Participants

1. Title: The Snake in the Garden of Eden: The Economies of Freedom and Censorship in Havel’s Plays

Author: Karen Berman, Georgia College & State University, ude.uscg|namreb.nerak#ude.uscg|namreb.nerak

Abstract:
Václav Havel’s plays were an essential part of the evolution of the Czech people during the Communist era. Havel lived through “the liberation from the swastika followed by subjugation to the hammer and sickle…” (Burian, 2002). The Garden Party, among other plays, about the repressive bureaucracies of Communism, significantly influenced the economic and cultural reforms of the Prague Spring of 1968 before the Communist repression, after which Havel was imprisoned. Havel’s plays served as hypotext [Gérard Genette’s terminology from Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, 1997] for my current play The Women of Havel and Kafka, produced at the 2010 Theatre European Regions International Theatre Festival in Hradec Králové. The reception for my work, including three curtain calls, reflected the changing economies of the Czech Republic. My play was a study of the economy of gender, highlighting the roles of women who inspired/saved Havel. Even though my play text was in English, the Czech audience understood the language of gesture as the actor playing Havel stood in tableau surrounded by his women. The Czech audience in the Communist era understood Havel’s plays in terms of subtext which appealed to an international audience of influence. In my play, I refer back freely (and without the political repercussions that confronted Havel’s paratext) to the evils of the Communist past of the Czech Republic. Gérard Genette (1997) suggests that paratext is that liminal space between the author’s work and the off-text that surrounds the text. This paper uses both cultural materialism and Genette’s works of literary criticism to support the thesis that Havel’s works and my subsequent production, respectively, are reactions to: a) economic circumstances prior to the peaceful Velvet Revolution of 1989 that Westernized Czechoslovakia; and b) the current economic prosperity in the Czech Republic.

Bio:
Dr. Karen Berman was elected to the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Theatre and serves on its Board of Directors. She is Chair, Associate Professor, and Artistic Director of Theatre at Georgia College. She received her Ph.D. from Capella University, M.F.A. in Directing, Catholic University, and B.A. George Washington University. She is Immediate Past President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). Karen is co-founder and Artistic Director of a theatre company Washington Women in Theatre, which has produced at the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center. She has directed over 80 shows from the Smithsonian to off-Broadway including Ballet Russes at the American Theatre of Actors. She has directed The Balcony, Sueño, Three Penny Opera, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rover, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and numerous new plays. She has served as casting director for films, TV, and industrials as Director of SourceCast. She recently directed off-Broadway and her own play, The Women of Havel and Kafka in an international theatre festival in the Czech Republic. She has presented papers and chaired panels at ATHE national conferences and presented papers at ASTR national conferences.

2. Title: Negotiating the Transition: Anatoly Lunacharsky and the Economics of Early-Soviet Theatre

Author: William Gunn, University of Southern California, ude.csu|nnug#ude.csu|nnug

Abstract:
While the assertion that the Socialist theatres existing under Communism were state funded is ultimately accurate, at the dawn of the Soviet era, there were major concerns about how to deal with the theatres that existed before the Revolution of 1917. As the Commissar of Enlightenment from 1917 to 1929, Anatoly Lunacharsky was tasked with negotiating the complex economic and artistic issues that would face the theatre as an institution during his tenure. The first order of business was to determine how to transition from a system consisting of state theatres, which where naturally dependent on government funding, as well as private theatres that operated more or less independently. The two most pressing concerns regarding the state theatres in the years immediately following the Revolution were first, "whether to give the companies administrative and artistic autonomy," and second, "whether their artistic traditions were worth preserving." As for the private theatres, the big question was: To nationalize, or not to nationalize? This set of concerns polarized the theatre practitioners of the right and the left, who proceeded to frame arguments in order to further their respective aesthetic and ideological agendas. Not only were the left the most adamant proponents of widespread nationalization, but they also campaigned for the destruction of artistic remnants of Russia's Imperial past. Meanwhile, the right wanted to preserve Russia's rich cultural traditions and their own artistic freedom. This battle of the "monumentalists" versus the "iconoclasts" was mediated by Lunacharsky, who made coexistence possible for both. In my paper, I will explore the impact of Lunacharsky's policies on Soviet theatres of the 1920s. What are the implications of this fierce competition for scarce financial resources? And how were economics performed on the early-Soviet stage?

