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While it is not surprising to find Antigone emerging as the most translated and performed tragedy, it is fascinating to see how varied the treatments of this play have proved to be. Another intriguing motif to emerge is the persistent life of ancient comedy, where the cover of laughter and the evasion of metatheatricality provided especially fertile ground for what is known as “Aesopian language”. It is evident that the production values of this book are admirably high. It is a further benefit that it includes a collection of relevant photographs, which enhance its value as a contribution to the flourishing field of “performance reception”. In conclusion, this volume has significant value for the understanding both of social and political history and of theatre in the twentieth century. Oliver Taplin

CLASSICS AND COMMUNISM IN THEATRE

The goal of the present volume is to examine whether and how the authorities, their ideologists, and theatre directors used classical antiquity in general and ancient plays in particular to promote their ends – after the October Revolution and later World War II opened Central and Eastern Europe to Soviet domination. Like both previous volumes, it offers a rare glimpse into views and documents of the period. One can see how the scene changes from country to country, and the picture is far from homogenous. The varying harshness of the communist regime impacted the repertory, and both the strength of the local theatrical tradition as well as the presence of classical antiquity in education and culture eventually influenced the directors’ choices. The public, on the other hand, could go along with or against the directors’ inclinations – and could in times of tension see political allusions where none were intended, celebrating a victory of the Aesopian language.

CLASSICS AND COMMUNISM IN THEATRE Graeco-Roman Antiquity on the Communist Stage Edited by David Movrin and Elżbieta Olechowska

Published research on the history of Classics during the Communist period shines by its absence, to use a term borrowed from Tacitus, and exceptions to this rule are few and far between; even the authors dealing with the subject pay only tangential attention to the region. In contrast, the issue of Classics in both Italy and Germany before World War II has already been carefully examined. Nonetheless, the classical tradition in the former people’s democracies has recently become a salient research topic. Classics and Communism in Theatre, the third book in the cycle Classics and Communism launched in 2013, probes a subject that remains a scholarly terra incognita — investigating the context for the classical tradition and its transmission in what Winston Churchill once called “the ancient states” behind the Iron Curtain that stretched “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” defining a significant part of Europe after World War II.


Classics and Communism in Theatre


C L A S SIC S A N D C OM M U N I SM I N T H E AT R E Graeco-Roman Antiquity on the Communist Stage

Edited by David Movrin and Elżbieta Olechowska

Warsaw · Ljubljana 2019


Published by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts) and Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” University of Warsaw. Represented by Robert Sucharski, Dean of the Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” University of Warsaw, and Roman Kuhar, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. Printed in the EU. Financed in part from research funds (BST) of the Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” University of Warsaw, the research funds of Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, and Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS). Academic Reviewers: Zbigniew Kloch, University of Warsaw, Aleš Maver, University of Maribor, Anthony Podlecki, University of British Columbia, Oliver Taplin, Oxford University Printed in 300 copies Price: 24,90 EUR Cover photo: Zalissia in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, with the large red sign above the proscenium in its ornate town hall (dvorets kulturny) proclaiming: “Long live communism – the radiant future of all mankind.” Ljubljana - Warsaw, 2019, first edition. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

CIP – Cataloguing in Publication National and University Library, Ljubljana 821.124’02.09:792(4-11)”1945/1991”(082) 821.14’02.09:792(4-11)”1945/1991”(082) 792(4-11):329.15(082) CLASSICS and Communism in Theatre : Graeco-Roman Antiquity on the Communist Stage / edited by David Movrin and Elżbieta Olechowska. - 1st ed. - Warsaw : Faculty of Artes Liberales; Ljubljana : Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete = University Press, Faculty of Arts, 2019 ISBN 978-83-286-0062-1 (Wydawnictwo DiG) ISBN 978-961-06-0209-5 (Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete)


