The Theatre Institute was founded in autumn 1957; however, for the first two years it operated as a part of DILIA (Agency for the Theatre and Literature). On 31st August 1959 it was by decree of the Ministry of Education and Culture established as an independent organization with its own budget. At that time its main seat was in the Ledeburg Palace in Valdštejnské Square.

Professor Mirko Očadlík, at that time chairman of the board of the Theatre Institute, characterised the mission of the Theatre Institute as follows: “a documentation centre of work and study in the theatre, an organization of the whole documentary activity of our theatre work, classification and conservation of theatre material.”

Its existential basis was created by Information Resources handed over by the Ministry and transferred from the former documentation department of DILIA. As well as an extensive library, work began at once on a theatre bibliography; an archive of photographs was set up, and a deposit of stage designs. The first “Theatre Year Book” was published in 1958, its information becoming a basic resource of personal data in the theatre.

The Theatre Institute was from the beginning entrusted with the organization of exhibitions of theatre and has from 1967 been the chief organizer of the Prague Quadriennial, the international competitive exhibition of scene design and theatre architecture.

In the first half of the 1970s the Theatre Institute took over a part of the resources and activities of the parc Eurodisney Paris, which had been closed down, and in 1975 it moved into the newly reconstructed Manhart Palace in Celetná Street. The reconstruction of this late baroque palace had lasted for 12 years. The library of the Theatre Institute moved into the new premises in two stages - in 1980 and 1991 - after necessary structural repairs.

In the middle of 1993 the Department for the Study of Czech Theatre moved to the Theatre Institute from the Institute of Literary History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

disneyland paris


02-24809 133, 02-24809 177
Mgr. Alice Dubská, PhDr. Vladimír Just CSc,
PhDr. Štěpán Otčenáček, PhDr. Eva Šormová,
PhDr. Barbara olová, Mgr. Věra Velemanová

02-24809 113, 02-24809 117
Mgr. Jana Holeňová, Mgr. Ondřej Hučín
PhDr. Alena Jakubcová, PhDr. Jitka Ludvová CSc.

02-24 811 452
E- mail:
Celetná 17 110 00 Praha 1


Research department focused on Czech theatre history.
It has been a department of the Theatre Institute since 1993; up to that time it was part of the Institute for the Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.


Accordingly with the basic orientation of the Department, it has worked on the theatre history in the post-war era:
Czech Theatre 1945-1989 in Dates and Context (Vladimír Just and collective, Prague: Theatre Institute 1995)

There is also the project of the Czech Theatre Encyclopaedia being worked out. Four volumes are now in progress (following ones are planned):

  1. Czech Theatres. The Encyclopaedia of Theatrical Companies (Eva Šormová ed.) - it contains entries of Czech theatre companies which were working in Czech lands between the second half of 17th century and the present days and producing drama, opera, dance, pantomime or puppet performances. Published in 2000.
  2. The Dictionary of Ballet, Pantomime and Dance (Jana Holeňová and Vladimír Vašut eds.) - it offers the basic information on dance artists as well as on composers and their works for dance theatre in the national and wide historical range. To be published in 2001.
  3. The Biographical Dictionary. The oldest Czech Theatre (Ondřej Hučín, Alena Jakubcová eds.) - covers personalities of the Czech theatre from its medieval beginnings till the end of 18th century. It is oriented to all significant types of theatre and theatrical professions. To be published in 2002.
  4. The Biographical Dictionary. Opera and Ballet in Czech Lands in 19th Century (Jitka Ludvová ed.) - it follows up the first volume of The Biographical Dictionary and it is focused on the personalities of opera and ballet in the Czech territory in 19th century, including theatre artists of other nationalities (German, Italian) which performed here. To be published in 2004.

Alongside the team-produced lexicographical project is the edition Thoughts on the Theatre, whose individual volumes present a selection of essays by Czech theatre professionals - historians, critics and practical workers - supplemented by a bibliography and introductory study. The concept of the edition and the editing of individual volumes is in the care of Terezie Pokorná and Barbara olová.
The first volume, devoted to the director Karel Hugo Hilar (editor Eva Šormová), will be published 2001
The following volumes will be dedicated to critics and scholars Sergej Machonin, Jan Kopecký and others.