Bio:
William Gunn is a PhD. candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California. In his dissertation, William is examining productions of Alexander Ostrovsky's (1823-1886) plays from the 1920s, directed by some of the Soviet Union's most influential directors, such as Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevelod Meyerhold, Alexander Tairov, and Konstantin Stanislavsky. William's interdisciplinary research is focused on exploring fruitful intersections of Russian literature and theatre history. He finds the Soviet theatre of the 1920s particularly suited to examining theatre as a synthetic undertaking – an arena in which literature, the visual arts, and grand ideas about society and culture interact before a live audience. As a result, theatre does not merely dramatize various esthetic debates, but embodies and engages with social issues that are relevant in a specific time and place. William also holds an M.A. in Theatre History, Criticism, and Theory from Brigham Young University.

3. Title: Laibach and Janez Jansa: Queering National Identities Under Communism and Capitalism

Authors: Eszter Jagica (University of Toronto) and Steve Wilmer (Trinity College Dublin); ei.dct|REMLIWS#ei.dct|REMLIWS and moc.liamtoh|77akihob#moc.liamtoh|77akihob

Abstract:
“Politics is the highest form of mass culture, and we - the creators of modern European pop-culture - think of ourselves as politicians.” (NSK, 1987)
The Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), composed of the Laibach band, the Irwin group of visual artists and the Theatre of the Sisters of Scipion Nasice, engineered an artistic attack on the Yugoslavian ideological apparatus through various resistance and subversive artistic strategies during the 1980s. During the break-up of Yugoslavia, the NSK continued to critique hegemonic political norms by, amongst other things, introducing their own state apparatus, passports and transnational citizenship. Slavoj Žižek asks “is there, in our cynical ‘postmodern’ ideological universe, still a place for a Laibach-type intervention, or is such an intervention immediately ‘coopted,’ neutralized?” Our paper will reflect on the monumental eclecticism of NSK’s oeuvre during a period of political transformation (immediately before and after 1989) and argue that Emil Hrvatin and the Janez Janša trio have subsequently inherited the mantle of NSK by exposing the role of the state in authorizing artistic work and determining personal and national identities. Installations such as Emil Hrvatin’s “First World Camp”, which suggested locations for first world refugees in the event of a terrorist attack, and Janez Janšas’ “Name Readymade”, which exhibited the personal identity documents by the three artists who had all adopted the name of the right-wing Prime Minister, provoke similar questions about national identities and ideologies to those raised by NSK. Such actions create what Žižek calls “short circuits” in the political environment by confronting classic notions with their “own hidden presuppositions” to reveal their “disavowed truth” and thus “illuminate a standard text or ideological formation, making it readable in a totally new way.”

Bios:
Eszter Jagica studied Dramatic Literature and Modern Languages at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, and received her M.A. in Drama at the University of Toronto, Canada where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. entitled: Aesthetics of Subversion: From Heiner Mueller to Contemporary Performance Art. Beside her academic pursuits, she has been a long time collaborator of Istvan Kantor, a Hungarian/Canadian Governor General Award winner multimedia artist. Eszter has also worked as a performance artist, translator and curator in North America and Europe.

Steve Wilmer is Associate Professor in Drama and Head of the School of Drama, Film and Music at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of Theatre, Society and the Nation: Staging American Identities (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and (with Pirkko Koski) The Dynamic World of Finnish Theatre (Like Press, 2006). Books that he has edited or co-edited recently include (with Audrone Zukauskaite), Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism (Oxford University Press, 2010); Native American Performance and Representation (Arizona University Press, 2009); (with Anna McMullan) Reflections on Beckett (University of Michigan Press, 2009); and National Theatres in a Changing Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

4. Theatre - An Indissoluble Communist Cell: On the Political Economy of the Polish Laboratory Theatre

Author: Dominika Laster, Yale University, moc.liamg|retsal.akinimod#moc.liamg|retsal.akinimod

Abstract:
In September 1951, Jerzy Grotowski took the entrance examinations to the Kraków Theatre School. The examination committee granted Grotowski the following evaluation: physical appearance, C; diction, F; voice, B; expressiveness, C (Osiński 1986:14). What saved him was the committee’s consent to allow Grotowski to take the written exam, for which he received an A. Grotowski’s political acumen is arguably already evidenced in his choice of essay topics. Out of three possible themes, Grotowski chose to respond to the exam inquiry, which read: “How can theatre contribute to the development of socialism in Poland?” (Osiński 1986:14). Grotowski’s political astuteness becomes discernable later, in such tactical moves as having the Laboratory Theatre actors join the communist party, reasoning that the Communist government could easily disband a theatre ensemble, but who would dare dissolve a Communist cell? The inextricability of Grotowski’s artistic practice and the socio-political context is further manifest in Grotowski’s strategic evasion of state censorship - which concentrated mainly on literary texts – by placing an emphasis on the physical aspects of his work as well as the extended rehearsal periods. This paper examines Grotowski’s expert political strategies, which ensured the long-term viability of the Laboratory Theatre within the context of Communist Poland and explores impact that these tactical maneuvers had on the creative work of the ensemble. Further, it traces Grotowski’s political acumen back to his fervent political involvement in the Union of Revolutionary Youth (1956-1957), a radical faction of the Association of Socialist Youth (ZMS).

