Jae-hyun, and many others. Multiple accounts of Lee’s behavior, including allegations of rape, and the normativized culture of power-based violence within his company, Yeonheedan Street Troupe, were especially earth-shattering, due to the abnormal demands forced on young female company members. However, news...

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A Cyclical Tragedy: Poetry, Humor, Theatre, And Neoliberalism In Argentina

Remar, An Improper Destination, written and directed by Mariano Saba, premiered at the Sportivo Teatral in 2017 and is being mounted again, for its second season, in the same theatre. Remar won the 5th Edition of the Artei Prize for independent theatre production, and Odyssey Double Par (A Farce Of The Empire), the work’s antecedent, also authored by Saba, received mention in the Casa de las Americas Literary Prize in 2016. Remar, An Improper Destination is a tragicomedy based on the crossing of the Odyssey but takes place in the El Tigre Delta in Argentina. The two rowers belonging...

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Ella Hickson’s “The Writer” at The Almeida Theatre

Is there such a thing as female writing? In the 1980s, a group of women writers emerged who expressed their sense of lived experience through plays that challenged the tradition of linear drama by fracturing the time sequences of their stories. Examples include Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should. In the past two decades, women playwrights have mainly stuck to linear narratives and social realism. But this may be changing: the recent work of Alice Birch or Elinor Cook or Nina Segal or Adura Onashile or Sophie Wu shows a willingness to experiment with form,...

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“Five Easy Pieces”: Milo Rau’s Extraordinary Work About Child Murderer

  It’s not often that a children’s theatre features a piece about a pedophile and child murderer in its repertoire. But on rare occasions when vision, intelligence, and courage align, this kind of programming can change lives. Last week, Swiss director Milo Rau’s piece made by the commission for Ghent’s Campo theatre and dealing with the Belgian child murderer Marc Dutroux was shown at London’s Unicorn theatre for two nights. No less than nine institutions from Europe and Singapore are listed as co-producers of this extraordinary theatrical experiment which has already been on tour for a couple of years....

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“Absolute Hell” at The National Theatre

Rodney Ackland must be the most well-known forgotten man in postwar British theatre. His legend goes like this: Absolute Hell was originally titled The Pink Room, and first staged in 1952 at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it got a critical mauling. The Sunday Times’s Harold Hobson said that the audience “had the impression of being present, if not at the death of talent, at least at its very serious illness.” Hurt by such criticism, Ackland fell silent for almost four decades. Then, as he struggled against leukemia in the 1980s, he rewrote the play. Produced by the Orange Tree Theatre in 1988, it...

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Unpacking The Role Of Women In Ibsen’s “The Enemy Of The People”

Goodman’s Resident Dramaturg on how her work gives texture and specificity to a production. Consider the riddle of Neena Arndt’s work at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. She conducts research that informs designs but doesn’t design sets or costumes or soundscapes. She often appears on Goodman stages but is not an actor. Arndt is a dramaturg who researches playwrights, characters and their lives, relevant social and political events, and other themes for use by actors, designers, directors, and sometimes press offices. She might even have a hand in refining a play adaptation. She is part of the community that...

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A Voice For Peace And Human Values

With the passing away of Madeeha Gauhar, the subcontinent has lost a votary of freedom of expression Madeeha Gauhar, the remarkable Pakistani actor, director, playwright and creator of a new kind of theatre in the subcontinent that defied draconian laws of military dictatorship and dark forces let loose by fundamentalists with a view to create a humane society, died in Lahore on April 25 at the age of 61 leaving behind a rich legacy of people’s theatre. Trained in theatre in Pakistan and abroad, she returned to Pakistan, exploring traditional forms like Bhand and Nautanki and founded Ajoka Theatre in...

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D-CAF’s “Before The Revolution” Portrays All Roads To ‘Inevitable Eruption’

In a dimly lit room, where the surrounding black walls invaded one’s soul, leaving attendees alerted with frustration and apprehension, only two performers under bright yellow spotlights, standing still, welcoming attendees with emotionless faces and what looks like soulless bodies, started the journey of time travel to Egyptian daily lives before the January 25, 2011 revolution. Before The Revolution is a 40-minute show, which draws the lines of frustration, agony, and despair that Egypt had witnessed before the revolution, leaving the audience to connect and build between the events that had led to a mass uprising. The performance was...

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“Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of…”: Docudrama Musical for Black Lives Matter

The Beginning Of A Most Important Dialogue Initiated By This striking and moving staging of rage! This docu-drama or docu-fiction, a form of musical theatre that ties together reality and fiction inspired by real-life tragedies, concerns events that took place in Montreal (the death of an unarmed Freddy Villanueva in 2008) and the shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin in Florida (2013) which set off the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US. We are immediately drawn back to Shakespeare’s work The Lamentable Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus (1623) whose ending is inspired by Seneca’s Thyestes. The Roman play concerns the horrific torture...

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Experimentalism, Politics, And Utopia: Portuguese Theatre At The Beginning Of The 20th Century And On The Threshold Of The New Millennium

This article was originally published as ‘Introduction’ to the edited collection entitled Contemporary Portuguese Theatre: Experimentalism, Politics And Utopia [Working Title] (edited by Rui Pina Coelho). Lisboa: Teatro Nacional D. Maria II / Bicho do Mato, 2017. We are grateful to the publisher for granting us permission to re-publish this article. The notable history of theatre in Portugal, throughout the entire 20th century and on into the 21st, has created rather propitious conditions for shaping an artistic scene that is unabashedly open to experimentation, resolute in terms of politics, and adamantly driven by utopia. Thus, we will argue that experimentalism, politics,...