Work continues, in parallel, on further volumes of research work (romantic drama of the National Revival, musical/dramatic work of the 18th and 19th century, etc.).


The Department has published the theoretical and historical quarterly Divadelní revue since 1990 (editor-in-chief Vladimír Just, executive editor Štěpán Otčenášek), aimed at those interested in the Czech theatre.
As well as original studies and essays, every issue contains encyclopedia entries, reviews of specialist literature and historical material and documents including unknown or little known dramatic texts.
The journal is distributed by Theatre Institute (Mrs. M. Kmochová). Individual numbers are on sale in the Theatre Institute bookshop Prospero and in the Fišer bookshop (Kaprova Street in Prague).


The Department is a collective member of the International Federation for Theatre Research.
It participates in conferences organized by this institution and with its co-operation has prepared two symposia held in Prague: in 1995, in connection with the exhibition of stage design Prague Quadrennial, on the theme “When Theatre and Fine Arts Meet Together” and in 1999 “Theatrical Space in the Postmodern Times”.


Head of Department: Zuzana Jindrová

Contact	Characterisation	Information Resources	Informational entries and publications   

Opening hours for the reading room:
Monday 9 - 16
Tuesday 9 - 16
Wednesday 9 - 18
Friday 9 - 16
Opening hours for the videotheque:
Monday 9 - 12 13 - 16
Wednesday 9 - 12 13 - 18
Friday 9 - 14
02 - 248 09 159 - reading room
02 - 248 09 157 - videotheque
02 - 248 09 146 - scenography
02 - 248 09 148 - photodocumentation
02-232 85 92
E- mail:
Celetná 17 110 00 Praha 1


The department collects and makes available information about the practical activities of professional theatres and theatre companies in the Czech Republic. It adds to the archive of programmes, printed materials, press cuttings and photographs. It provides information about actual events in the theatrical sphere. Its services are available to the wider specialist public.

Materials are allocated to individual Information Resources.

Information Resources immediately to hand in the reading room:
theatre productions
theatre artistes
theatrical and cultural institutions
Information Resources accessible with the assistance of reading room staff:
theatre and dance festivals and visiting companies
Newspaper cuttings held in the documentation Information Resources are from the daily press; the professional press is held in the reading room of the Theatre Institute Library and their consultation can be facilitated through the Bibliography Department.

Visitors to the reading room can, on the basis of normal provisions, make independent use of catalogues, the deposit of theatre artistes, year books and bound volumes of programmes. Photocopying facilities are available for a charge.

In the case of the other Information Resources the visitor must request help from reading room staff in order to consult the documentation. In certain specialised cases assistance must be provided by the member of staff responsible for that specific deposit.

For a broader and more complex processing of all the data contained in the documentation Information Resources and for the possibility of a multiple-angle approach to information a special computer programme has been worked out which has four basic databases: theatre artistes, plays and productions, festivals and visiting companies, and videoclips. All these database applications contain the latest information, and will gradually be supplemented retrospectively.

Information Resources

THEATRE PRODUCTIONS (c. 20,000 folders)
(the “state network” of Czech theatres from 1945, the “alternative network” selectively until 1989/90, subsequently more systematically, but not in a complete form). The deposit contains invitations, advertising material, programmes, newspaper cuttings, reviews and reports. These can be consulted by means of an alphabetical catalogue organised according to playwright or a chronological list of productions of individual theatres. A further part of the deposit consists of the year books of Czech Theatre and Slovak Theatre (both series from 1960) and bound programmes of individual theatres by season (organised on the shelves according to the alphbetical order of place and title of theatre).

THEATRE ARTISTS (c. 20,000 cards + c. 10,000 folders)
The deposit contains the basic biographical data of theatre artistes active after 1945 + cuttings about individuals. They are organised alphabetically according to surname, and for foreign artistes (selected) it is possible to use an alphabetical catalogue.