Bio:
Dominika Laster is a Mellon Fellow of Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale University. She is the Executive Director, Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in the Americas. Dominika Laster is a native of Wrocław, Poland. In addition to her scholarly research, she has worked as a director and performer in work ranging from pantomime to opera. In 2009, Laster served as the Associate Curator of Tracing Grotowski’s Path: Year of Grotowski in New York. Laster has published articles in Performance Research, Slavic and Eastern European Performance and TDR. Her book A Bridge Made of Memory: Embodied Memory, Witnessing and Transmission in the Grotowski Work is forthcoming in the Enactments series of Seagull Press, distributed globally by the University of Chicago Press. In addition to being a Lecturer in the Theatre Studies Program at Yale, Laster continues to teach courses at New York University.

5. Title: From the Open Market to the Open Stage: Romanian Social Parables in the 1990s

Author: Diana Manole, PhD, Trent University, Canada, ac.oohay|elonamanaid#ac.oohay|elonamanaid

Abstract:
After the fall of communism, Romanian theatre did not experience an acute crisis of relevance like some of its counterparts from other ex-communist countries (Johnson 2007, Rähesoo 1999, Barnett 2008, Burian 2000). Although the number of productions of Romanian plays decreased, national drama was still perceived as an integral and revered part of the national literature. Several drama contests were established and their grand prizes consisted of publishing the winning play, not producing it. Reinventing their role after the disappearance of political censorship, some of the post-communist Romanian playwrights reflected upon reality in a more open way but without losing the allegorical style developed in the previous decades. Even though only a few of them have been produced, their plays entered the public domain through print, staged readings, and/or radio drama productions. To argue the social and political relevance of Romanian post-communist drama, this paper will discuss the ways in which three post-communist plays express the state of personal and collective alienation determined by the abrupt invasion of a market economy and Western stereotypes. Snow White and the Other Two (Ca Zapada si Cei Doi, 1998) by Valentin Nicolau tells the story of an old man into whose house two strangers move in uninvited: a phone-sex worker and a professional contestant in sponsored sweepstakes. The Inflatable Apocalypse (Apocalipsa gonflabila, 1999) by Saviana Stanescu is an absurdist family drama that takes place during a televised competition of suicides broadcasted live. Ola, the daughter, sets herself on fire to win an apartment for the family, whereas the mother is thrown through the window for a smaller but still desirable prise – a colour TV set. Petre Barbu’s God Bless America (Dumnezeu binecuvanteaza America, 1997) depicts the endeavours of the Hermeneanu family, their friends and neighbours, all of whom dream to emigrate to the U.S., while consistently trying to sell everything and everybody for the sake of a quick buck.

Bio:
Diana Manole is a scholar and a professional writer, who is teaching a range of theatre courses in the Cultural Studies Department at Trent University in Canada. She earned a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto, a Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Carleton University, an Hons. B.A. in Theatre Directing from the University of Theatre and Film, Bucharest; and an Hons. B.A. in Russian and Romanian from the University of Bucharest. She has published academic articles in The Journal of Religion and Theatre (2006) and the collections of essays Performance, Exile And ‘America’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Overseas Encounters (Baia Mare North University Press, forthcoming), International Women Stage Directors (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming), and Re-writing Chekhov: The Text and Its Mutations (in progress). She is currently working on a book on the expression of national identity in post-colonial and post-communist theatre. She has also contributed to several literary anthologies and magazines in Romanian, English, Polish, and German, and published 8 books (poems and plays). Her work has been awarded 14 literary prizes, including Second Prize in the Romanian Dramatic Comedy Contest (2007) for The Textile Revolution and the Romanian Writers Union’s National Award for Debut in Drama from the (1999) for The Child Who Didn't Want to Be Born.

6. Title: Bitef Theatre 1967-2011 - Between the East and West

Author: Vesna Milanovic, Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom, ku.ca.uhs|civonaliM.V#ku.ca.uhs|civonaliM.V

Abstract:
Balancing between the East and West, Bitef theatre and Bitef festival was created by Mira Trailovic and Jovan Cirilov in 1967. At one time, Bitef presented shows from the Eastern countries, and at another time only the Western ones where Mira Trailovic and Jovan Cirilov had to play a political game with Yugoslav government. Yugoslavia was at the time an ideal place for festival such as Bitef, which, in Cirilov’s words, ‘enabled the Westerners to come and see Grotowski and the Easterners to see Living Theatre.’ The government ‘loved the fact that the festival illustrated Yugoslavia as a free society, even if there was less freedom than portrayed.’ Funded from communist society Bitef brought the most avant-garde plays from the West but also avant-garde from the East.

