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Fellow Seminar

17 January 2019

Dr. Viviana Iacob will present her research proposal on the topic: "Socialist Internationalists: Romanian Theatre Practitioners during Détente (1955-1975)" on 17 January 2019 (Thursday) at 16:30h.


My project deals with the history of theatre practice and criticism in Eastern Europe during the Cold War from a transnational perspective. I outline several biographies which highlight the circulation of ideas within the larger context of the East-West dynamics in theatre during the détente and analyze the contributions of Romanian, and more generally, socialist theatre practitioners, in continental exchanges and debates.

The project focuses on trajectories of theatre internationalists from state socialism (actors, directors, stage designers, dramatists) that defied ideological divides. I define socialist theatre internationalists as those experts coming from state socialist countries who were given the opportunity of professional and cultural mobility and as a result they enriched and shaped their respective fields at home, while also attempting to showcase the regime's policies and practices abroad. The project also maps the ideas these individuals internalized and promoted by bringing together Eastern and Western experiences and looking at their points of interaction.

After Stalin's death, East European countries launched themselves in the international arena in an effort to prove their worth as individual socialist cultures. This turn in cultural diplomacy triggered the promotion abroad of representatives from all manner of cultural fields. The performing arts were part and parcel of this program: theatre practitioners such as Radu Beligan or Liviu Ciulei ( he two case studies that I will focus on in my presentation) became in the late sixties the image of the socialist state outside its borders. Their careers function as lenses for understanding how politics, national contexts and individual experiences interweaved as a result of interactions beyond the Iron Curtain. The productions they created and the debates they participated in illuminate the shifts in cultural diplomacy of the local communist regimes but they are also relevant for understanding theatre's role in the interplay between internationalizing socialist cultures and exporting national agendas during the Cold War.

Much of the scholarship on theatre history in Eastern Europe is still analyzed from national perspectives and from vantage points premised on geo-political divides. Recently de-classified archives show however that such interpretive premises are flawed. This newly available material supports the argument that East-West exchanges had considerable effects on the cultural milieu of countries within the socialist bloc. My research focuses therefore on recuperating a lost history of the East's role in a debate that shaped the European theatre community during the Cold War.


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