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But people go to these places as I told you because sometimes they have no other place to go in order to relax or to have some entertainment. Would you say that the Soviet theatre performs in proportion many more all Russian plays and foreign classics than they perform Soviet play. That I wouldn't say. And I think quite on the contrary they want to perform them less and less because they need the place or the Soviet plays for this purpose of propaganda. And I think that the need of propaganda is increasing constantly especially since they were told what to wear. I could repeat it again then because the people saw the west and the Soviet government is definitely afraid of it. Would you say that the the audiences generally. I prefer seeing the all the plays to the Soviet play definitely without any doubt.
Do you remember any of the older players the owners or the Juvenile Yeah you of course it was Cheika But you know it was sad for death you know and by counted X a tall story which was very successful especially with Camille. It was the stay yes uncle's dream. For some reasons the karmas of Survivor not performed anymore in my days. And then there was another very successful play the days of the two of bins which was the only realistic play of about Russian Revolution. But precisely because it was realistic it is not performed anymore. What happened to the days of the top Britons Why did they take it off the boards. Well that I don't know. One can only guess. Probably there was too much truth for the Soviet government which doesn't want people to know the truth. It was a play about the attack of Laura's forces on the city of Kiev. But. The Bolsheviks didn't figure in it very much did they know.
But the fact that a family of Russian intellectuals of Russian until again today decides to take side all of that evolution is only because they were too much disappointed and the white army and in particular it is really a very poor reason. From the viewpoint of Soviet government why the play has been taken off. It is said that Stanislavski the great director objected to the refusal of the government to keep this play on the stage. Have you ever heard anything about that. I didn't hear much about that but I know that it didn't help him find him though for a short time he obtained the permission to deplane should be performed. He did obtain permission and that was when it came back to the stage that I myself saw this play in the first Moscow out in Moscow and I would agree with you that it was certainly one of the most satisfying theatrical performances that I've ever seen in the Soviet Union.
Well I want to thank you Mr. Alexander now for your very interesting information that you've given us today. Our program continues following a 10 second pause for station identification. Well. You are listening to people under communism. A transcribed series of follow up programs based on documented evidence and expert
knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. Materials for this program have been supplied by Dr. A.J. Simmons chairman of the department of Slavic languages at Columbia University and professor of Russian literature in its Russian Institute. Here is Dr. Simmons to continue with drama to order in snowball. We have had an example of an anti American play designed to influence Soviet children. What of the still more abundant anti American plays that are calculated to indoctrinate Soviet grownups sort of as the mad haberdasher may be taken as an average sample of these many anti American plays for adults written to the author of the Communist Party. It deals with
American politics and the scene is laid in a Missouri town. The hero Charlie. I have a dash feels in his business and is willing to serve anyone who will pay him the points of contact with President Truman in his career a barely disguised in a riot of Soviet inventiveness. The fact that when Charlie puts on a Hitler mustache he bears a striking resemblance to the dead dictator excites the imagination of a Missouri political boss. BOB HOGG who was searching for a way of arousing Americans to a picture of war hysteria. BOB HOGG persuades Charlie to pose as Hitler return to life from a hiding place prepared to lead an anti-communist crusade. Charlie meanwhile has a quiet and Eva Brown in the person of a long series saleswoman sissy Slesinger who is also willing to see Boss Hogg and his Wall Street mentors for a consideration. BOB HOGG presents to Hitler
Charlie to a Wall Street representative a senator though Charlie slips up here and there in his impersonation he displays such talent at making speeches calling for war against the Soviet Union that the senator decides that Charlie is too valuable to be wasted on such a stunt and he runs him for the next senator from Missouri. The remainder of the play concerns Charlie's race for the Senate in which is speeches against the Soviet Union out hit hit and in the course of which of the characters are introduced such as a certain Judge Mel Dean who dispenses justice with a billiard cue and a hand between games at a local nightclub. It is difficult to say what the Russian people think of propaganda plays like the mad haberdasher but the official press claims them as faithful pictures of American life today. Such plays are only one
indication of the manner in which Soviet playwrights are subjected to the most rigorous of controls and to a narrow range of themes dictated by the party. All three headers and drama are under the ultimate direction of the Committee on affairs of the aughts of the US as a council of ministers. The following scenes portray a situation that no doubt has become a commonplace in the Life and Work of the Soviet playwright. Since the 1946 resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on
drama and the theater the characters are imaginary but all the information is drawn directly from Soviet sources and much of the dialogue is taken from a recent article on an then well-known Soviet playwright in Soviet school year is Cousteau and from a prob the editorial. The scene is the office of public it's Greco of chairman of the repertory committee an agency of the Committee on affairs of the arts. All Soviet plays must be approved by the repertory committee before production is permitted. Pavel of age is seated at his desk. I mean even a bit of a rising young Moscow playwright and his you wrote me to come and see Euclid Popovich. Oh yes. Nicolay Evanovich. Have a seat. Let me see. It was about your play. Where is that manuscript
