Brian James DeMare's Mao's Cultural Army is a very welcome addition to the expanding scholarship that is deepening our understanding of the early decades of China's socialist revolution. Spanning from the late 1920s launch of the Red Drama movement to the troupe rectification and registration drives of the early 1950s, DeMare's study covers an important, yet understudied, period of contemporary Chinese theater history—a time when drama did not just represent tumultuous events like war and class struggle but participated directly in them. Because of this historical context, DeMare's book is about drama troupes but is anything but conventional theater history. Instead, he shows us that to study theater in this time in China is to study the very process of revolution.

The central argument of DeMare's book is that theater played a fundamental role in bringing about the transformation of rural China at the heart of the Chinese revolution. Borrowing...

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