November 2012 Archives

Assignment 4: Sculpt!

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Response to Discussion Questions (1-3):

To ensure that everyone participates in our presentation each member of the group will present an aspect of our research to the class. What each group member will be presenting will be based on the individual research they have done throughout the project, as it relates to our final argument. Because of the nature of our topic and our research, each individual member's research overlaps with the research of others in the group. In order to form a coherent presentation, we will divide the topics of discussion amongst ourselves. But, instead of simply passing from person to person, we will likely be interjecting thoughts or helping each other answer questions as a group, because our research was done collectively, for the most part.

The exploration of Russian theatre in the 17th century starts out promising, with mentions of folk theatre, religious theatre and puppetry. However, the deeper we searched the less we found. This is the problem we will be presenting to the class. However, we didn't just stop at the discovery of this problem. It was our mission to discover why there was a gap in the historical record where russian theatre of the 17th century should have been. So, we started digging we found that there was a great deal of social and political upheaval in the 17th century. In our presentation, a group member will be responsible for introducing the problem we found in the documentation of Russian Theatre during the 17th century. From there, a group member will discuss the uprising of the 1648, what lead up to the event and what happened during the uprising. Then, yet another member of the group will talk about the religious conflict that arises in the 17th century. The final piece of contextual information that will be given is the western involvement in Russia during this time (this will be covered by another member of the group). This will serve as a springboard for the last portion of our presentation given by mostly by the last member of the group. All of these contextual elements are interconnected, which will hopefully be evident by this section of the presentation, and it will be in this portion of the presentation that these elements will be drawn on to support our hypothesis about why the absence of documentation of Russian Theatre exists.

The lecture format we have chosen will clearly express our main argument and is the best format to effectively communicate to the rest of the class. Using a powerpoint presentation, we will share our research. Unfortunately, we do not have interesting sections of dialogue that can be read by students, or a mass of complementary pictures or video that relate to the Russian Theatre of the 17th century (though we're still looking...). Therefore, keeping our presentation interesting will rely on the manner in which we present our information. So as to not bore the class with all of our research, we will go about presenting the information in the manner we went about discovering it: beginning with the small amounts of initial information we found, then moving into our discovery of the frustrating fact there was an evident lack of information to be found... And then into the part where our real research began: asking ourselves why there was this lack of information, and then going about gathering relevant information that might put this "hole" into context. This is when the research became most interesting--when there was a mystery for us to unfold, as opposed to just a wealth of information for us to go about gathering into a neat, presentable pile. So, we figure that if we go about presenting our research by framing it in this mystery, it will keep the students engaged, as it has kept us engaged.
Also, constantly remaining open for questions, and trying to outline contextual information in an engaging manner instead of drowning students in information will hopefully keep our presentation engaging and informative.

Condensed Argument:

Prior to the middle of the 17th Century, theatre in Russia revolved primarily around the social and religious structures of Russia. But from the middle of the 17th Century until about 1680 there is a significant absence of information regarding the theatre of Russia. This absence comes not because the theatre of Russia disappeared, but because the theatre of life in Russia took center stage during this time period. From the ashes of this period of upheaval and unrest, a new Russia--socially, religiously, and culturally-- was born. Through an examination of the social, political, and religious life of Russia during this period of unrest , we discover something about the life of the theatre in Russia in the 17th Century.

Assignment 3: Divide and Conquer


For the "theatre" of Russia before 1750, the contextual information is directly related to the theatrical information. From our research, we have discovered that the kind of playwriting and performing that was going on in western European countries at the time had only just started making its way into Russia. Although we were able to find references to Russian plays and performance, we have been unable to excavate any of these texts. So, we've asked ourselves what this absence says about the "Theatre of Russia Pre-1750." Allowing our definition of "theatre" to broaden, we have discovered that the "political and social theatre" of everyday life in Russia at this time was very dramatic; it is only through an exploration of this material that we can begin to discover what the "theatre" would have resembled--what its purpose would have been within this time and place.

Religious and Folk theatre was happening in Russia pre-1750, we have found enough evidence of that. However, that is about as deep as our research could go. There is very little information that explicitly discusses early theatre/performance in Russia. Central to understanding the lack of information on this topic is to explore the social unrest that engulfed Russia during the 17th century. Until the mid 17th century the Tsar was supposedly chosen by God to protect and guide his subjects in "piety, humility and justice" (Kivelson). As a result, the Tsar played an active role in the religious plays and pageants presented at Christmastide and for other religious events. The tsar was essential to the religious experience.

Around the beginning of the 17th century more cultural exchange was occurring with Western culture and with neighboring cultures. This was not to the pleasure of many Russian citizens. The Church began developing miracle or mystery plays combat the Catholic propaganda. The theatrical combat spread to religious academies where it became one of the chief weapons in religious controversy. During the 17th century, the religious climate was characterized by the Roskol, or schism, between the Old Believers and the New Religion. The religious issues in this schism provided a platform on which the importation Western culture and the enserfment of the peasants could be protested.

In 1648 there was an uprising. This was in response to Tsar Aleksei's refusal of the townsfolks petition of the increased taxes as the result of an austerity policy as well as many other indirect taxes and the withholding of monetary grants for military servitors. This lead to a violent bloodbath across Moscow. Prior to this uprising, the townsfolk had made the distinction between the good tsar and his evil advisors. Once Tsar Aleksei refused the Townsfolk's petition, this distinction dissolved. Sermons, frescoes and historical tales reflected this new view of the of the Tsar. Theatre/performance must have followed suit. Shortly following the uprising, new legislation was produced. The Ulozhenie of 1649 was a symbolic indication of the movement to a secular state and the tsar's lessened role in the church.