and here it is. The golden harvest. Nice title. Well the final report of the repertory committee is in and boy I'm sad to tell you. Committee rejects it but publish it you previously gave me every assurance that it would be entirely acceptable you praised it. You even said that it would be a brilliant stepping stone in my career haps I was a bit hasty but you know my boy I have a committee to deal with. They've had a meeting on it. Their report is in what can be wrong with it I've used the utmost care to compare number of things. Let me read from the report. The hero of this play the manager of the collective is represented as a good communist but in act 2 Scene 1 he is pictured at a festive affair of the collective is getting drunk and to Scene 3 and his pride. He refuses to take the advice of the work of
Phillipe about the approaching storm with the result that part of the harvest is destroyed his relations with the chairman of the district committee of the party are hardly comradely at the beginning of the play. My hero is a good communist he reorganizes the whole collective which had fallen apart during the war and in the end the Cohoes wins the battle for over your head it was a Communist is a slander against the great name of the party. Then this negative character what's his name. Here it is Kamal fails the report says that he is but trade much more attractively than the hero although he is shiftless and even a savage. Don't you see that I must have some dramatic conflict. And if you McKay if after he learns to take the advice of my hero and comes up with a good example of the hard working peasant is reformed and become yes I know all that but this picture of a called a horse is not true to the reality of Soviet life. Don't take it too hard my boy. I'm sure if you rework this manuscript in the light of the criticism of the committee you might still make an acceptable play of it. But of
course I can promise you approve. I see. I see. In a single room where he lives. The young playwright Nicholai is now seated in conversation with his very intimate friend Alexandrovitch a young novelist. What I can't understand you Kali is why you're so broken up because your play is been rejected. It happens to the best devout dramatists. It's happened to you before this. Lucky for you it didn't get produced in its present for you would have been roasted by the reviewers and maybe
that would be the end of your career. Revise it is he suggested. And I have bet it will be a success. I just know this is the best thing I've ever written. For goodness sake speak lower. Nikolai has gone over to the door and stands there listening. He then goes over to the window and pulls the shade returns to his chair and continues in a lower tone. You know that I'm a candidate for the party but I've grown up with the regime and accept it wholeheartedly. But I can't go into filing what little OT I have to satisfy a wooden formula stage success. I tell you that the systematic ruthlessness with which everything really acute live and moving has been deleted blocked out expunged from plays in the repertory Committee. The the fury with which the critics and members of the repertory committee have flung themselves against the truth for picturing of a life in which along with the good there still exist various kinds of filth. Well maybe you should go in for a drama that has no conflict. All the
critics are talking about it. You know why they're talking about conflict was drama. This theory arose because of the fact that plays containing sharp life conflicts have to pass through the barbed wire obstacles of the agencies in charge of repertory. I believe that my fellow playwright that I was entirely correct when he said publicly that everything living true to life shop freshened on stereotype is combed out and smoothed out to the point where it's no longer recognizable. Every bold and stereotyped word in a play has to be defended at the cost of the playwright's nerves in the play's quality. In the face of this to write plays without any conflict without negative characters is all that's left for me. That's pretty harsh. You just don't take the right attitude towards conflict and negative characters. You remember what I said the other day in its editorial on drama. I can almost quote it. The writer as he truthfully portrays the shortcomings and contradictions that exist in life by
actively affirm the positive basis of our socialist reality must help the new to triumph Ravenel said. One cannot tolerate plays in which the negative characters dominate everything and moreover portrayed more vividly than the hero. You talk like the chairman of the repertory Committee. We hear much chatter from the critics nowadays of these keepers of silence among the playwrights. Why do they keep silent. Is it not perhaps because they've never learned how to write doll smooth little plays like like the Globe's drama with a pine trees. All the characters in it are absorbed only in the thought of felling timber no matter whether they're visiting in one of those homes seated at dinner or attending a wedding. The talk constantly turns on felling trees and rationalizing the work processes. Don't you think you're exaggerating a bit. You remember I saw that play with you exaggerating.
I got a copy of the script here let me read you a bit. How do you know the heroine is asked why do you come so infrequently Cath yet we hardly ever see you at that ina shrugging her shoulders. Why should I come when Dr advantage summons us I come to the office and hear what he has to say about lumbering the MP. But just for a visit chat at their dinner. I'm too busy my money and the MP. We don't talk with auntie in the forest now days either I didn't or we don't have anything to talk about in the forest moment MP. We just go back and forth and talk about lumber. The characters in the play certainly do not have anything to talk about except lumber. Even as she awaits a meeting with a love of the girl thinks perhaps he just wants to talk about work about lumber and even when the wedding celebration is going on the young folk and the guests discuss the challenge issued in the timber felling competition. Well I admit that it does sound a bit hopeless No I tell you I've got the if I may recall to you again what we have said the future would hold a great deal for the theatre and for the Soviet audiences.
