Anyone out there still making Living Newspaper? Or, remember Living Newspaper? Or even heard of it? Well, if you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry: you’re not alone. It is, after all, a theatrical form which thrived for decades in Russia but that the US government, drove to extinction in less than five years.
Did you know that professional theatre was essentially banned during the Revolution? The Continental Congress put out the following statement in 1774:
“We will, in our several stations, promote economy, frugality and industry, and promote agriculture, arts and the manufactures of this country . . . and we will discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainments.”
I’m sorry—that was reductive. U.S. copyright law is a labyrinthine muddle resulting from some pretty impressive corporate and dynastic maneuvering.
Did you know that very few U.S. books, plays, music, films, etc, have entered what is known as the public domain (meaning their copyright has expired) in decades? The specifics are complex (and fascinating) but the gist is that in the last few decades the “goal post” for when works should come into the public domain keeps shifting.