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Title:Amateur theater in historical Transylvania between the two world wars
Author(s):Burcica, Pompilia Viorica
Director of Research:Hitchins, Keith
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hitchins, Keith
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Todorova, Maria N.; Pleck, Elizabeth H.; Symes, Carol
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
ethnic minorities
Abstract:This dissertation examines amateur theater as an expression of cultural freedom among four ethnic groups inhabiting historical Transylvania, a province attached to Greater Romania after the First World War. By expanding on the current understanding of minority status in a nation-state, this study shows the opportunities provided by the Romanian government for local expression and unity. Through a detailed comparative history of the amateur theater of each ethnic group (the Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons, and Jews), I seek to show the degree to which nationalist regimes allowed them to create through amateur theater a platform for communication and cultural development. Unique at the regional level in scale and ethnic involvement, this artistic practice challenged the newly-formed nation-state and shaped its nationalistic response, but, at the same time, theater playing gave Romanian governments, in particular to the officials from Transylvania, an opportunity to act upon their principles concerning ethnic rights, which they advocated before the First World War. My conclusion is that, overall, they viewed the development of minority amateur theater in favorable terms. Theater appealed to minorities because they could take an active part in their self-organization and could showcase their outlook on life, family values, social relations, and work principles in the public sphere. More important, on stage they could revive their cultural traditions and talk about their understanding of faith and morality on stage. The theatrical movement in Transylvania reveals the creative power of ethnic feeling, which, together with the positive attitude of the government, explain the widely popular, large-scale and socially all-encompassing theater activity. Thus, I argue that minority amateur theater is evidence that the minorities reconciled with their new status in Transylvania and enjoyed the cultural autonomy on their own terms with the approval from authorities in Bucharest. Ultimately, this work argues the crucial significance of religion and the clergy for the creation of such a cultural environment. Religious feeling stimulated numerous initiatives in the public sphere among most social groups, communities, and cultural associations. ,Religious leaders encouraged believers and laymen to consider first and foremost the immediate social purposes of theater and its merits for strengthening morality, self-teaching, and solidarity at the local level. An appreciation for the literary values of plays and the virtues of spectacles and performances was rarely seen important among the amateurs, yet the clergy often selected dramatic works of literary value for inhabitants whose education was above the average, for example firefighters, artisans, and students. From the amateurs’ perspective, theater served a conservative function, sustaining the continuity of social life and upholding the local choices of cultural development. As a modern means of communication enjoying a widespread appeal, theater encouraged democratic practices such as the writing of petitions to authorities. The frequent contacts with state offices established a new relational basis, modern and democratic, between minoirity elites and communities and the Romanian state. Thus, amateur theater is a key element for understanding minority politics, the local life in the region, and the vibrant ethnic feeling that animated it.
Issue Date:2015-04-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Pompilia Burcica
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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