[Lugansk]: 1929. Original gelatin print (from a shattered glass negative?), measuring 8.5 × 13 cm. Inscribed in blue ink to the back of the print. Light wear; still about very good. The inscription reads: "Blue Blouse No. 509, “Shock Worker.” Lugansk Machine-building Technical College. Art direction M. Matusovskii. Musical arrangement by B. Ivanov. “Papa Pii i SSSR” [Pope Pius XI and the USSR]. 1 August, 1929." Item #6337
“Siniaia bluza” (Blue blouse) was an experimental agitational theater troupe founded in 1923 at the Moscow School of Journalism. The founder, Boris Iuzhanin (1896–1962) was a journalist interested in a new genre of “live newspaper,” a low-tech high entertainment alternative to the emerging radio. The name of the group derived from the work clothes, blue blouses, which the actors wore during the performance. As described by Lynn Mally in her book on amateur Soviet theater: “A performance typically opened with a parade of the ‘headlines,’ followed by from eight to fifteen short vignettes on topics ranging from international affairs to local complaints about factory management. The actors amended their simple work clothes with exaggerated props to identify the role they were performing, such as a top hat for a capitalist or a large red pencil for a bureaucrat. Since the troupe did not need sophisticated stages or lighting, it could perform almost anywhere. In early 1920s Blue Blouse played in clubs, cafeterias, and factory floors throughout Moscow and Moscow province” (Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theater and the Soviet State, 1917–1938). Always reflecting on current events with humor and satire, and containing an element of folk theater, the performances were tremendously popular with the audiences and cells of Blue Blouse multiplied, eventually operating all over the country, in this case in Lugansk (Luhansk), a city on the eastern border of modern-day Ukraine. Anti-religious satire was often featured in the performances of the Blue Blouse troupes. Here they are likely commenting on the anti-union stance of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939), who discouraged Catholics from taking part in workers' movements in this period. The Harvard Theatre Collection holds photos of certain Blue Blouse performances.