Bio:
I am a performer, choreographer and scholar based at Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom. My main areas of scholarly and artistic interest include interdisciplinary approaches to arts and science, performance practice and theory, politics of bodies, minds and identities. My own research, which would of course inform my practice, has focused on uncertainties of subjectivity and identity, drawing from feminist theories and contemporary performance practice. I have also studied and taught in the areas of women and 'resistance performance' (or political theatres of repressed groups), and in critical theory and performance practice using and creating new technologies.

7. Title: Courting Foreign Capital in the Soviet Capitol: The Moscow Theatre Festival 1933-1937

Author: Michael Morris, Tufts University, ude.dravrah.tsop|sirromlm#ude.dravrah.tsop|sirromlm

Abstract:
In pursuing its course of rapid industrialization and forced collectivization in the 1930s, the Soviet Union relied upon access to foreign economic and human capital. Acquiring this capital required a degree of political legitimacy before foreign states. One means of cultural diplomacy the Soviet Union undertook to promote its image abroad was to invite thousands of tourists to visit the Soviet Union to witness the benefits of Soviet socialism. From 1933 to 1937, the Soviet government conducted the Moscow Theatre Festival to attract foreign economic capital directly through tourism and indirectly by improving its image.
However, the Soviet Union under Stalin in the 1930s was governed by a culture of denunciations, informing, coerced confessions, torture, exile, imprisonment, and executions. Food and other basic necessities were scarce and rationed. Moreover, workers in all aspects of cultural and civic life were subject to internal and external censorship. Given these material and political circumstances, it would seem that welcoming theatre practitioners, scholars and enthusiasts from the United States, England, France, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Finland, China and other countries would have represented more of a liability than an opportunity. In this paper, I explore how the Soviet government, aided by its citizens, used the cultural capital of its cultural and political capitol to perform utopian Soviet socialism through the Moscow Theatre Festival. I uncover the means by which the Soviet state-owned tourism agency, Intourist, exploited the framework of global capitalism to promote the festival. I then discuss how the theatrical productions, meetings with Soviet theatre professionals, visits to factories, and other festival elements were designed to perform Moscow as the Soviet socialist utopia Stalin was seeking to construct. I argue that in the festival the Soviet state used theatrical performances and the performance of place to court foreign economic and human capital.

Bio:
Michael Morris is a doctoral student in the department of drama at Tufts University. He received an AB in Russian literature from Harvard University and an MBA with an emphasis in organizational behavior from Brigham Young University. His research interests include commercial theatre as a cultural industry, the hybrid organizational identities of theatre organizations, musical theatre, and American and Russian theatre and drama. He has presented research at the American Society for Theatre Research Conference, the Mid-America Theatre Conference, and meetings of the Scenography and Theatre Architecture Working Groups of the International Federation for Theatre Research. Michael is also a performer and proud member of Actors' Equity Association and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

8. Title: Adaptation as a More Economic Way to Alienation: The Case of Brecht’s Coriolan

Author: Virginia H. Murphy, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, ude.ktu|3yhprumv#ude.ktu|3yhprumv

Abstract:
Bertolt Brecht is, of course, famous for his concept of “alienation” or the V-effect, a concept he created for a variety of reasons including his desire to make poignant and effective political commentary on the state of Germany and Eastern Europe. One unique way Brecht achieved this effect and highlighted economic oppression was through adaptation. While Brecht drew from many sources, often piecemeal, only a small handful of his plays maintained the same title and storyline of their original. One such play is his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. This paper will explore Brecht’s Coriolan as an example of Derridian iteration, which allowed Brecht to heighten his political message about socioeconomic oppression. Because Brecht’s Coriolan immediately and necessarily recalls its Shakespearean predecessor, it is an iteration and audience members enter the theater with preconceived notions that are subsequently disrupted when Brecht makes changes to the previous iterations. Audiences must confront these notions, heightening the alienation effect and foregrounding the hardships of the plebeians. Known as one of Shakespeare’s Republican plays and already rich with political and class commentary, Coriolanus provides Brecht a ready-made story through which to emphasize his own ideas about the social and economic situation in Eastern Europe. Brecht accomplishes this by only altering two major scenes from the original and changing Shakespeare’s meter. Additionally, he only removes one scene, the scene that makes the plebs appear unintelligent, so that they remain a united, well-organized group, the clear victims of Coriolanus’ tyranny. Although not one of the more popular plays in Brecht’s canon, Coriolan offers a convenient—and potentially easier—opportunity to dissect Brecht’s political and economic views because of the close connection to its previous iterations.

