Alina Gabriela MIHALACHE
Universitatea București, Facultatea de Litere; University of Bucharest, Faculty of Letters
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Theatrical Reviews and Ideology (1918-1920)
By the end of WW1, the Romanian theatre finds itself in a moment when the need to reassert and reconfigure its social-political role is more pressing than ever. The urge to found new institutions, to develop a Romanian theatre in the “provinces”, to foster cultural emulation in order to support the new national project after 1918 will result in remoulding theatre into a space of confrontation with the major themes of “the Greater Romania”. Theatrical repertoires, of public and private companies, give rise to fierce debates and point at the new ideological agenda.
The end of 19th century Romanticist historical drama is now rediscovered and re-signified. Old-school costume plays are put on stage and set-designed in new, modern ways, to reinforce the national issues of the day: Răzvan și Vidra by B.P. Hasdeu, Apus de soare or Viforul by Barbu Ștefănescu-Delavrancea. New plays, such as Bimbașa-Sava by I. Peretz (1915, staged 1918), or Letopiseți by Mihail Sorbul (1914, staged 1919), refer back to the atmosphere of the 17-18th c. as a cradle of national identity, and strive to connect the Middle Ages heroes to the “war generation” of the 20th c., in order to legitimize the latter. On the other hand, recent artistic trends – Ibsenism or le théâtre d’idées – anticipate new directions of the interwar theatre. Moral-sentimental plots set in the (post) belle-époque (Patima roșie or Dezertorul by Mihail Sorbul, Cadril by Liviu Rebreanu, or Jocul ielelor by Camil Petrescu) result in strong reactions and counter-reactions in the press. There is a lot of talk about the “theatre as a school”, “theatre as a moral instance”, theatre as a means to promote national language and heritage in all the areas of “the Greater Romania”.
Life behind the curtains is another topic of interest for the theatre chronicles of the times. The daily newspapers Rampa and Scena give wide exposure to such media scandals as the one concerning actress Marioara Voiculescu, accused of playing on the Bucharest stages during German occupation. Her “case” is covered in vivid detail along several issues and include a pro domo defence by the actress herself. This self-conflicting cultural landscape is the melting pot where the theatre chronicle is remoulded as a modern critical institution, illustrated by such famous, or famous-to-be, names as E. Lovinescu, Liviu Rebreanu, or Camil Petrescu. Rhetorically speaking, the review écriture mixes journalistic straightforwardness with literary elegance, history and art, aesthetical assessment and touches of memoirs, “objectivity” and “subjectivity”, and deserves to be read as an ideological document which showcases the main polarities of the political and cultural transition during the war and post-war years.
Keywords: theatrical review, memoirs, diary, First World War, aesthetic autonomy
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