Socialist Realist theatre in the Soviet Union in the 1930s: forming a social identity
The aim of this thesis is to use the socialist realist theatre example to examine the theatre’s ability to form social identities. This is a difficult task because, for a start, the theory has failed – thus far – to give socialist realism a single definition. Very often, socialist realism was solely related to its political connotations and judged as such, a fact that often compromised research findings and underestimated the complexity of the phenomenon. This thesis addresses this shortcoming and follows more recent research, which indicates that early post-revolution socialist realism constituted a distinct artistic movement with its distinguishable traits. From this perspective, the present thesis reports on whether the critical analysis received by socialist realist theatre during the first decades after the Revolution constitutes evidence of the formative power of theatre. In other words, the thesis investigates to what extent the debate on the aesthetics of the new socialist theatre – during the 1920s and 1930s – shaped the social characteristics of the public. The thesis aims to enable theatre practitioners and theorists today to understand the relationship between the social needs of people and theatre’s ability to function as the vehicle for achieving them. Using two leading theatres (the Meyerhold Theatre, and the Moscow Art Theatre) of the time (1928-1939) as case studies, this thesis demonstrates that – in both cases – the theatre directors were both implementers and interpreters of their understanding of this new socialist world, and examines the role of the reviews received in light of this interpretation. Finally, the significance of this study is that it expands our theoretical understanding of how theatre operates as the driving force in the formation of the social identity of any given audience, at any given historical time.