Bio:
Virginia Murphy is a Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee studying drama and the Renaissance. Virginia is particularly interested in seeing fluidity across dramatic periods and discovering connections between seemingly disparate plays. She usually approaches drama from a performance perspective and the way that performance conventions affect their audiences. Currently, she is preparing for the final stage of her qualifying exams after which she will begin the dissertation process. She plans to write her dissertation on the way in which popular early Tudor plays and pseudo-morality plays bridge the divide between medieval and Renaissance drama. Particularly she believes that attention to performance conventions from this period, attention that has been lacking, will help illuminate performance conventions from the high Renaissance and break down the strict period distinctions between medieval and early modern. Her work insists that the drama in between these two seemingly separate periods is essential to understanding both sides of the period divide and that these works have a dramatic merit all their own.

9. Title: Russian Life in Chicago: The Migration Plays by Mikhail Berman-Tsikinovsky

Author: Maria Pia Pagani, University of Pavia (Italy), moc.liamtoh|aipairaminagap#moc.liamtoh|aipairaminagap

Abstract:
My research interest focalises the importance of the migration plays written by Mikhail Berman-Tsikinovsky for the contemporary theatre. This Author (born in Khar’kov, 12th November 1937) is a Jewish doctor-writer, Russian speaking and writing, and lives in the United States for more than 30 years. His experience of exile from USSR in 1978 is the starting point of four dramatic works written in the 1990s and staged in Paris, Chicago, St. Petersburg, Moscow: Chekhov on Devon (Chekhov na Divane, 1997), Mediterranean Paradoxes (Paradoksy Sredizemnomorskogo, 1998), The Return (Vozvraschenie, 1999), The Time Machine (Mashina Vremeni, 1999).
Berman-Tsikinovsky is the “heir” of the Russian dynasty of doctor-writers which has its father in Anton Chekhov. And, like Chekhov, Berman-Tsikinovsky is a great observer of human life and has a deep sense of humor. His decision to leave Khar’kov, starting a new life abroad, was hard but necessary as hematologist and man. The Author reflects himself in the main character of these four migration plays, the doctor Musya Belochkin, who left by train Kharkov and, after a period in Rome, flew in Chicago with his family. Kharkov-Rome-Chicago: this map is important to understand the human, but also the literary value of Berman-Tsikinovsky’s exile, which combines a deep love for the native land, the beauty of the ruins of the ancient Rome, and the conquest of freedom in the United States. On the stage, sometimes there is also his second wife Yulia – a young migrant doctor. Spectators discover all the problems of their every day life: the re-construction of a new life abroad, the use of a different language, the nostalgia for the native land, the conquest of freedom, the importance of Devon Avenue for the Slavic community in Chicago, etc.

Bio: Maria Pia Pagani (Italy). Degree cum laude in Foreign Languages and Literature at University of Pavia (Russian, English), PhD in Modern Philology. She is author of many scientific works about Eastern Europe Theatre and the “fools for Christ” in Byzantine-Slavic tradition. Her monographs: Le maschere della santità. Attori e figure del sacro nel teatro antico-russo (2004, Cesare Angelini Prize, Youth Section), I mestieri di Pantalone. La fortuna della maschera tra Venezia e la Russia (2007, Youth prize for study and research about Popular Culture in Veneto), Un treno per Eleonora Duse (2008). She realized the first Italian edition of I santi dell’antica Russia (2000) by Georgy Fedotov, and the volume Starec Afanasij. Un folle in Cristo dei nostri giorni (2005). Collaboration for the Italian edition of L’Apocalisse (2005) by Andrey Tarkovsky, with preface by Mario Luzi. She is the Italian translator of Mikhail Berman-Tsikinovsky, for whom edited the novel Il tempo in prestito. Biografia di un medico scrittore tra Char’kov e Chicago (2008), the collection of poems Emigrai in Occidente. Ricordi in versi di un esule sovietico (2008), the collection of short stories Storie di migranti fra URSS e USA (2010), and three dramatic collections: Il teatro di Devon Avenue. Scene di vita russa a Chicago (2009), Vita, morte, eternità. Trilogia drammatica di Pietrogrado (2009), Destini in scena tra Roma, Costantinopoli e Mosca. Miscellanea di testi teatrali con un dramma in versione bilingue (2010). In 2003 she received the Prize for Youth Researcher in memory of Maria Corti, and in 2006 the International Prize ‘Foyer des Artistes’ for her study and translation in Eastern Europe Theatre and Literature.

