Tiflis: Tipografiia ZKV zhel. dor. 1929. Item #1518
, 55 pp.: ill. +  pp. of ads. 26x23 cm. In original wrappers with letterpress design and the theater’s logo. Modern back cover and spine. Front cover, title page and few other pages repaired, minor occasional stains, otherwise very good.
First and only edition. One of 1500 copies. Design by N. S. Romanov.
A notable and well-illustrated book about the four-year activity of an experimental Tbilisi theater that enlightened spectators about hygiene and promoted preventive care and public health in the 1920s.
In the early days of the Soviet Union the health and hygiene culture of the proletarian masses was underdeveloped. Alcohol misuse disorders, tuberculosis, prostitution, and high infant mortality were listed as the burdensome legacy of Tsarist Russia. To fight these problems, mass hygiene was promoted as one of the key aspects of socialist society. Sanitary and medical education were organized in all enterprises, kolkhozes, by means of printed matter and wall newspapers. They proclaimed, “The level of culture is determined by the amount of soap consumed”. Workers’ clubs were regarded as “forges of the new men and women”, so lectures and discussions about health and hygiene were commonplace.
In the 1920s, the railway workers’ clubs of Tbilisi and other Transcaucasian cities regularly hosted performances by the Sanitary Agitation Theater. Instead of focusing on topics such as class struggle, the 1917 Revolution. or the Civil War, this theater tackled the struggle against prostitution and sexually transmitted infections, alcohol misuse disorders, and a lack of cleanliness and basic understanding of hygiene.
This unusual initiative was started by Dr.Chalidze and his colleagues from the Transcaucasian Railway Healthcare Administration with directors V. Tatishchev and A. Burdzhalov. Rejecting commonplace and monotonous lectures, the theater collective created spectacles and (mostly improvised) court dramas that resembled other agitational theater targeting religion, capitalism etc. As the frequency of these shows increased, improvisation gave way to prepared and rehearsed spectacles; the theater invited young actors to perform; and costumes and stage makeup were added.
This theater toured from one Soviet Republic to another across the Caucasus. While actors generally performed satirical and entertaining theater in Russian, some participants (such as a physician) spoke in the appropriate national language. Such performances gave doctors the opportunity to communicate directly with workers and peasants, discussing questions and explaining obscure issues. At the same time, performers brought theatrical culture to little villages which had no theatrical venues.
The edition contains photomontage and hand-drawn avant-garde posters for various spectacles: “Sad Tale of Fools”, “Abortion”, “Worm Hole”, “Prostitute”, “Incident”, and “City Twilight”. They showcase actors and the theater productions. Pictures of founders, actors, directors, an artist and a composer were published. Some vignettes were specially drawn for this publication, and a portrait of the composer was also decorated.
The final pages contain advertisements of Georgian enterprises that in the period of the NEP.
No copies found in Worldcat.
Price: $6,500.00Status: On Hold