If the if the creative energies of the writers were free from the fetters forged in bureaucratic nooks and crannies by indifferent officials who preach the idea of conflict bliss speak softly speak gently be pious writing. Perhaps Nicholai was fortunate. As his friend indicated that his play had been prevented by the repertory committee from being produced for rehearsals on an approved play may be finished and the expensive business of mounting it completed when the local party committee in a town or even the party cell in the given theater nearly every theater has such a party cell among its workers may object to certain ideological failings in the plate at a dress rehearsal or after a few public performances and succeed in having it removed from the board. In such cases dire results may follow for all concerned. For example the well-known dramatist K. Finn recently had his play honesty
approved by the repertory Committee of the Committee on affairs of the gods. It was produced by the mall of a theater in Moscow. Shortly thereafter high communist officials objected to its contents promptly. The committee on affairs of the arts publicly admitted that it had made a gross error in ever accepting this play for its approved lists. The play was banned. The dramatist was castigated in print. The producer was dismissed from his job and the director of the theatre was reprimanded. All concerned publicly recanted their faults in having anything to do with honesty. It was explained in the press that this play formally approved by a national government committee had somehow turned out to be false to Soviet like that it did not draw a living portraits of the hero of the play. Who is the director of a factory the workers and members of the intelligentsia.
The polling is a very typical criticism prob with him re so be it dramatist in the direct fears Finn in his play honesty declared the director of the large metallurgical plan started out of to be an allegedly talented innovator engine is a good business executive an organizer and then with extraordinary ease turned him into a petty tyrant a bureaucrat and an over log into an obedient is tremendous his assistant the careerist and lickspittle cut rate of only by a harmful play on sensational clashes. Is it possible to explain the fact that Finn made his hero contrary to all Soviet laws and elementary norms of Soviet public morals. Take away from the city Soviet stories a pond and even land belonging to the TAL haughtily and mock the labor and creative toil of the doctors engineers workers and other citizens of the town behaved mightily and
scornfully at the session of the polity bureau and undeservedly sweep aside the healthy criticism of the communists. Both the producer and the actor who played the part of cut a dove are at fault for making that negative character attractive story not all of the hero is a malicious self-centered maniac who must not be corrected but expelled from the party. In short they fell into the trap that confronts every Soviet dramatist today who tries to follow the party demand to portray a negative in positive territory. He drew his hero less attractively than the negative Creator in striving for dramatic conflict he employed a commonplace stereotype of Soviet drama a positive Soviet hero who has some faults but who can be reformed only. Unfortunately the communist hero still Jada had too many
faults and the party critics objected. A communist just couldn't be that bad. Or erm. The OS. And now let us look in on a Moscow symposium of a prominent dramatist and theatrical people. It was called Not long ago to discuss the reasons why Soviet playwrights were not writing comedy was a matter that is greatly disturbing the committee on affairs of the yobs. The whole discussion was reported in full in the yatra the leading theatrical magazine under us rises to speak to the gathering. The School for Scandal has had the longest run and it is always well attended. This one fact testifies to our audiences lively interest in comedy.
She is speaking of course of Sharon's famous School for Scandal which was the most popular performance this past season in the great Moscow theater where she is a leading comic actress. This very fact serves as a bitter reproach to the theatre and the playwrights for the lack of contemporary Soviet comedies in the Moscow Art Theatre repertory. It is strange and sad to me a comedienne to think that up to now I have not acted one row in a Soviet comedy. But I still dream of it and wait patiently. No I am Yukon of a prominent figure in the Soviet theatrical world gets up to speak he addresses the gathering on the reasons for the lack of comedies. Hardly do matters begin to approach actual production when every kind of doubt and misgiving sets in and not just among the play it safe. People on the committee on affairs of the arts and the theater critics. But among the very persons
who create the comedies the writers directors actors and producers. He goes on to explain how a recent comedy was mangled before production by various theatrical bosses because they feared its ideological angle everything Shoppe and sit Derek till it was deleted from the play. In the end everyone was a fine Soviet citizen and the place had nothing. The characters were the same when the curtain fell as they had been when it rose the negative characters had been made positive and the heroes who had no one to struggle against were like Don Quixote fighting windmills. The appearance of such plays is the result of that there is lack of adherents to principle. Not only that it is the authors should not consent to rewrite the play in defiance of their conscience and deny convictions but this is sheer cynicism on the part of the speaker.
