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In 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities questioned Bertolt Brecht on potential subversive themes in his writings. At the same time Brecht's play Galileo was about to receive its American premiere. As Galileo faced the Inquisition onstage, the author, in between rehearsals, faced another inquisition. Over the course of 30 years, the Committee interrogated other noted actors and writers such as Arthur Miller, Paul Robeson and actor Ronald Reagan (a friendly witness). The congressmen seemed particularly interested in artists whose work involved performance, perhaps sensing the links between power, performativity and social relations.
American Theatre is a slide piece featuring archival images of key theatre productions from the 1930s-1950s that foreground the relation between power, performance and the law. A synchronized audio track with the voices of three actors performing excerpts from actual House Committee transcripts accompanies the slide show.


2007, 35 mm slide installation w/synchronized audio track, 6.14 min
Directed by Maryam Jafri

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