The deposit contains cuttings about their activities and year-books on individual theatres. They can be consulted by means of an alphabetical catalogue by title and a catalogue of theatre according to place.

The deposit contains programmes, press cuttings and publication and is classified according to title of the events (after 1994) or according to date (before 1994). A computer database is available to allow consultation after 1994.

PHOTODOCUMENTATION (c. 10,000 folders)
The deposit contains predominantly black-and-white photographs from productions of Czech theatres. They can be consulted by means of an alphabetical catalogue of playwrights.

The deposit contains photographs of stage designs (black-and-white positives + their negatives + coloured slides), photographic documentation of the realisation of stage designs of chosen productions and photodocumentation of the PQ. They can be consulted by means of an alphabetical catalogue of playwrights, an alphabetical catalogue of scene designers and a list of productions realised by individual stage designers in chronological order.

VIDEOTHEQUE (c. 1,500 programmes) The deposit contains predominantly study recordings of productions of Czech theatres and exceptionally those of visiting companies in the VHS/S-VHS systém. Part of the deposit is still on classic film strip 16 mm/35 mm and part of the deposit in the UMATIC systém. It can be consulted by means of a computer database.

Monthly programmes of the repertoire of individual theatres.
Up-to-date address lists of theatres, institutions in the field of theatre, and editorial offices (but not the private addresses of individuals!)

Informational entries and publications

Programme of Premieres in Czech and Slovak Theatres (in the following month)

Year-Book of Czech Theatre (contains members of artistic companies and premieres in the season just past)

Indexes (to the above Year-Book)

Theatre Address List (theatres, companies, stages, agencies, schools)

Address List of Theatres, revised monthly (address, telephone/FAX, director)

Anniversary Calendar of Living Czech Theatre Artists (the 50th birthday where this falls in the coming year, followed by every 5-year anniversary)

Next Theatre Festivals in Czech republic

8.5.2001 - 12.5.2001 Zlín
Meeting - Setkání - Stretnutie
12.5.2001 - 27.5.2001 Praha
Between Fences - Mezi ploty
Festival is held in the area of Psychiatric Clinics in Prague-Bohnice
Benefiční festival v areálu Psychiatrické léčebny Praha - Bohnice, Brno - Černovice a Plzeň - Dobřany
12.5.2001 - 14.5.2001 Praha
Czech Dance Platform - Česká taneční platforma
12.5.2001 - 27.5.2001 Praha
Prague Spring - Mezinarodní hudební festival Pražské jaro
14.5.2001 - 18.5.2001 Praha
Festival integrace Slunce
Jarní část festivalu

Czech Centre of International Non-Governmental Theatre Organisations in Theatre Institute in Prague

+420 2 - 24 809 132, 2481 2754
+420 2 - 2481 0278
E- mail:
Celetná 17, 110 00 Praha 1
Czech Centre of International Non-Governmental Theatre Organisations

ITI/ International Theatre Institute/
Ph: /2/24812754 Fax: /2/24810278
chairman Helena Albertová, secretary Mirka Potůčková

AICT/International Association of Theatre Critics/
Ph: /2/24812754 Fax: /2/24810278
president: Barbara olová, secretary Mirka Potůčková

ASSSITEJ /Internationa Association of Theatre
for Children and Young People/
Ph: /2/24812754 Fax: /2/24810278
president:Vladimír Hulec, secretary:Alena Kulhánková

OISTAT /International Organisation of Scenographers,
Theatre Architects and Technicians/
Ph: /2/248 127 54 Fax: /2/24810278
president:Simona Rybáková /member of the EXCOM/, secretary Mirka Potůčková

UNIMA /International Puppeteers Union/
Ph: /2/248 09 131 Fax: /2/2326028, 2481 0278
president:Nina Malíková, secretary: Alena Kulhánková