He knows full well that conscience and inner convictions have no place in the Soviet scheme of things unless they happen to be communist conscience and communist in a convictions and that the Soviet playwright if he does not revise his manuscript at the request of the repertory committee will never get his play produced. Then you can have goes on to explain to the audience his idea of comedy. Comedy is a weapon. A precious and effective weapon one must take good care of weapons. They must not be allowed to rust and they must strike. Get our enemies. Just think that in recent days there has not been one great satirical comedy about apparent enemies about those who planned to subjugate the world with cholera germs Soviet enemies trying to subjugate the world with cholera germs as a subject for aloft the speakers need look no further
for the reason why comedy has benn is from the Soviet stage these militarism have slain the first principle of comedy and the ability to laugh at themselves. The Russian people have always loved loft but nowadays they must find only a grim humor in the words of the speaker that all connected with the production of comedy on the Soviet stage trying to play it safe. Here is a frank revelation that all are afraid to take any chances with the ideological demands of the party which urges the ridiculing of abuses in Soviet life provided one avoids laughing at the real cause of the abuses. The top leadership of the Communist Party. Time is in the Soviet. The Africa world must look back nostalgically
to the early period of the regime for a number of years after the 1979 revolution. The Soviet theatre enjoyed an exciting artistic development which compelled the admiration of many foreign experts who in those days were cordially invited to the US s to see brilliant performances of an amazingly rich variety of foreign Russian and Soviet plays. It was the age of the great directors Stanislaus De Vocht Tung Mayer to hold and tell you and of their stopping experimentations in the art of the theatre. The state handsomely supported the theatre and even permitted playwrights considerable freedom to write plays that reflected Soviet life with some measure of faithfulness. No all these great directors is dead. The state has withdrawn much of its financial support and experimentation is frowned upon as mere
formalism. Today even the party has pointedly recognized the abysmal failure of both the theatre and the repertory. It showed its disapproval while ignoring the fact that its interference had been the real cause of the debacles by refusing to select a first or second prize stollen when among Soviet plays of 1951 and by publishing an official condemnation of drama and dramatic criticism in propped up old dramatists peace and publicly to jump on the new official bandwagon bid to retracted his theory of conflict less drama. Other playwrights and critics appeared in print to support the new party line in drama which is true to life. The kind of true says prov which admits that there are bad people in the Soviet world but that they can never prevail because this would be false to Soviet troops. New most recent
word in this controversy has been spoken by the popular dramatist Soprano in Literary Gazette in which he frankly admits the need of controls as necessary devices to whip Soviet playwrights into a state of happiness over their salary to stick straight. It is in vain that some of our writers maintain that the committee on affairs of the arts must not now interfere with playwrights all the work of the theatre. The committee is a state agency responsible told the party and the people of all the theatre repertory. Therefore act of creative work with the playwrights is its prime duty. There was state censorship Oh so in the days of the czars. But this was mild compared to that of the Soviets today and the state then did not force upon the Dramatis a narrow range of themes that would reflect the ideology of a monolithic government. Playwrights then were
free to select their feed and the famous plays of one vision of Google Tolstoy and Chekhov were performed. Now the most pointed criticism of the vicious party controls on drama is the very fact that the most popular plays in the Soviet Union today are the great pre-revolutionary Russian dramas written in the time of the ZOB was. The era. Of the unheard of. Linear to. The of. The era. Of you have just heard drama to order one and a transcribed series of follow ups. Grabs people under communism based on documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union. Materials for this broadcast were supplied by Dr
Ernest Jason the. Chairman of the department of Slavic languages at Columbia University. This eries as a whole was prepared in consultation with scholars from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. The Hoover Institute and library at Stanford University and the Russian Institute of Columbia University. Your narrator was Dr Ernest J Simmons. This program was produced and directed by Frank Pat. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters and are made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education. An independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. This is the NABJ network.
People under communism
Drama to order, part two
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National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, analyzes the state of drama in the Soviet Union.
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A series of documentaries, interviews and talks based upon documented evidence and expert knowledge about the power and intentions of the Soviet Union.
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Politics and Government
Drama--Soviet Union--History and criticism.
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Advisor: Simmons, Ernest J. (Ernest Joseph), 1903-1972
Advisor: Hoover Institute and Library on War, Revolution, and Peace
Advisor: Columbia University. Russian Institute
Advisor: Harvard University. Russian Research Center
Director: Papp, Frank, 1909-1996
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Simmons, Ernest J. (Ernest Joseph), 1903-1972
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Writer: Papp, Frank, 1909-1996
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-38-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:31:29
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Chicago: “People under communism; Drama to order, part two,” 1952-12-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “People under communism; Drama to order, part two.” 1952-12-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: People under communism; Drama to order, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from