10. Title: Fairy-Tale Formalism: Akimov’s Productions of Shvarts’s The Shadow and The Dragon at the Leningrad Theatre of Comedy in the 1940s

Author: Dassia N. Posner, Northwestern University, moc.liamg|2aissad#moc.liamg|2aissad

Abstract:
During most of the Stalinist era in Russia, the only sanctioned style in art and literature was “socialist realism.” What Anatoly Smeliansky calls “the technique of naturalism without the nature,” socialist realism above all expressed the glory of socialism. The “real” in realism was conditional upon it being optimistic; pessimism was prohibited at the expense of actual fact. The innovative pre-Stalin “isms”, symbolism, futurism, constructivism, etc., were lumped together under the negative brand of “formalism,” which at best came to mean art that did not contribute to socialism in the prescribed way, and at worst, bourgeois, subversive, and dangerous. One of the most difficult things for artists who were able to survive this period, aside from the obvious shackles that were put on their creativity, was dealing with the constantly changing definition of the above term; a play or other work of art that was considered pro-Soviet could fall out of favor overnight. If a play was to have “formal” qualities at this time, one of the safest ways to do so was to include elements of folk or children’s art. Evgenii Shvarts’s plays did both. After working for many years writing children’s plays, he became known for creating a new, fantastical, irony-infused, theatrical genre: “fairy tales for grown-ups.” In addition to having non-realistic settings, Shvarts’s plays bucked the accepted trend because they were “politically ambiguous”: they contained themes that could be interpreted as positive if one put Russia’s enemies in the role of the villain, but subversive if brought closer to home. Two of Shvarts’s plays, The Shadow and The Dragon, were staged by the same director and at the same theatre in the 1940’s. Director and designer Nikolai Akimov’s production of The Shadow became such a signature production for the Theatre of Comedy that Akimov joked, “The Shadow is my Seagull.” His Dragon, on the other hand, was performed only once in 1944 before it was banned and only a handful of times in 1962 before it was removed from the repertoire. This paper will examine how, with these productions, Akimov constructed a fairy-tale aesthetic that remained outside the confines of socialist realism before then investigating the artistic and political circumstances that contributed to the success of The Shadow and the demise of The Dragon.

Bio:
Dassia N. Posner is Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University. Prior to joining the faculty at NU, she spent two years at the University of Connecticut, where she was Assistant Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Dramatic Arts and Dramaturg at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard in 2009, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Drama at Tufts University. Her interests include dramaturgy, history of directing, women in theatre, Russian and European avant-garde theatre, women in theatre, popular entertainment, and world puppetry history and performance. Her articles and reviews have been published in Theatre Survey, Slavic and East European Performance, Communications from the International Brecht Society, Theatre Research International, Theatre Journal, and Puppetry International. Her book manuscript, The Director's Prism: E.T.A. Hoffmann and Russian Modernist Directors, examines the creative work of Russian avant-garde directors in the context of the Russian Modernist fascination with German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann.

11. Title: The Economy of Transition: Post-1989 Theatre of Boguslaw Schaeffer

Author: Magda Romanska, Emerson College, moc.liamtoh|aksnamor.adgam#moc.liamtoh|aksnamor.adgam

Abstract:
Irving Wardle once humorously noted that with Polish drama “Every work refers back to some previous work, to the despair of the non-Polish public” (1982). The great works of Polish theatre were written under oppression and have thus always been political. The translator’s traditional task was to evoke and elucidate their complex political and literary references, symbols, metaphors and allusions, which were inaccessible to most non-native speakers. The fall of communism in 1989, however, created an ideological vacuum that altered Polish theatre’s cultural role. After a period of such an intense political engagement, the unexpected change of climate in the Eastern Europe created an atmosphere in which theatre’s role as the only oasis of a free speech came to a sudden halt. At the same time, with the economic turnover to the free market, the state sponsorship of the theatres also ended, leaving most of them to their own devices as far as the funding was concerned. It was at this point of ideological and financial shortage that Schaeffer’s plays entered the Polish mainstream. Schaeffer’s work strove for universal meaning, with limited reference to Polish national themes, Polish politics or Polish history. One can understand their jokes without knowing the quirks and absurdities of life under communism or studying the entire canon of Polish literature. Blending grotesque situations, absurd language, dark humor, and ‘musical format,’ Shaeffer’s plays probe the questions of power, sexuality, blind consumerism, elitism, and contemporary alienation. The metatheatrical theme tell the story of an actor and the theatre, but it also tell the story of life in a world, where, to survive, one has to constantly assume brand new masks and brand new posses. Lost between desperation and lack of a coherent self-image, Schaeffer’s heroes suffer from what Bernard Rosen called a “chameleon personality.” “[Schaeffer’s] hero is often a Multiindividuum, […] undergoing various metamorphoses, and unrecognizable under various masks. They are merely abstract elements of a preexisting a priori structure. […] It’s not what the character says, but the order in which he says it, that matters.” (Karasińska, 1999). The stage’s fiction and reality constantly intertwine, suspending characters and audience in a no-man’s-land of ambiguous values and questionable intentions.