By the mid 17th century, Russia was engulfed in social upheaval. In order to understand the state of theatre in Russia in the 17th century, there must be understanding of this social upheaval. The group will give the class an overview of what happened during the 1648 uprising as well as the event that lead up to it. Along with the uprising there must be discussion of the religious practice, from when the tsar held a vital role into the Roskol of the 17th century. These political and social elements are vital to exploring what was happening in Russian theatre but also to explain why and how so many gaps are left in the documentation of Russian theatre. Given that the group is only allotted a twenty minute time slot for the presentation, we will have to focus our presentation on the beginning to mid-17th century. This means looking at only the reign of Tsar Aleksei and the social and political climate under his regime. The impact of his predecessors and successors will have to be left out.

Assignment 2: Format of the Presentation

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Based on the information we have found thus far with regards to our topic of "religious performance" in pre-1750 Russia, we feel as though a lecture-style power point presentation would best serve our research. We plan approach the presentation by providing a historical/political context that frames our research and specifies our focus. In particular, beginning our presentation with information on the political unrest in Russia under the rule of Czar Aleksis, whose reign was characterized by such civilian unrest and the clash between traditional Russian (17th Century religious theater), and Western European culture. We will explore Tsar Alexis' facilitation of this clash of cultural elements. To present the material in an engaging way, we will make the effort to find media that will complement our research and facilitate a better understanding of our presentation. For any quotations that we include in our presentation, we will engage with students by asking for volunteers to read aloud. Throughout the presentation, we will pose questions for the students to consider regarding the material--possibly the same questions we've asked ourselves as we've approached our research. Then, at the end of our presentation, we will close with a discussion of the material presented, possibly highlighting a certain paradox of our research and looking at it through a historiographical lens. This discussion would mean giving students a couple minutes to discuss their ideas in small groups, and then reconvening as a class for the last few minutes to share ideas and conclude our presentation.

Assignment 1: Narrow Your Scope

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The modern theatre has been greatly influenced by the developments of theatre in Russia. Russia has produced a wealth of actors, directors, playwrights, and theaters, including Michael and Anton Chekov, Constantin Stanislavski, and the Moscow Art Theatre, to name a few. But despite having produced such influential figures, Russia got a rather late start on "institutionalized" theatre. Until the mid-eighteenth century Russia lacked distinct theatrical spaces or intricate acting styles like those that had already developed in the western European theatre and elsewhere. Although Russian theatre lacked an institutionalized theatre until the mid-eighteenth century, there was still plenty of performance occurring in the country. Most of this performance stems from rituals and religion. These were used for expanded into performances for entertainment as well as for use as a manipulative tool. This group will dig further into the accounts of russian history to uncover the shape of religious performance during the 18th century.

To narrow our focus to the religious performance in the 17th century, our group started with a general web search to gain a familiarity with the Russian theatre pre 1750s. From this general search we learned specific names and movements with which we could narrow in on more specific information. However, we quickly found that the level of specificity we were hoping for was more difficult to find than we were expecting. That is why we chose to continue our exploration of religious performance for the course of the entire 17th century.

In order to gain a holistic view of the religious theatre in Russia in the 17th and early 18th centuries, we will explore the people, plays and politics active at the time. We will conduct research about political leaders such as Tsar Alexis and his son Peter I, and playwrights such as Saint Dmitry of Rostov and Simon Polotsky. The plays of these playwrights will also be researched. These include "Comedy of the Birth of Christ" and "The repentant Sinner" by Saint Dmitry of Rostov and "Nebukadnezar" and "The Prodigal Son" by Simon Polotsky. The miracle or mystery plays created by the church that predated these other plays will be studied in order to give the later plays by Saint Dmitry of Rostov and Simon Polotsky within the Academies more context since these are all from the vein of religious performance. Since culture, religion, theatre and politics are all tightly linked it is only once we have dove in to our research of people, plays and politics involved in religious performance can we begin to form a comprehensive understanding.

Due to the information we were finding with regards to the topic, coming to a consensus on the scope of the project was not difficult. What was difficult was finding a common thread among the information we were finding. Our search for information regarding the topic will continue from here, but through what we have found thus far, we feel as though the pervasiveness of religious themes in the Russian "theatre" of the 17th and early 18th centuries is an area worth exploring. We have included a works cited that lists some of the materials we have begun exploring:

Works Cited

Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevic. Russian Literature. London: Duckworth & Co., 1905.

Hill, John Wesley. "The Russian Pre-Theatrical Actor and the Stanislavsky System." Diss. U of Michigan, 2009. Dissertations and Theses. Web. 8 November 2012.

Malnick, Bertha. "The Origin and Early History of the Theatre in Russia." The Slavonic andEast European Review Vol. 19. 53/54 (1939-1940): 203-227. Print.

Lang, D.M. "Boileau and Sumarakov. The Manifesto of Russian Classicism. The Modern
Language Review , Vol. 43, No. 4 (Oct., 1948), pp. 500-506

Loewenson, Leo. "The Moscow Rising of 1648." Slavonic and East European Review. 27.68 (1948): 146-156. Print.

Lipski, Alexander. "Some Aspects of Russia's Westernization during the Reign of Anna
Ioannovna, 1730-1740." American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 18, No. 1
(Feb., 1959), pp. 1-11

11.8 research


I've been looking around for material we can use in our presentation. Here are some sources that I found helpful and potentially useful.

Alexander Sumarokov:

Sumarokov's Russianized "Hamlet": Texts and Contexts:

Boileau and Sumarokov. The Manifesto of Russian Classicism:

I found a book, literally "A History of Russian Theatre" but apparently the library reports that it is lost..... Right!?!?

Hope some of this information will prove useful!

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