This issue is largely dedicated to the movement for Young Worker’s Theatres, known as ‘TRAM’.
The cover is a superb avant-garde montage, bringing the final letter of the word TRAM into the action of the photo of the stage show itself, like a piece of scenery. The slogans on the stage read:
Let’s build, build, build, build…we are building Socialism
To Socialism through Industrialisation
Another attempt at PEOPLE’S THEATRE
TRAM – Театр рабочей молодёжи, or Teatr Rabochei Molodyozhi – ‘Young Worker’s Theatre’, had its beginnings in Leningrad in 1925 and from 1928 was stationed at the Theatre on Liteini Prospekt – which survives and works to this day. It was an avant-garde theatre group centred on propaganda pieces supporting the Bolsheviks. The players were amateurs and their material requirements very basic at the beginning. The concept grew quickly and was adopted in many other cities of the USSR. TRAM was promoted as being a healthy youth movement. It was inexpensive for the state and attracted a lot of attention. It was an ‘official’ reaction to the ‘Blue Blouses’ theatre groups that had sprung up around the country and proved to be difficult to censor and manage. The ‘Blue Blouses’ were shut down and replaced with ‘TRAM’s
The article on page 4 of this issue of Rabis states that TRAM has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a youth amateur dramatics society, and now it gives daily performances, has its own premises and equipment and manages to live off the money it earns from ticket sales. The TRAM personnel have become members of the Art worker’s Union (hence their appearance in RABIS) and they are professionals now. In conclusion, the article considers that the TRAM experience may well show the way forward for the formal training of actors in the future.
Pages 6 and 7 are about the work of the Leningrad TRAM and are written by its main organiser and driving force – M. Sokolovski, a former railway worker.
The TRAM concept was also a success abroad, with similar left-wing troupes appearing in Norway and Germany. The German version, the Left Column, was oppressed because agitprop performances were attracting violent reactions from oppositionists. Several of the troupe members, finding themselves increasingly politically isolated as socialists in a country rapidly descending into fascism, fled to the USSR and joined forces with TRAM.
In 1935 Stalin’s secret police started arresting the German young socialists. Some were interned in the GULAG, some sent back to Germany later under the terms of the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop pact and went straight to German concentration camps, and others just vanished into thin air.
The USSR TRAM movement did not survive the second world war. It was dissolved.