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Proletarian Performance in Weimar Berlin: Agitprop, Chorus, and Brecht

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The late years of the Weimar republic were a time of disillusionment and economic disintegration, and nowhere were the forces competing for the political allegiances of the working class more active than in Berlin. This book examines the interplay of socialist and communist politics with the world of the working class and particularly its younger people. Drawing on sources such as newspaper articles, the text of agitprop plays, festival and concert programmes, and police reports, Professor Bodek provides a new angle on the forces at work in the proletarian sphere during the period, and highlights the different aesthetics and political theories of Social Democratic workers' choruses and Communist agitprop theatre. Particular attention is given to the latter, whose troupes wrote and performed their own material, thus acting as a medium for communication of the Communist Party's political line: to understand the troupes, the life of working-class youth of the time is investigated, describing and analysing unemployment, housing, education, and leisure activities, and examining its relationship to the Weimar state through its members' own eyes.

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This text analyzes the function of the chorus in Marta Górnicka’s open-air production Grundgesetz (Berlin, 2018) in redefining the political community of “the German people.” While examining its relation to the audience, the author refers to examples of German mass spectacles from the Weimar Republic that invested choruses to both represent a political community in the making and to shape political subjects through collective action. Based on aesthetic and political concepts of representation, which intertwine in the performance, the author shows how the chorus of Grundgesetz both portrays and enacts “the German people” as a plurality of bodies and voices united by fundamental rights. Making it thus an available community to stand for, the performance questions the agency of the audience as a collective body capable of acting together in public space.
Article
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Article
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Article
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