By Claudia Orenstein
Are traditions of renowned theatre nonetheless alive in politically-engaged theatre to-day? In San Francisco they're. The San Francisco Mime Troupe is a latest hyperlink within the lengthy heritage of public performances that experience a merry air yet have a voice of political protest and social remark. each summer season when you consider that 1962 the Troupe has taken loose open air performances to public parks within the Bay region. In a method that's festive and a spirit that's innovative the Mime Troupe has depended on renowned theatre kinds to deal with well timed political and social concerns. Their productions retain a latest political aspect, whereas displaying their origins to be the preferred traditions of the commedia dell'arte, circus clowning, vaudeville, puppetry, and minstrel indicates. With The Minstrel convey or Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel (1965) they expressed help of the civil rights stream. With L'Amant Militaire (1967) they voiced aid of Vietnam struggle protests. to find what makes those it appears frivolous theatrical traditions powerful for modern political theatre, Festive Revolutions explores the historic origins of the preferred varieties the Mime Troupe attracts on. In previous Europe, the place functionality traditions all started, political turmoil combined with festive party. The lineage of the Mime Troupe's Punch the purple should be traced again to the Italian puppet determine Pulcinella via its English and Russian opposite numbers Punch and Petrushka. within the Mime Troupe using stereotypes and reliance upon colourful joyful celebration are assorted ideas for dodging censorship. Productions like Ripped Van Winkle proceed at the present time to re-light the radicalism the Troupe inherited from the tradition of the Sixties. Festive Revolutions exhibits that such types have encouraged political theatre for hundreds of years. Claudia Orenstein is an assistant professor of theatre at Barnard university. Festive Revolutions is her first e-book.
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Additional resources for Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe
Here Schechter's argument shifts from political consciousness and ideological structure to a question of style. He argues that the Mime Troupe's style no longer engages today's audiences and he is not alone in thinking that their work is out of date or a nostalgic throwback to the sixties. Joan Holden, the Mime Troupe's principal playwright, has responded to these concerns. She agrees that the Troupe needs to change its work to keep pace with the changes taking place in the world at large, but she prefers changes in content rather than style: "The politics of the sixties and our politics of the seventies were very programmatic.
Small theatrical transgressions thus express, but at once defuse, brewing political unrest, perhaps even undermining the prospect of real and effective political action. However, unlike those who apply the safety-valve theory across the board, Schechter believes that many contemporary performers do possess the kind of political consciousness that actively gears their work toward political and social change. What makes twentieth-century performers unique, he says, is that "their modern political consciousness comes from Marx, Brecht and Mayakovsky" (viii).
Like the early agit-prop groups the Mime Troupe also tries to educate audiences to a progressive perspective and to inspire them to political action. However, the didacticism that characterizes much of agit-prop is only one aspect of the Mime Troupe's work. Agit-prop can make for very effective political theatre. Nonetheless, my discussion here will not go into depth in this Page 12 area. Agit-prop does not capture, for me, those elements that are most effective and most characteristic of popular forms, and therefore I don't believe this area of inquiry is able to provide the best answer to the question of whether contemporary theater practitioners can use popular forms effectively for political purposes.
Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe by Claudia Orenstein