Moscow: Teakinopechat, 1930. Item #445
120,  pp.: ill. 23x16 cm. In original constructivist wrappers. Very good. Signed by the author on the t.p. (‘To Kolya Travin, an old friend, master of a sharp word on stage. Author. 20/ VIII-1930’). Some rubbings, numbers on the front cover and t.p. (ink), occasional markings (pencil), tiny tears of t.p.
First and only edition. One of 3000 copies. Very rare.
The phenomenon of the workers’ clubs is one of the most interesting ones in the history of early Soviet culture. Stated by Trotsky that the clubs were ‘the forge of the proletarian class culture’, they were the connection between the art and the masses, the link between left aesthetics and proletarian self-conscience. Workers’ clubs started to
appear in 1920 and by the mid-1920s covered the country and were set to be multi-functional tool to educate, agitate, entertain and cultivate the masses. The result should have been the creation of a new man, a new life, so the workers’ club were very much in tune with the Soviet ideology of 1920s. They were organized locally, usually by the unions or other initiative groups, and they were given a lot of privileges: good buildings (often designed by the best constructivist architects of the day), supplies, support in the media and by the party officials. The unusual cultural-social experiment of making a new man came to its end in the early 1930s, when Proletkult was closed and the life of the country has started to change. The clubs itself remained but lost its independence, started to be used more for propaganda purposes or the routine entertainment events.
This manual for improving public speaking skills for club sections was initiated by the State Drama Professional Club Workshop which was a theatrical organization from 1927 till 1930 formed specifically to provide assistance to workers’ clubs, particularly their drama sections. It was supposed to help them master a contemporary theatre culture and search for the most effective ways to create a club production or other activity of such kind. Besides lectures it provided written instructions (but this is the only edition initiated by the organization). The Workshop was an extraordinary and experimental establishment lead by Nikolay Volkonsky (1890-1948) whom Narkompros (Ministry of Education) asked to help further development of the amateur theatre. The highlight of their work was staging of Ostrovsky’s play ‘Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man’ which was praised by students and contemporaries and influenced in many ways performances and productions in workers’ clubs. Volkonsky was also involved in creating this edition as it stated in the end of the book.
The edition includes theory about breathing, voice, its nature and possible problems, and a large amount of special exercises to eliminate defects and improve speaking, make it clear, rules of pronouncing words (orthoepy) with a list of correct accentuations. In the end the schedule of exercising for ten weeks is given. The routine training include one variation of breathing exercise, exercises with vowel or consonant sounds, gymnastics of lips, tongue twisters, etc. The edition also includes advises on hygiene and general notes: to breath in air through nose, after the performance not to talk for 10 minutes, not to go from warmth to the cold after the performance, drink warm tea or water, tobacco and vodka are bad for the voice (especially women’s vocal cords), put a can with water next to a heater in order to keep the room’s air humidified, etc.
A rare example of experimental work which occurred in 1920s in Soviet Union.