by Viviana Iacob
at the international conference Japan: Premodern, Modern, and Contemporary, Bucharest, 4-6 September, 2017.
Friendship societies with western countries had a seminal role in pre-Détente Cold War cultural diplomacy. In the absence of diplomatic relations, these associations initiated the first contact with the West and paved the way to blooming cultural exchanges during the Détente (from mid-sixties onward). Their activity was unidirectional in the early fifties, as it entailed the circulation of publications and the organization of events with a rather reduced impact such as exhibitions or conferences. Nevertheless, their main role was to gather contacts and enlarge the network of individuals that could better serve the dissemination of a socialist country’s culture beyond the Iron Curtain divide in the late fifties and early sixties. My paper will discuss the work carried out by the Japan –Romania Friendship Association (JRFA) founded in 1955 by a group of Japanese fellow travelers. By focusing on the cultural exports that were characteristic to this association in the larger context of East –West cultural relations between 1955 and 1965, I intend to underline what type of cultural heritage was favored by Romanian cultural officials in exchanges outside the socialist camp. My paper reveals a new genealogy to the internationalization of a Southeast European culture during the Cold War. It points to specific institutionalizations of encounters that constituted the basis for later transnational circulations of ideas and people from Southeast Europe to multiple corners of the globe.
by Viviana Iacob at the IFTR Conference 2017: Unstable Geographies, Multiple Theatricalities, Universidade de São Paulo, 10-14 July, 2017.
In 1961 The Lost Letter, a play by Romanian classic Ion Luca Caragiale opened in Tokyo. This was the height of Cold War, thus making connections between a socialist country and Imperial Japan an interesting case in trans-ideological spatiality and performance. The event was not an isolated one. This play held a center role in the Romanian socialist cultural policy program which internationalized itself through theatre. Its production history outside the Iron Curtain begins in 1955 and by 1962 the play was performed by theatre troupes and companies in Finland, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Japan.
The 1962 Caragiale celebration is in fact the end point of a theatre diplomacy project that started in the early 1950s and entailed translating The Lost Letter in 15 languages, touring with it and staging it in 12 countries.
The production history of this play beyond national borders shows a network of people that strived for cross-cultural communication even when there were no official diplomatic ties to speak of. It reveals the difficulties entailed by the process of exporting a socialist cultural product and by extension of a different understanding of theatricality to dissimilar cultural milieus.
The paper focuses on the routes and connections found by Romanian cultural officials and theatre artists into different national contexts and the instruments they used in order to promote the idea of Romanian theatre as the expression of a socialist culture worldwide.
by Viviana Iacob
Originally published in Romanian > “Teatralitate şi realism socialist în teatrul românesc, 1946-1963”, Studii şi Materiale de Istorie Contemporană, vol. 15/2016.
The article aims to show that when theatricality resurfaced in Romanian theatre debates after 1956, it did not replace the tenets of socialist realism altogether. It was rather a catalyst for the later to evolve into a more sustainable ideological construct in the context of de-Stalinization. The years after Stalin’s death produce in Eastern Europe tremendous changes culminating with the explosive ideological situation of 1956. At a cultural level, these changes unleashed important transformations without displacing however the socialist bedrock. The interwar debates dedicated to the burgeoning issue of theatricality and the western theatre tradition were still filtered through aesthetic coordinates that were put in place during the Stalinist period. The article focuses on debates generated around specific performances which premiered between 1946 and 1963. These events reshaped the socialist realist aesthetic by way of theatricality resulting in a reciprocally corrosive relationship in the following years. The article concludes that the recalibration of the socialist realist formula amounted to a selective process of appropriation that was done both laterally and diachronically. This approach engendered a new form of theatricality. Not a replacement of old socialist realist theatre aestetic but its refashioning.
by Viviana Iacob, in Revista istorică, tom XXVI, 2015, nr. 3–4.
The article argues that events such as the visit of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Bucharest and the Romanian delegation at Stratford in 1964 were not singular and momentous achievements of détente cultural diplomacy. They were the most visible results of an exchange program with Great Britain that began in earnest in the mid-1950s. With the start of Khrushchev’s détente in Europe, the countries behind the Iron Curtain capitalized on points of contact that would speed up the cultural rapprochement. Consequently, when it came to engaging with a Western theatre tradition such as the UK’s, Shakespeare was always the starting point for transnational exchanges. From the mid-fifties onward, Romanian theatre practitioners and Shakespeare scholars pursued such interactions not only as a means to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries, but also as a medium for mutual cultural transfers with tremendous impact by the 1960s.
by Viviana Iacob
at New Europe College, Bucharest, 9 November, 2016.
The presentation focused on mapping the history of the International Theatre Institute and its impact on Romanian cultural diplomacy during the Cold War. The narrative revolved around two main events while also fleshing out their prehistory as it was relevant to Romania’s involvement with I.T.I. between 1959 and 1964.
The first was the participation at the 8th I.T.I. Congress in Helsinki in 1959. Romania’s I.T.I. membership was presented on the background of previous interactions between theatre practitioners and policy makers with I.T.I. – e.g., the participation at the Third Festival of Dramatic Art in Paris in 1956, the forerunner of the Theatre of Nations Festival.
The second was the 1964 Bucharest symposium on the professional training of the actor, the first I.T.I. event organized in Romania. The members of 24 I.T.I. centres around the world discussed approaches on improvisation exemplified by Romanian, American and Italian students. The symposium proved the willingness of theatre practitioners to achieve a common ground for consolidating the transfer of knowledge through the Iron Curtain.
by Viviana Iacob, at Shakespeare in Romania, Shakespeare in the World, Romanian Academy Library, Bucharest, 12-14 April, 2016.
The visit of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Bucharest and the Romanian delegation at Stratford in 1964 were not singular and momentous achievements of détente cultural diplomacy. I consider themvisible results of an exchange program with Great Britain that begins in earnest in the mid-1950s.
During the Cold War, theatre was no stranger to the clash between the two competing views on modernity. With the beginning of détente in Europe, the countries behind the Iron Curtain capitalized on points of contact that would speed up the cultural rapprochement. Consequently, when it came to engaging with a western theatre tradition such as Britain’s, Shakespeare was always thestarting point for this transnational conversation. Continue reading Shakespeare as Détente: Cultural Diplomacy during the Cold War
by Viviana Iacob, at The Paradigmatic City: Origins, Avatars, Frontiers, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Centro de História d’Aquém e d’Além-Mar, 15-17 October, 2015.
The presentation will focus on Romanian intellectuals who traveled to Moscow after the war to witness, internalize, and emulate the construction of a communist society and culture. I will focus mainly on the theatre community as I am going to examine those encounters that shaped the discourse of a superior socialist culture that was created at the Moscow center. These journeys were permeated by the imperative to replicate the Soviet exemplum at home in order to put Romanian culture on the right track to communism. Continue reading Peripheries at Awe: Moscow as Metropolis of Communist Culture (1940s-1960s)