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Theatre & Propaganda

These essays explore the points at which theater and propaganda meet, beginning by defining propaganda as a form of activated ideology in order to understand the distortion of information that occurs in dramatic literature in its stage, film and television forms.

The study analyzes the nature of, in the terms of Jacques Ellul, the nature of “integration propaganda,” designed to render an audience passive and to encourage the acceptance of any given status quo, as opposed to “agitation propaganda,” which aims to inspire an audience to action. Most popular western theater is saturated, though usually not intentionally, with integration propaganda.

The overall purpose of this book is twofold: to analyze the nature of integration propaganda so that it becomes visible to western readers as a tool of their dominant society, and to examine the manner by which unselfconscious propagandistic methods have saturated dramatic performance.

Audiences are comprised of persons who react both similarly and differently to the piece of theater they are watching. Whether the drama is present live on stage, cinematographically in the movie theater, or electronically on the home television screen, what is enjoyed by some may be despised by others. Often, the more explicit the message or ideological intention of a play, the stronger will be the applause or the disapproval. Among the negative reactions to the ideologies expressed by a play, the phrase, “Oh, that was nothing but a piece of propaganda” makes its periodic appearance. This kind of reaction is rarely based on analysis of the play or the production. Rather, it is usually an individual’s immediate and apparently commonsense response to the theater experience. Such an association or equation of the production to propaganda comes after the viewer’s reaction has been filtered through at least one intervening, but often not conscious, factor: that the play has presented a situation that was not or could not be real or true. So the process or rejection might be schematized:

this production = (falsehood) =) propaganda —–> rejection

In the schema, the notion of propaganda has taken on the rather hazy meaning, “someone else’s wrong opinion.” Such a popular conception of propaganda can serve an audience member as an easy basis for dismissing the play and its intentions….

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