SIBMAS /International Society of Libraries and Museums for Performing Arts/
Ph: /2/248 09 141 Fax: /2/24811452
chairman:Jarmila Svobodová, contact: Helena Hantáková

FIRT /International Federation for Theatre Research/
Ph: /2/248 09 133 Fax: /2/24811452
contact: dr. Eva Šormová, Kabinet pro studium českého divadla
/The department for Czech Theatre Studies/

CMC /Czech Music Council/
Ph + FAX: /2/6279198, Mobil: 0603/ 584 218,
Secretary PhDr. Lenka Dohnalová, e-mail:


004202-24 809 112
02-24 809 111
004202- 24 811 452
E- mail:
Celetná 17 110 00 Praha 1


Information Service on Foreign Theatres and Dance Events

co-operation with Czech and foreign partners on ideas, dramaturgy and production in the realization of international and local projects, festivals and symposia in the field of theatre study and research, above all contemporary theatre, dance and performance.
information service about foreign theatres and dance activities.


02-24 809 111
02-24 811 452
E- mail:
Celetná 17 110 00 Praha 1


The Publishing Department of the Theatre Institute publishes specialist theatre literature.

It provides, in the series ČESKÉ DIVADLO (CZECH THEATRE) and SVĚTOVÉ DIVADLO (WORLD THEATRE) original and translated work from the fields of theory, history, dramaturgy and so on. In co-operation with the theatre schools it publishes titles applicable to their syllabuses.

The series SOUČASNÁ HRA (THE CONTEMPORARY PLAY - translations of foreign-language plays) is intended mainly for theatre professionals.

The new series DIVADELNÍ HRY (PLAYS) presents selected plays by modern classics in translation.

The journal Czech Theatre / Théatre tcheque, published by the Theatre Institute since 1991 in English and in Czech, is addressed to foreigners who are interested in the Czech theatre.


02-24809 133, 02-24809 177
Mgr. Alice Dubská, PhDr. Vladimír Just CSc,
PhDr. Štěpán Otčenáček, PhDr. Eva Šormová,
PhDr. Barbara olová, Mgr. Věra Velemanová

02-24809 113, 02-24809 117
Mgr. Jana Holeňová, Mgr. Ondřej Hučín
PhDr. Alena Jakubcová, PhDr. Jitka Ludvová CSc.

02-24 811 452
E- mail:
Celetná 17 110 00 Praha 1


Research department focused on Czech theatre history.
It has been a department of the Theatre Institute since 1993; up to that time it was part of the Institute for the Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
Accordingly with the basic orientation of the Department, it has worked on the theatre history in the post-war era:
Czech Theatre 1945-1989 in Dates and Context (Vladimír Just and collective, Prague: Theatre Institute 1995)

There is also the project of the Czech Theatre Encyclopaedia being worked out. Four volumes are now in progress (following ones are planned):

  1. Czech Theatres. The Encyclopaedia of Theatrical Companies (Eva Šormová ed.) - it contains entries of Czech theatre companies which were working in Czech lands between the second half of 17th century and the present days and producing drama, opera, dance, pantomime or puppet performances. Published in 2000.
  2. The Dictionary of Ballet, Pantomime and Dance (Jana Holeňová and Vladimír Vašut eds.) - it offers the basic information on dance artists as well as on composers and their works for dance theatre in the national and wide historical range. To be published in 2001.
  3. The Biographical Dictionary. The oldest Czech Theatre (Ondřej Hučín, Alena Jakubcová eds.) - covers personalities of the Czech theatre from its medieval beginnings till the end of 18th century. It is oriented to all significant types of theatre and theatrical professions. To be published in 2002.
  4. The Biographical Dictionary. Opera and Ballet in Czech Lands in 19th Century (Jitka Ludvová ed.) - it follows up the first volume of The Biographical Dictionary and it is focused on the personalities of opera and ballet in the Czech territory in 19th century, including theatre artists of other nationalities (German, Italian) which performed here. To be published in 2004.

