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23 JANUARY 2014

The emergence of living newspapers in the early twentieth century

"The roots of the 'living newspaper' in Europe can be traced to Italian futurism in the early decades of the twentieth century. It was in the young Soviet Union (and principally the Moscow Institute of Journalism), however, that it was developed into a recognisable form of agitprop theatre. Performed by small bands of propagandists, the scripts for zhivaya gazeta were often pasted together from materials found in newspapers–though a high degree of improvisation was also encouraged–and were designed to provide illiterate audiences (such as workers or Red Army recruits) with details of campaigns, battles or other newsworthy events (Casson, 2000). Plays were performed on street corners or in other public spaces, with the aid of a handful of props and simple yet highly symbolic costumes [2].

By the late 1920s, however, zhivaya gazeta were already being seen as passé by many dramatists in the Soviet Union, with all forms of 'revolutionary agitational art' becoming 'increasingly unwelcome', and official attention turning towards the development of more sophisticated forms of theatre in the lead up to the adoption of socialist realism as official state doctrine in 1932 (Frolova‐Walker, 2006: 185). Indeed, Stalin disbanded the Blue Blouse Group, the main exponent of zhivaya gazeta, in 1928 (Casson, 2000:109)."

(Jeremy Taylor. p.29)

[2] Top hats, for instance, were used with much frequency to mark out a particular character as being bourgeois (Tolstoy, 1998: 24).

Jeremy E.Taylor (2013). The Sinification of Soviet Agitational Theatre: 'Living Newspapers' in Mao's China, Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies, Vol. 2 July 2013.

TAGS

agitational art • agitprop theatre • Blue Blouse Group • dramaturgyearly twentieth centuryFuturism (art movement) • huobaoju • illiterate audiences • improvisationinterventionist art • Jeremy Taylor • John Casson • Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies • Leo Tolstoy • living newspaper • Marina Frolova-Walker • Moscow Institute of Journalism • newspapers • newsworthy events • pasted together • propaganda • propagandist • public spacesRed Army • revolutionary acts • revolutionary agitational art • socialist realismSoviet Union • state doctrine • street theatre • symbolic costumes • theatre form • theatre history • transformational narrative • yangbanxi • zhivaya gazeta

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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