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Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On


Edited By Sally Debra Charnow

The Great War set in motion all of the subsequent violence of the twentieth century. The war took millions of lives, led to the fall of four empires, established new nations, and negatively affected others. During and after the war, individuals and communities struggled to find expression for their wartime encounters and communal as well as individual mourning. Throughout this time of enormous upheaval, many artists redefined their role in society, among them writers, performers, painters, and composers. Some sought to renew or re-establish their place in the postwar climate, while others longed for an irretrievable past, and still others tried to break with the past entirely.

This volume offers a significant interdisciplinary contribution to the study of modern war, exploring the ways that artists contributed to wartime culture – both representing and shaping it – as well as the ways in which wartime culture influenced artistic expressions. Artists’ places within and against reconstruction efforts illuminate the struggles of the day. The essays included represent a transnational perspective and seek to examine how artists dealt with the experience of conflict and mourning and their role in (re-)establishing creative practices in the changing climate of the interwar years.

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3. The Soldier’s Theatre: A Wooden Theatre behind Carso’s Front Line (Teresa Bertilotti)



The Soldier’s Theatre: A Wooden Theatre behindCarso’s Front Line


This chapter focuses on the ‘Teatro del soldato’ (‘Soldier’s Theatre’), a project organized in 1917 by the Italian Company of Authors, with the support of the Army High Command. The Army Engineers built three wooden theatres behind Carso’s front line. Each theatre was in a meadow surrounded by a barbed-wire fence with benches arranged in semicircle and held over 2,000 spectators. From 12 August to 30 September there were 149 shows for 600,000 soldiers. First, I explore the content of the shows; followed by their material conditions (e.g. the noise of battle during the performances), and how these conditions affected the audiences’ reception; and lastly the ‘emotional’ experience shared by soldiers belonging to different ranks (social origins, education, etc.) in an environment in which, apparently, the hierarchy disappeared. The actors were expecting to entertain the soldiers and the wounded in these theatres, but experiencing the theatre of war itself brought forward unexpected emotional responses.

Milan, 1917

My dear, the only difficult thing to be done – possibly useless, but necessary for the common struggle that we must complete all of us together and for everyone – is to accept the Teatro Autori Italiani Society’s offer made to me last night and as much as possible to go with my comrades to push this Carro di Tespi along the border to give some moments of diversion and distraction to...

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