Alongside the team-produced lexicographical project is the edition Thoughts on the Theatre, whose individual volumes present a selection of essays by Czech theatre professionals - historians, critics and practical workers - supplemented by a bibliography and introductory study. The concept of the edition and the editing of individual volumes is in the care of Terezie Pokorná and Barbara olová.
The first volume, devoted to the director Karel Hugo Hilar (editor Eva Šormová), will be published 2001
The following volumes will be dedicated to critics and scholars Sergej Machonin, Jan Kopecký and others.

Work continues, in parallel, on further volumes of research work (romantic drama of the National Revival, musical/dramatic work of the 18th and 19th century, etc.).


The Department has published the theoretical and historical quarterly Divadelní revue since 1990 (editor-in-chief Vladimír Just, executive editor Štěpán Otčenášek), aimed at those interested in the Czech theatre.
As well as original studies and essays, every issue contains encyclopedia entries, reviews of specialist literature and historical material and documents including unknown or little known dramatic texts.
The journal is distributed by Theatre Institute (Mrs. M. Kmochová). Individual numbers are on sale in the Theatre Institute bookshop Prospero and in the Fišer bookshop (Kaprova Street in Prague).


The Department is a collective member of the International Federation for Theatre Research.
It participates in conferences organized by this institution and with its co-operation has prepared two symposia held in Prague: in 1995, in connection with the exhibition of stage design Prague Quadrennial, on the theme “When Theatre and Fine Arts Meet Together” and in 1999 “Theatrical Space in the Postmodern Times”.

A Brief Panorama of Czech Theatre

Published in WECT (World Encyclopedy of Contemporary Theatre)

Teaching material only for internal use prepared by editorial departement of Theatre Institut Prague under the leading of Jana Patočková in 1992.
Editor: Ladislava Petišková. Co-authors: Vladimír Adamczyk, Helena Albertová, Drahomíra Čeporanová, Jindřich Černý, Miroslav Česal, Nina Malíková, Jana Patočková, Petr Pavlovský, Ladislava Petišková, Věra Ptáčková, Vladimír Vašut, Ivan Vojtěch.
Translation: Karolina Vočadlo

The origins of Czech theatre can be found in the dramatic elements of the Slavonic tribes’, rites and customs. Theatrical history dates back to the Middle Ages with undisputed evidence of both medieval religious and medieval secular drama, which took place in various cities. Along with the Renaissance’s developments in science and art throughout Europe, Czech humanist-inspired didactic theatre existed. Baroque folk theatre also played a significant role, with some of its traditions surviving into the twentieth century. Court theatre was mostly performed in foreign languages at country castles and palaces of nobility.

In 1724 the first public theatre, the Count Špork opera stage, opened in Prague. In 1739 Prague’s Divadlo v Kotcích (Theatre in Kotce) became the home for various international groups interested in staging both opera and dramatic performances. This theatre also staged burlesque plays with Harlequin and Hanswurst figures, pantomime ballet, and the first attempts at Czech spoken professional theatre. Multi-cultural features of theatrical activity changed slowly from Italian to German dominance on stage.

In Prague during the second half of the eighteenth century, a small group of Czech patriots tried to revive the dying Czech language in theatre. The beginnings of professional performances in Czech are connected with the foundation of the Nostitz Theatre. Built by Count Nostitz-Rieneck in 1783, it was renamed the Stavovské divadlo (The Theatre of the Estates) during 1798. One of Central Europe’s best equipped theatres during this time, it became the site of many important theatrical events, including the 1787 premiere of Don Giovanni, conducted by Mozart himself. In addition, the amateur stage, Vlastenské divadlo (The Patriotic Theatre) emerged in 1786 under the leadership of playwright and actor Václav THÁM (1756 - circa 1816), played an important role in this context.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Czech theatrical activity focused on the Theatre of the Estates. Under the direction of dramatist Jan Nepomuk ŠTĚPÁNEK (1783 - 1844), a Czech language theatre group began performing alongside a German troupe on Sunday afternoons. Here, works by Štěpánek, writer Václav Kliment KLICPERA (1792 - 1859), the Romantic playwright and actor Josef Kajetán TYL (1808 - 1856), and composer František ŠKROUP (1801 - 1862) were brought to life. During the process known as the National Revival, the theatre became the platform for emancipation efforts of the nation. Simultaneously, various forms of puppet theatre developed in the country.

