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Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn

Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn: Les Kurbas, Ukrainian Modernism, and Early Soviet Cultural Politics

Irena R. Makaryk
Copyright Date: 2004
https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442679887
Pages: 270
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442679887
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  • Book Info
    Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn
    Book Description:

    Les Kurbas - director, actor, playwright, filmmaker, and translator - was the first artist to introduce Shakespeare to the Ukrainian stage. Creating the foundations of Soviet Ukrainian theatre and cinema, he was also responsible for its avant-garde direction.Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bournis the first book-length study in English of Kurbas's modernist productions of Shakespeare and the first book on Soviet Shakespeare productions in Ukraine in any language.

    Situating Shakespeare within the ideological and cultural debates and conflicts of the early Soviet period, Irena Makaryk traces the trajectory of Shakespeare's and Kurbas's fortunes while also investigating the challenges that modernism posed to early Soviet ideology.

    Ukraine's cultural history - still an undiscovered bourn - has frequently been submerged within a homogenized Soviet experience. The fall of the Soviet Union and the consequent opening up of many hitherto inaccessible archives has allowed a new probing of the master narratives created during that regime. Invoking contemporary debates about the cultural uses of Shakespeare (especially issues of canon, classic, and authority),Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bournexamines the complexities of the Soviet encounter with Shakespeare. It thus makes an important contribution to the studies of theatre, cross-culturalism, modernism, and postcolonialism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7988-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Permissions
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. A Note on Transcription, Transliteration, and Archival Sources
    (pp. xix-2)
  7. Prelude
    (pp. 3-8)

    The premiere of Soviet Ukrainian director Les Kurbas’s>Macbethon 2 April 1924 in Kyiv was met with a momentary silence after which the audience appeared to be thrown into confusion, and then suddenly erupted into loud and long applause. As if ‘a bomb exploded in the audience,’ wrote one of the actors, the spectators began simultaneously to shout out all of their pent-up responses. Three days after the event, all of Kyiv was still smarting from the outrage of the ‘scandal’ of turning Shakespeare upside down. A major critical storm was launched which swirled around two basic issues -...

  8. Chapter One Ex Nihilo: The Classics, Wars, and Revolutions
    (pp. 9-64)

    Building a nation or reviving it from its ashes requires a rethinking of the relationship between individual and community, past and present. Building a theatrical culture requires a similar task of reconsidering and reconceiving relationships: among playwright, actor, and audience; expectation, convention, and innovation. It raises, first of all, the explosive question of repertoire. What models, what sources should be used to reimagine and reflect the emergent identity? If a society in the process of transformation rejects the immediate past, then the question is to what past does it look for models? What, in themselves, do these models suggest? Omit?...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. Chapter Two Tilting at Da Vinci: Kurbasʼs 1924 Macbeth
    (pp. 65-112)

    Whenever the young composer Yuli Meitus entered Kurbas’s Kharkiv apartments in order to discuss the music for a new production, he was first greeted by a staggering mountain of thousands of books, newspapers, manuscripts, magazines, and reproductions of paintings by van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Gauguin, and others. Every conceivable corner of wall space all the way up to the ceiling, every table, was packed with evidence of Kurbas’s broad interests in theatre, art, dance, music, philosophy, and psychology. Once he negotiated the entry, Meitus later recalled, he would find the director in dressing gown, pacing about his room and...

  11. Chapter Three ʻAuthenticʼ Shakespeare: Saksahanskyʼs Othello
    (pp. 113-143)

    Les Kurbas, along with Vasyl Desniak and others, believed that the Berezil had ‘buried forever’ both the academic and the old ethnographic-populist theatre, which had degenerated into a ‘hackneyed “Little Russian” [that is, colonial] theatre’ (Kurbas, ‘Krakh,’ 134; Desniak 116). Although acknowledging the technical mastery of its best practitioners, Kurbas was convinced that the new epoch had created new tastes in and demands from its spectators. While to call Panas Saksahansky’s production ofOthelloin 1926 either ‘hackneyed’ or ‘academic’ theatre would be vastly inaccurate, it certainly fit Yakiv Savchenko’s description of the kind of Shakespeare Ukrainians had hitherto seen...

  12. Chapter Four Toward Socialist Realism: Hnat Yuraʼs A Midsummer Nightʼs Dream
    (pp. 144-176)

    Panas Saksahansky’s and Les Kurbas’s Shakespeare productions represented two diametrically opposed ways of staging and interpreting the classics. The former was actor-, character-, and author-centred. The latter, foregrounding the theatrical, resembled what Charles Marowitz has called ‘quantum leap Shakespeare,’ which relocates the original play in a different intellectual climate (Marowitz 9). In the mid-1920s, the coexistence of two such different approaches to Shakespeare reflected the vitality and diversity of the Ukrainian theatre, but this ebullient independence was exceedingly short-lived. This chapter traces the processes by which the starburst of theatrical activity was rapidly transformed into banality and provincialism, a process...

  13. Chapter Five Coda: The ʻTractor of the Revolutionʼ and ʻVanya Shakespeareʼ
    (pp. 177-204)

    The ‘Cultural Revolution,’ which was to reshape life in the theatre and beyond it, finally arrived in 1928. In its wake, it brought not merely more controls and ‘other strict observances’ (to use Berowne’s phrase) but also the triumphant annunciation of Ivan Mykytenko as the long-awaited Soviet Shakespeare. This chapter builds toward Mykytenko’s ‘coronation’ and to the new cultural work which ‘Shakespeare’ was called upon to fulfil in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

    During 1928 more regulatory controls were issued at the same time as even more insistent calls were made for a new Soviet Ukrainian dramaturgy. In early...

  14. Appendix
    (pp. 205-208)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 209-220)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 221-240)
  17. Index
    (pp. 241-257)