Contents Introduction  .  ix 1 American Communist Idealism in George Cram Cook’s The Athenian Women (1918)  . 1 Edith Hall 2 British Communist Theatre and Aristophanes: The Case of Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood  . 23 Henry Stead 3 A Look at Herbert P. J. Marshall and Do Somethin’ Addy Man! Or The Black Alcestis  .  45 Michele Valerie Ronnick 4 Symbolist Ideas in the Scripts of Gubpolitprosvet: The Theory and Practice of Proletarian Performance  . 61 Nina V. Braginskaya 5 The Presence of Antiquity in Belarusian Soviet Theatre: the 1920s  . 77 Hanna Paulouskaya and Maria Pushkina


6 Classics on the Soviet Lithuanian Stage: The Case of Juozas Miltinis’ Theatre  . 99 Rasa Vasinauskaitė 7 Ancient Plays on Stage in Communist Poland  . 121 Elżbieta Olechowska 8 Images of Sparta in Polish Post-War Theatre  . 169 Maria Kalinowska 9 Antigone in Exile: Henryk Grynberg’s Literary Inception and Fate  . 177 Katarzyna Jerzak 10 Classical Topics on the Stages of Brno Theatres between 1948 and 1989  . 191 Lubomir Kysučan 11 Ancient Drama and Reception of Antiquity in the Theatre and Drama of the German Democratic Republic (GDR)  . 203 Bernd Seidensticker 12 In the Realm of Politics, Nonsense, and the Absurd: The Myth of Antigone in West and South Slavic Drama in the Mid-Twentieth Century  . 227 Alenka Jensterle-Doležal

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13 Translating as Prophesying One’s Fate: Ivan Hribovšek and His Antigone  . 243 Brane Senegačnik 14 Surviving the Latibulum: Vitomil Zupan, Classics, and Classicists  . 253 David Movrin 15 Ancient Drama in Bulgaria (1944–1989): Performance as Escape  . 267 Nevena Panova DOCUMENTS  .  281 About the Authors  .  503 Index  .  513

vii


Introduction I want to burn with the spirit of the times. I want all servants of the stage to recognise their high destiny. I am disturbed at my comrades’ failure to rise above narrow caste interests, which are alien to the interests of society at large. Yes, the theatre can play an enormous part in the transformation of the whole of existence. Vsevolod Meyerhold

The cycle on Classics and Communism, launched in 2009 under the title Gnôthi Seauton! – Classics and Communism: The History of Studies on Antiquity in the Context of the Local Classical Tradition; Socialist Countries 1944/45–1989/90, has now reached its third volume. The international network of scholars created at the time by Jerzy Axer, György Karsai, and Gábor Klaniczay evolved into the present team of diverse contributors under the aegis of the Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” University of Warsaw, and the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. These two schools in 2011 together assumed the role of editors of the research conducted by the group and have produced now three volumes to date – apart from the present one there was one in 2013,1 and another one in 2016.2 Classics and Communism was followed by Classics and Class, a volume dedicated to classics in communist schools. 1

2

Classics and Communism: Greek and Latin behind the Iron Curtain, ed. by György Karsai, Gábor Klaniczay, David Movrin, and Elżbieta Olechowska (Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana, 2013). Classics and Class: Greek and Latin Classics and Communism at School, ed. by David Movrin and Elżbieta Olechowska (Warsaw: Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” DiG, 2016).


The present volume deals with a similarly significant institution, namely the communist theatre and its staging of ancient comedy and drama. The goal is to examine whether and how the authorities, their ideologists, and theatre directors, both pro- and anti-communist, used classical antiquity in general and ancient plays in particular to promote their ends – after the October Revolution and later World War II opened Central and Eastern Europe to Soviet domination. Most of the chapters of the present volume were discussed at the conference Classics and Communism in Theatre, which took place in Warsaw in January 2015. The volume begins with case studies from regions beyond Soviet Europe, to give prominence to the research less frequently treated by scholars studying communism. Edith Hall’s Communist Idealism in George Cram Cook’s “The Athenian Women” (1918) is followed by Henry Stead’s British Communist Theatre and Aristophanes: the Case of Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood. Michele Ronnick contributed her fascinating story of the first all-black musical called Do Somethin’ Addy Man! or The Black Alcestis, staged in 1962 at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. From the United Kingdom, the focus shifts to Russia shortly before the October Revolution, where three classicists, translators of Greek drama, namely Tadeusz Zieliński, Innokentiy Annensky, and Vyacheslav Ivanov, prepared the ground for what they called the Slavonic Renaissance of Antiquity. After the October Revolution, Zieliński’s son Adrian Piotrovsky and Sergey Radlov developed a concept of amateur theatre and proletarian performance where “sailors and the Red Army soldiers” staged Aristophanes’ comedies at so-called clubs, “centres for education and propaganda for the masses.” Nina V. Braginskaya explores this transition of the symbolist theory into socialist practice. Minsk is a far cry from Moscow and provides a rarely discussed image of a new Soviet republic on the western confines of the Soviet Union. Maria Pushkina and Hanna Paulouskaya focus on the development of Belarussian theatre in the 1920s as it relates to the forceful promotion of national identity and language at the time of the foundation of the republic and the x


