Theatre and Dictatorship in the 20th Century

Theoretical approaches to theatre have oscillated between primarily literary and rather spectacle-based over the centuries. The arrival of Cultural Studies to the critical scene relegated this debate and brought in a more overarching approach to theatre. It was then understood as a cultural artifact of a given society. Theatre came to be recognized as a living artistic genre communicating with an audience established as a communitas – thanks to this, theatre has a greater potential impact on society than that of other cultural phenomena. The causes of this impact lie in the genre’s own idiosyncrasy: communion, immediacy and intimacy with the audience, as well as collectiveness, are pivotal to theatre but absent in other genres.

These attributes of the theatrical communication load the message with a strong political potential. Its direct and collective reception may incite loyalty or feelings of opposition in the audience. Aware of the strength inherent in such a communication process, the Power has traditionally tried to maintain control over theatre and take it out of the hands of the enemy, as it may prove useful to disseminate opposition and heterodoxy. Besides seeing theatre as a tool for resistance, the Power has also tried to capitalize on it as an effective means of imposing its hegemonic ideological discourse and perpetuating an obedient society in the same way as Ideological State Apparatuses (Althusser). The links between the Power and Theatre have thus traditionally been close, both to fight heterodoxy and to foster orthodoxy.

Despite its existence in all societies, this grip on theatre appeared more virulently in the dictatorial regimes that spread across the globe throughout the 20th century. The links between such regimes and theatre is bidirectional. The former react to the latter either to take it over or to armour-plate themselves against it. However, theatre also reacts to dictatorship either to protect itselt or to attack it. This monographic issue of 452oF aims to analyze these complex links. This call for papers is open to works on “Theatre and Dictatorship” in any geographical context (comparative papers are also welcome) and within the 20th century. Proposals following both text-based and spectacle-based approaches will be welcomed. A non-comprehensive list of possible topics is:

a) Theatre and Politics: political theatre, agit-prop theatre, guerrilla theatre, documentary theatre, mass theatre; programmatic texts and poetics.
b) Theatrical Apparatuses serving Power: the role of National Theatres, repertoires, theatre censorship, publishing, prizes.
c) Discourses of Obedience: Political Orthodoxy and Theatre.
d) Discourses of Resistance: Political Heterodoxy and Theatre.
e) Exile.
f) Theatre as a space for Memory.

Diego Santos Sánchez
FaLang translation system by Faboba


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