Bio:
Magda Romanska, Ph.D., is a research associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and an assistant professor of Theatre Studies at Emerson College. She holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and a B.A. from Stanford. She is the winner of the 2010 Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize (ASTR), and her two forthcoming books include Theatre and Meaning: The Strange Case of Kantor and Grotowski, and the Palgrave anthology Comedy: Theory and Criticism. She is also an author of dozens of book chapters and articles, including chapters in the anthologies International Women Stage Directors (University of Illinois Press); Re-writing Chekhov: The Text and Its Mutations (Routledge); The Sacred Tropes (Brill Press); The Cultural Politics of Heiner Muller (CSP); and Ghosts, Stories, Histories (CSP). Her articles have appeared in Theatre Survey, TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, and Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review.

12. Title: Moscow’s Helikon Opera: Kitsch and Art in Transition to a Post-Soviet Economy

Author: Christopher Silsby, City University of New York, Graduate Center, ude.ynuc.cg|ybslisc#ude.ynuc.cg|ybslisc

Abstract:
The Helikon Opera in Moscow was founded by a group of theatre students in 1990 specifically in reaction to the staging practices of the famous state-sponsored opera houses of Russia—the Kirov/Mariinsky and the Bolshoi. It is now one of the most well known, controversial, and perhaps infamous, opera companies within Russia. Despite a few international tours, the Helikon is virtually unknown outside of its home country.
As a young company founded during the period of decline and end of the Soviet Union, the Helikon could not rely on state financial sponsorship. While the company eventually did receive post-Soviet governmental funding, the free market approach of the 1990s led to aesthetics and repertoire vastly different from the existing state operas. Unable to rely solely on the dwindling governmental funds, ticket prices and new audience development emerged as revenue streams to fill the gap. The Helikon distinguished itself from the tradition of grand opera by developing a chamber opera technique tailored to the post-Soviet economy. In order to set the Helikon apart from the traditional opera houses of Russia, Helikon founder and director Dmitry Bertman claims that his company focuses on the drama and theatre of opera. However, this approach has been castigated as nothing more than kitschy amateurism of the post-Soviet era. How does this element of commercialized kitsch function in the productions of the Helikon alongside Bertman’s high art claims of opera and the theatre? How has this young Moscow company transformed Russian opera at the beginning of the new economy? This paper contextualizes the Helikon’s production aesthetic within Russia’s new free-market economy, from Bertman’s stated influences, through the attacks of critics, to the relationship of kitsch to the Soviet Union’s artistic history and totalitarianism, and finally ends with the problems of conventionalization over the twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bio:
Christopher Silsby is a student in the doctoral program in Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center, where his work centers on the intersection between Soviet, American, and Musical theatres and performance. He spent a year studying at the Moscow Art Theatre School and Moscow State University and trained in educational theatre techniques at the University of Minnesota and New York University. For the past three years, Christopher has taught at Brooklyn College, and next year will hold a CUNY Writing Fellowship at Baruch College. From 2007 to 2010, Christopher worked in multiple capacities at the journal Slavic and Eastern European Performance, as Assistant Editor, Managing Editor, and Editorial Advisor. For the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, he has served as Editorial Assistant on multiple volumes, including Quick Change: Essays on Theatre by Daniel Gerould, Playwrights before the Fall: Eastern European Drama in Times of Revolution, Czech Plays, and Barcelona Plays. Christopher just finished a tenure as President of the CUNY Doctoral Theatre Students’ Association. Next year, he will serve as an At-Large Representative to the CUNY Doctoral Students’ Council. He presented his paper, “Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School: Taking a Position in the Racialized Aesthetic Field,” as part of the 2010 ATHE Black Theatre Association debut panel.

13. Title: Uncanny Homecomings: Theatre Directors Peter Halasz’ and Andrei Serban’s Return to Eastern Europe in the Early 1990s

Author: Anikó Szűcs, New York University, ude.uyn|scuzs.okina#ude.uyn|scuzs.okina