new federal state. No classical plays were staged in Minsk; the only one somewhat connected to classical antiquity produced there was a translation of Sergey Polivanov’s Tarquinius the Priest, a crudely antireligious piece, spurned in Moscow by Vsevolod Meyerhold despite a vigorous ideological recommendation from Nadezhda Krupskaya herself. One of the severe difficulties facing Soviet theatre directors outside of Russian-speaking centres that were willing to stage classics was the lack of quality texts in the national languages. The initial celebration of national cultures designed to play on aspirations to statehood, previously discouraged by the Russian empire and now allegedly promoted by the communist regime, was a standard part of the Soviet rhetoric. Within a decade it had dwindled into lukewarm official support for local folklore. Competent translations of Greek and Roman classics into languages other than Russian were only published much later. In Ukraine this started after Stalin’s death, but continued slowly until late perestroika – and in the case of some authors it took even longer; Euripides was only published when the country became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Lithuania, a country with vibrant interwar pre-communist theatre traditions, only one ancient play, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, was produced under communism – but it was produced twice, in 1966 by Povilas Gaidys and in 1977 by Juozas Miltinis. Theatrologist Rasa Vasinauskaitė focuses on the latter and presents an absorbing picture of the Lithuanian theatre under communism. From Lithuania, the focus moves west to neighbouring Poland. The book presents three different aspects of the ancient theatre under communism. A study of dramas by Greek and Roman playwrights performed under communism is followed by an analysis of the dual reception of Spartan ethos based on the presence of Sparta on the Polish stage after World War II, and the tragic figure of Antigone among victims of the Holocaust in a Henryk Grynberg’s 1959 story Antigone’s Crew. Czechoslovakia, a country where communism prevailed three years later than in Poland but proved more brutal, is analysed on the case study of theatres in the city of Brno by Lubor Kysučan, who discusses xi


classical themes in theatres in Brno from 1948 to 1989. Moving from Brno to Berlin and East Germany, Bernd Seidensticker highlights the fact that in the German Democratic Republic the ratio of theatre seats per capita was probably the highest in the world. His chapter on Ancient Drama and Reception of Antiquity in the German Democratic Republic provides an overview of the GDR’s theatrical scene, focusing on three pieces. These are Peter Hacks’ adaptation of Aristophanes Peace at the Deutsche Theater in Berlin in 1962, Heiner Müller’s Philoktet, a play based on a Sophoclean tragedy, and the same author’s Der Horatier, a short didactic play (Lehrstück) based on Roman history. The unique place of Sophocles’ Antigone in the repertory of communist theatre and its influence on West- and South Slavonic drama in mid-twentieth century is discussed by Alenka Jensterle-Doležal, who also provides a review of theatrical innovation under communism in that region. Brane Senegačnik revisits the question of translation of ancient texts for the stage focusing on Ivan Hribovšek and his translation of Antigone. Hribovšek was among the many opponents of the new regime who were murdered by communists after World War II in Slovenia. Practically unknown until the Slovenian independence, he is now considered one of the talented poets of the twentieth century; his translation of Sophocles’ Antigone was first published just months before the Warsaw conference in 2015. David Movrin looks at the Slovenian translations of ancient texts from a different point of view. Anton Sovre, the foremost Slovenian translator of classics in the 1950s, was a close friend of Vitomil Zupan, l’enfant terrible of twentieth-century Slovenian literature and author of Alexander Empty-Handed, a “tragic comedy about Alexander the Great,” an enigmatic and little-known study of the nature of power. Zupan spent six years in prison for “amorality, attempted murder, betrayal of state secrets, enemy propaganda and undermining the social order” after the Cominform crisis. During Zupan’s time in prison Sovre provided him with translations, classical inspiration, and moral support. A review of the reception of ancient drama in socialist Bulgaria completes the volume. Nevena Panova combines translations of texts and staging of classical plays with xii


