Performing Work: Internationalism and Theatre of Fact Between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.
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Title: Performing Work: Internationalism and Theatre of Fact between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Theatre’s public, and yet intimate emotional ability to demarcate extraordinary occurrences and provoke communal escalation make it useful for internationalist organizing. “Performing Work: Internationalism and Theatre of Fact between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.,” traces 1920s and 1930s leftist theatre through transnational circuits of political and aesthetic dialogue. I argue that these plays form a shared lexicon in response to regional economic and political challenges. Sergei Tretiakov’s Rychi, Kitai/Roar, China! (1926); Hallie Flanagan and Margaret Ellen Clifford’s Can You Hear Their Voices? (1931); Langston Hughes’s Scottsboro Limited (1931); and Hughes, Ella Winter, and Ann Hawkins’s Harvest (1933-34) constitute the dissertation’s primary texts. “Performing Work” begins by reading the Soviet play Roar, China! as a work of theatre of fact which performs conflicted internationalisms in plot, and in its politicized production history. The middle chapters track revisions to Soviet factography and internationalism by three American plays in light of the Depression, racism, feminism, and labor disputes. The study considers the reception of Russian and English translations, as well as figurative translations across cultural contexts. Performance theory and literary history support this analysis of dramatic forms—embodied, temporal, and textual. I narrow my study to four plays from the United States and Soviet Union to argue for the tangible impact of ephemeral contact and performance in order to resist polarizing simplification of relationships between these two countries. The three central figures of this study, Sergei Mikhailovich Tretiakov (1892-1937), Hallie Flanagan (1890-1969), and Langston Hughes (1909-1967) each had either direct or indirect contact with one another and with each other’s theatrical work. This study is primarily concerned with the transnational circulation of politically significant dramatic form and only secondarily occupied with verifying direct influence from one author to another. The four plays participate in transnational dialogue on working conditions, cultural imperialism, racist legal systems, and gender inequality. This dissertation includes previously published material.