The Nature of the Soviet Audience: Theatrical Ideology and Audience Research in the 1920s
With a degree of simplification the period from the turn of the century to the 1920s in Russian theatre can — in terms of semiotics — be described as a quick successive shift from the dominance of semantics (the relation sign/reality) through the dominance of syntactics (the relation sign/sign) to the dominance of pragmatics (the relation sign/recipient). In the naturalist productions of the Moscow Art Theatre of Stanislavsky as well as the early Symbolist performances of Meyerhold, semantics (referential or ideological) were foregrounded. In the theatricalism of Meyerhold of the 1910s and of Nikolay Yevreinov the problem of syntactics, of the combination of elements (for example, the grotesque) became dominant. Finally, in the constructivist experiments of the early 1920s — not independently of the socio-political context — pragmatics, that is, the relation between sign and recipient, between performer and spectator, came to the fore. Of course, these three aspects — semantics, syntactics and pragmatics — can be singled out in any theatrical system, or indeed any sign system whatsoever. But the shift in dominance that took place in the extremely intense evolution of Russian theatre during the first decades of the century only seems to make the three different aspects more distinguishable.
KeywordsAudience Response Audience Research Questionnaire Method Audience Reaction Theatrical Ideology
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- 3.For a general historical survey see D. Bradby and J. McCormick, People’s Theatre (London, 1979). On the ‘Utopian’ aspect of people’s theatre in Russia see Lars Kleberg, ‘“People’s Theater” and the Revolution’, in N. Å. Nilsson (ed.), Art, Society, Revolution: Russia, 1917–1921 (Stockholm, 1979) pp. 179-97; and Robert Russell, ‘People’s Theatre and the October Revolution’, Irish Slavonic Studies, vol. VII (1986) pp. 65–84.Google Scholar
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