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Alexei Malobrodsky: The Strong Link

Note from TTT: Alexei Malobrodsky, former director of Moscow’s Gogol Center, has been in pretrial detention since June 2017, accused of embezzling money. The following article, which was originally published by the Russian journal Teatr, includes statements by Malobrodsky and his attorney Ksenia Karpinskaya at his September 6, 2017, court appeal. The first arrests connected to the “Sedmaya Studiya” [Seventh Studio: a theatre troupe founded by Kirill Serebrennikov] case took place on May 24: the troupe’s ex-director Yuri Itin and ex-bookkeeper Nina Maslyayeva spent the night in a detention facility, charged with large-scale fraud. The next day, on the...

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Labour Politics In Audrey Dwyer’s “Calpurnia” Problematize Allyship

Shelley Liebembuk reviews Calpurnia, a co-production between Nightwood Theatre and Sulong Theatre of Audrey Dwyer’s considerations on race, class, family, and the Finch family of To Kill A Mockingbird renown: In Calpurnia, playwright Audrey Dwyer beautifully takes up the dinner-party-gone-wrong trope, laying out an unsparing exploration of reckoning with the blind spots of privilege in the pursuit of social justice and effective allyship. The play opens onto the hearth of a wealthy Jamaican-Canadian family, where we meet 20-something daughter Julie (played by Meghan Swaby) sitting at the dining room table in her pajamas and struggling to write her screenplay. Julie is the catalyst of the piece....

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Socialist Morality in “The Threepenny Opera”

On Friday, March 23rd, Boston Lyric Opera continued its run of The Threepenny Opera to a sold-out audience at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, another of new venue in a time of flux for the company as they seek a permanent home.  Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s 1930’s adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggars’ Opera imposed a Socialist moral on an essentially nihilist piece of unrepentant characters as Weill and Brecht had become increasingly interested in a Communist solution to the political strife of 1930’s Germany.  Much like different revisions of Bernstein’s Candide, directors are faced with several editions and...

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German Politicians Invest In Opera When Seeking Re-Election–Here’s Why

In virtually all rich democracies, governments subsidize expensive highbrow culture, such as theatre and opera. And they hire artists to work for these theatres and operas as public employees. At first sight, this might seem to pose a puzzle. After all, highbrow culture is elitist. And it seems electorally irrelevant. Parties don’t really compete on culture in elections. It’s unlikely that hiring artists to turn them into grateful voters (patronage) makes electoral sense. Even if it did, the number of actors, singers, dancers, and musicians working in these roles is simply too small to make any meaningful electoral impact. In...

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The Politics of Child Abuse in Searing Māori Theatre: “Bless the Child” by Hone Kouka

Bless the Child by Hone Kouka. Co-produced by the New Zealand Festival, Auckland Arts Festival and Tawata Productions, directed by Miria George Hone Kouka’s new play Bless the Child plunges us straight into the heart of a crisis. A baby Ara, has been found dead and her mother Shardae (Carrie Green) is accused of her murder. This tragic situation reflects the sad reality that New Zealand/Aotearoa leads the world in figures for child neglect and abuse. According to Unicef, New Zealand has “one of the worst records of child abuse in the developed world.”  The fictional situation in Bless...

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The PUTIN Show: Kirill Serebrennikov And Russia’s Conservative Revolution

Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov, arrested in August 2017 for alleged fraud, is the victim of the cultural backlash following Putin’s re-election in 2012, writes Marina Davydova. His case is a lens through which to understand Russia’s problems. The case opened in the early hours of May 23, 2017, when seventeen different premises were raided, including the Gogol Centre, a theatre established by Kirill Serebrennikov. Those who happened to be in the vicinity thought it was a bomb alert: the centre’s perimeter was cordoned off, masked men with guns ran about inside and outside the building, all the actors...

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“Kumar50”: The Star of the Singapore Drag Scene

Marking Kumar’s 50th year alive, and the start of Dream Academy’s 2018 season at the Capitol Theatre, Kumar50 is a celebration, a retelling of history, but most of all, a show meant to entertain — Kumar is the undisputed queen, and star, of the Singapore drag scene. Kumar50 is also here to make some money: Dream Academy is, notably, one of the very few arts companies in Singapore that runs on a for-profit model. This is not, by far, the first time the two entities have worked together. Kumar50 is the fifth show (eighth if you include re-runs) headlining...

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“Butcher of Balkans” in Jester’s Attire: A Musical About Slobodan Milosevic

A musical about Slobodan Milosevic and his wife Mira dresses the “Butcher of Balkans” in jester’s attire–but the tricks at play are neither innocent nor new. Considering Slobodan Milosevic earned a nickname as “the Butcher of the Balkans” and was accused of war crimes at the Hague, one rightly wonders if a play about him would be about the making of a monster, or, perhaps, an attempt to redeem him and justify his actions as mere circumstances of fate. In effect, Lift: The Slobodan Show, a Serbian-language play about the former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, his wife Mira...

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International Theater Institute – Macedonian Center  

Macedonian message on the occasion of World Theater Day, March 27, 2018, by Sasko Kocev, theater/film actor, and stand-up comedian.  In conditions of an extremely polluted spiritual environment when the triviality in a primitive manner is aggressively promoted as a cultural value and when, through various reality shows and technical aids, the senseless peeking into strange, even more, nonsensical lives became every day, it is necessary, as never before, to ask questions. Is it enough for our previous theatrical approach in terms of deviations in reality? What are the theatrical means of combating socio-political banalities that seemingly seem benign, and in fact metastasize into an evil that destroys...

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