Abstract:
In the 1970s a number of Eastern European theatre artists were forced or chose to leave the dictatorial regimes of Eastern Europe. Many among them, including Hungarian theatre director Peter Halasz, and Romanian director Andrei Serban settled in New York and became successful members of the downtown artist community, developing important works at La Mama, and with the Squat Theatre, respectively. After the change of the political system, both directors were invited back to the homelands they had once left behind. Serban became the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Bucharest, while Halasz first started to work at the prestigious Katona Jozsef Szinhaz, until he also became an Artistic Director of a theatre company, the City Theatre in Budapest. Despite Romania’s and Hungary’s initial warm welcome, the two directors only headed the Eastern European institutions for a few years, after which they chose to resign and return to their now bi-continental lives. They continued to work in Eastern Europe, both directing performances and teaching acting students, but they refused to be officially affiliated with any theatre institutes ever again. In this paper I will examine the historical moment and the sociopolitical environment of Peter Halasz’ and Andrei Serban’s return to Eastern Europe in 1991. I shall ask: what kind of expectations preconditioned their arrivals? What were Romania and Hungary hoping from inviting back these two legendary artists and appointing them as new authoritative figures in the theatre scene? What kind of hopes and expectations did Halasz and Serban have as they returned to the homeland they were once forced to give up? And most importantly, what kind of institutional, economical, and political conditions led to their resignations? My research will include both archival work and interviews with Andrei Serban as well as close collaborators of the late Peter Halasz.

Bio:
Anikó Szűcs is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Drama Department and the Performance Studies Department of Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. She is currently finishing her dissertation about the recontextualizations of secret informants’ reports and other confidential documents in contemporary performances in Hungary for the Performance Studies Department at New York University. Between 2000 and 2005 Ms. Szűcs was the resident dramaturg of the Vígszínház (Comedy Theatre) in Budapest. In the US, she worked at Portland Center Stage, Arena Stage in Washington D.C., and with the Hourglass Group and Dicapo Opera Theatre in New York. Ms. Szűcs was the Co-Curator of the exhibition “Revolutionary Voices: Performing Arts in Central & Eastern Europe in the 1980s” at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center. Ms. Szűcs holds an MA in English and Communication from the ELTE University of Budapest and an MFA in Theatre Studies and Dramaturgy from the University of Theatre, Film, and Television of Budapest. Her academic work focuses on political theatre, the politics of memory and performance, and Eastern European performance.

14. Title: The Plays that Killed: Georgi Markov’s Drama and Bulgarian Communism in the 1960s

Author: Vessela S. Warner, University of Alabama at Birmingham, ude.bau|vrenraw#ude.bau|vrenraw

Abstract:
The fate of writer-dissident Georgi Markov (1929-1978) takes a major part of the Cold War history. After defecting to the West in 1970, Markov broadcasted on Radio Free Europe his personal observations and astute analyses of the Bulgarian communist regime. Angered by the writer’s revelations, the Bulgarian leadership, in a likely conspiracy with KGB, organized his assassination by a poisonous injection hidden in an umbrella. The full collection of Markov’s broadcasted essays was first published in Zurich in 1981, followed by an English translation under the title The Truth that Killed (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983). The interest in Georgi Markov’s political journalism has deprived his prose and drama of much deserved attention. Markov’s fiction was nationally recognized in the early 1960s and praised for its intimate and ironic “urban” storytelling. Although his edgy modern language was acceptable on page, it turned dangerous onstage where it spotlighted burning social issues and degraded characters. While in Bulgaria, Markov wrote seven plays that progressively veered from the established literary canon. In 1969 the political censorship suspended the productions of his documentary drama Communists (Komunisti) and comedy I Was Him (Az bjah toi), launching a campaign against the author that ultimately sealed his decision to leave the country. In this paper, I will examine the content and production circumstances of these plays as critical evidence of the deteriorating political conditions in Bulgaria in the 1960s. I Was Him satirically expresses Markov’s personal observations of the failing planned economy. In a style akin to Vaclav Havel’s theatre of the socialist absurd, Markov exposes the lack of labor engagement and professional integrity, which has produced a bureaucratic guard for the political system. The second play, Communists, was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture as one of four epic plays valorizing the revolutionary struggle of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Embracing the historical subject, the ruling party aimed at rewriting its own past in the spirit of martyrdom and romanticism. Markov’s approach to the historical source—the police transcripts of communists’ interrogations—came in complete discord with the party’s intention. The writer-dissident refused to participate in an intensified ideological propaganda, with which the government sought ways to mask growing economical and political crises. Instead of creating a party “monument” in the style of Socialist Realism, Markov wrote an allegory of his contemporary police-run country.

Bio:
Vessela Warner teaches theatre history and dramaturgy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research focuses on contemporary Balkan drama, cultural identity, and postcolonial theory. Vessela has published in Theatre and Performance in Eastern Europe: The Changing Scene (Scarecrow Press, 2008) and Performing Dreams into Being: Native American Women’s Theatre (Miami University Press, 2009), as well as in the academic journals: Balkanistica, Macedonian Studies, Serbian Studies, and Slavic and East European Performance. Vessela Warner holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History, Theory, and Criticism