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Subversive Stages

Theater in Pre- and Post-Communist Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria

Ileana Alexandra Orlich, President’s Professor of Romanian, English and Comparative Literature, Director of Romanian Studies Program, Head of German, Romanian & Slavic Faculty in the School of International Languages and Cultures (SILC), at Arizona State University (ASU)

Exploring theater practices in communist and post-communist Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, this book analyzes intertextuality or “inter-theatricality” as a political strategy, designed to criticize contemporary political conditions while at the same time trying to circumvent censorship. In the Soviet bloc the theater of the absurd, experimentation, irony, and intertextual distancing (estrangement) were much more than mere aesthetic language games, but were planned political strategies that used indirection to say what could not be said directly.

Plays by Romanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian dramatists are examined, who are “retrofitting” the past by adapting the political crimes and horrifying tactics of totalitarianism to the classical theatre (with Shakespeare a favorite) to reveal the region’s traumatic history. By the sustained analysis of the aesthetic devices used as political tools, Orlich makes a very strong case for the continued relevance of the theater as one of the subtlest media in the public sphere. She embeds her close readings in a thorough historical analysis and displays a profound knowledge of the political role of theater history.

238 pages, 2017
978-963-386-116-5 cloth
$50.00 / €44.00 / £34.00


Foreword: The Ghosts of History Redux: Intertextuality, Rewriting, Adaptation by Jozefina Komporaly

I. The Political Ghosts and Ideological Phantasms of Nic Ularu’s The Cherry Orchard, A Sequel
II. Adapting Molière and Jules Verne to Soviet Censorship: The Alchemical Politics of Bulgakov’s A Cabal of Hypocrites and The Crimson Island
III. György Spiró’s The Impostor: Rethinking Molière’s Tartuffe for Communist Hungary

IV. Stalinist “Traitors” and “Saboteurs”: Matéi Vișniec’s Richard III Will Not Take Place or Scenes from the Life of Meyerhold
V. Staging Hamlet as Political No Exit in Géza Bereményi’s Halmi
VI. Nedyalko Yordanov’s The Murder of Gonzago: Reading Bulgaria’s Communist Political Culture through Shakespeare’s Hamlet

VII. Specters of State Power, History, and Politics of the Stage: Vlad Zografi’s Peter or The Sun Spots
VIII. Inserting God into the Communist Personality Cult: Stefan Tsanev’s The Other Death of Joan of Arc