Esfir’ Shub was born in the town Surazhe in the Chernigovsky governatorate (which is now the Brianskaya province), in the southwest part of the Russian Empire. By the mid-1910s, she settled in Moscow to study literature at the Institute for Women’s Higher Education, where she got involved in the revolutionary movement that was becoming popular among young female students. In 1918, Shub started her career in the Soviet administration at the head office of the TEO Theatre Department of the Narkompros (People’s Commissariat of Education) although she was originally hired only for minor secretarial tasks. Having a fascination for the theatre, she began collaborating with the stage director Vsevolod Meyerhold and the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and endorsed the manifesto for a renewal of Russian theatre written by the director Evgenii Vakhtangov. Together with the poetess Nina Rukavishnikova, Shub conceived a mass pantomime involving hundreds of extras that was to be staged at the Moscow circus in 1921. During her time at the Narkompros, she also collaborated on issues of the journal Vestnik Teatr and got acquainted with the Left Front of the Arts (LEF) group. LEF was an ensemble of artists with whom Shub would be associated till the end of the decade; its founder, Mayakovsky, became one of Shub’s most vocal supporters when, in the mid-1920s, she turned her expertise to film direction. Later between 1928 and 1931 she took part in the artistic avant-garde group “October,” considered to be the last constructivist collective of the century.
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