Mayhill Fowler, Associate Professor, Department of History, Stetson University
Moderated by Erin Hutchinson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University and Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder
Telling war stories was central to the mission of the Theater of the Carpathian Military District, or Theater of the Soviet Army, or simply Teatr PrykVO, which was the only Russian-language theater in Soviet Lviv from 1954-1991 and one of the seven official military theaters in the Soviet Union. Artists in the theater and officials at all levels fought over how to tell war stories—and who could do the telling.
This talk examines theater’s ability—and inability—to tell a true war story, focusing on the successful production of Kondratev’s World War II drama Sashka in 1983, the unsuccessful search for a play about the war in Afghanistan, and the absence of plays about women’s experiences in war. Today Teatr PrykVO is Teatr Lesi, a fresh voice in Ukraine’s theatrical landscape. My talk ends by connecting the ways women were (not) represented in Soviet theater with the ways they are represented in theater today, at Teatr Lesi and beyond, in particular in stories about the war in Ukraine’s east. This talk is part of a larger book project called War Stories: Theater on the Frontlines of Socialism, which is a biography of this theater from the 1920s to today that offers a different vision of the way the Soviet past shapes the cultural present, showing how people transform place and how the stories we tell always have consequences.
About the Speaker
Mayhill C. Fowler (Ph.D. Princeton) is associate professor of history at Stetson University. She teaches and researches the cultural history of Russia and Eastern Europe, focusing on Ukraine, and has published widely on theater, film, and revolutionary culture. Her first book, Beau Monde on Empire's Edge: State and Stage in Soviet Ukraine (Toronto, 2017), tells the story of the making of culture both Soviet and Ukrainian through a collective biography of young artists and officials in the 1920s and 1930s. She is completing two projects: War Stories: Theater on the Frontlines of Socialism, a biography of the former Soviet Army Theater in Lviv, and Comrade Actress: Soviet Ukrainian Women on the Stage and Behind the Scenes, which re-thinks the avant-garde through Eastern European women. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University (2012) and the Petro Jacyk Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Toronto, (2012-2013). She holds an MFA from the National Theater Conservatory and a BA from Yale University. She was a Fulbright Research Scholar in Ukraine 2019-2020.
Erin Hutchinson studies the Soviet Union as a multinational state and society, with a particular focus on social and cultural history. Her current project, The Cultural Politics of the Nation after Stalin, 1953-1991, explores how intellectuals, especially those of rural origins, sought to transform cultural understandings of the nation after the death of Stalin. Her research examines writers from across the Soviet Union, with a particular focus on the Soviet republics of Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, and Moldova. Erin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is on leave during the academic year 2020-2021 while working on her book manuscript as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. She earned her PhD in History from Harvard University in May 2020.
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