literature, music, and visual arts inspired by classical antiquity, while examining them in the educational context. Like both previous volumes, this one also ends with a photo album offering a rare glimpse into views and documents of the period supplementing the text – with photographs of people, places, and theatre performances. As in the first two volumes, one can see how the scene changes from country to country, and the picture is far from homogenous. The varying harshness of the communist regime impacted the repertory, and both the strength of the local theatrical tradition as well as the presence of classical antiquity in education and culture eventually influenced the directors’ choices. The public, on the other hand, could go along with or against the directors’ inclinations – and could in times of tension see political allusions where none were intended, celebrating a victory of the Aesopian language.3

3

Cf. Lev Loseff, On the Beneficence of Censorship: Aesopian Language in Modern Russian Literature, trans. Jane Bobko (Munich: Otto Sagner, 1984), x; Andrei Terian, “The Rhetoric of Subversion: Strategies of ‘Aesopian Language’ in Romanian Literary Criticism under Late Communism,” Slovo 24.2 (2012): 75–78, quotes Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, who coined the expression, and of course Lenin, who discussed “the accursed Aesopian language” in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), speaking about the imperial censorship.

xiii


CC_cover_POL 85% BB 2019 09 08.pdf 1 8. 09. 2019 18:56:24

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While it is not surprising to find Antigone emerging as the most translated and performed tragedy, it is fascinating to see how varied the treatments of this play have proved to be. Another intriguing motif to emerge is the persistent life of ancient comedy, where the cover of laughter and the evasion of metatheatricality provided especially fertile ground for what is known as “Aesopian language”. It is evident that the production values of this book are admirably high. It is a further benefit that it includes a collection of relevant photographs, which enhance its value as a contribution to the flourishing field of “performance reception”. In conclusion, this volume has significant value for the understanding both of social and political history and of theatre in the twentieth century. Oliver Taplin

CLASSICS AND COMMUNISM IN THEATRE

The goal of the present volume is to examine whether and how the authorities, their ideologists, and theatre directors used classical antiquity in general and ancient plays in particular to promote their ends – after the October Revolution and later World War II opened Central and Eastern Europe to Soviet domination. Like both previous volumes, it offers a rare glimpse into views and documents of the period. One can see how the scene changes from country to country, and the picture is far from homogenous. The varying harshness of the communist regime impacted the repertory, and both the strength of the local theatrical tradition as well as the presence of classical antiquity in education and culture eventually influenced the directors’ choices. The public, on the other hand, could go along with or against the directors’ inclinations – and could in times of tension see political allusions where none were intended, celebrating a victory of the Aesopian language.

CLASSICS AND COMMUNISM IN THEATRE Graeco-Roman Antiquity on the Communist Stage Edited by David Movrin and Elżbieta Olechowska

Published research on the history of Classics during the Communist period shines by its absence, to use a term borrowed from Tacitus, and exceptions to this rule are few and far between; even the authors dealing with the subject pay only tangential attention to the region. In contrast, the issue of Classics in both Italy and Germany before World War II has already been carefully examined. Nonetheless, the classical tradition in the former people’s democracies has recently become a salient research topic. Classics and Communism in Theatre, the third book in the cycle Classics and Communism launched in 2013, probes a subject that remains a scholarly terra incognita — investigating the context for the classical tradition and its transmission in what Winston Churchill once called “the ancient states” behind the Iron Curtain that stretched “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” defining a significant part of Europe after World War II.

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