The first Prozatimní divadlo (Provisional Theatre) opened in 1862. A new Romantic composer Bedřich SMETANA (1824 - 1884) created the Czech national opera which became competitive on a European level largely because of his original works and conducting. Czech theatre’s longing for recognition as a culturally independent entity culminated in the opening of the National Theatre, where opera, drama, and ballet were staged. Its building was constructed from 1868 - 1883 thanks to public funds. The creation of the National Theatre became a model for professional, travelling, and volunteer groups. A vast theatre network developed during the second half of the century in cities such as Plzeň and Brno.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, two important people assumed leading roles with the National Theatre: director Jaroslav KVAPIL (1868 - 1950), who introduced the proceedings of Symbolism and Impressionism on a predominantly Realistic oriented stage; and composer Karel KOVAŘOVIC (1862 - 1920), who improved the dramaturgy and the professional quality of the ensemble, leading to the modern conception of the opera stage. At this time, operatic works by Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 - 1904) and Leoš JANÁČEK (1854 - 1928) were performed in Prague and Brno. The leading choreographer Augustin BERGER (1861 - 1945) and Achille VISCUSI (1865 - 1945) laid the groundwork for the development of Czech ballet. The Theatre of the Estates and the Neues Deutsches Theatre in Prague remained especially prominent along with the numerous German theatres performing in towns such as Ústí nad Labem, Liberec, and Brno, which were largely inhabited by German minorities.

At the forefront of theatrical activity in independent Czechoslovakia after 1918 was director Karel Hugo HILAR (1885 - 1935), an artist with a keen interest in Expressionism. His appointment as drama director of the National Theatre in 1921 opened up a rather traditional stage to progressive tendencies of the world and domestic theatre arts. Otakar OSTRČIL (1879 - 1935) led the great growth of opera.

In the field of dramaturgy, significant contributors included Karel ČAPEK (1890 - 1938), his brother Josef (1887 - 1945), and František LANGER (1888 - 1965) etc.

During the same period, a number of younger avant-garde artists emerged in Prague. In 1926 directors Jiří FREJKA (1904 - 1952) and Jindřich HONZL (1893 - 1953) founded Osvobozené divadlo (The Liberated Theatre) as a section of the artistic club Devětsil. Their vision of the modern stage was closely linked to the contemporary European avant-garde tendencies, especially those in Russia and France. These directors joined forces with the composer and director Emil František BURIAN (1904 - 1959) to form a different image of poetic theatre.

In 1930 J. Frejka, who promoted ideas of Constructivism and commedia dell’arte acting, moved to the National Theatre, and synthesized his artistic experience with the acting orientation of this large stage. E. F. Burian realized his program of synthetic and poetic theatre on the stage of D 34 (Theatre D 34). The focal point of J. Honzl’s work shifted within a short period to the Surrealistic movement and cooperation with the actors and authors Jiří VOSKOVEC (1905 - 1981) and Jan WERICH (1905 - 1980). The Osvobozené divadlo (Liberated Theatre) became the centre of their buffoonery, developing from a special kind of linguistic humour. It remained a phenomenon that influenced the work of several future generations.

From 1939 to 1945, during the period of German wartime occupation, theatre in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was largely censored and controlled by Nazi officials. For the most part, Czech drama was suppressed and foreign drama severaly limited. As the German occupation progressed, Jewish artists were forced to abandon careers in the theatre. Certain groups were forcibly shut down, such as D 34 (Theatre 34), and in 1944 entire theatres were closed.

During this dark period in Czech theatre, many major artists emigrated; some were sent to concentration camps, such as the writer Josef Čapek; and many others were executed: for example the dramatist Vladislav VANČURA (b. 1891), actress Anna LETENSKÁ (b. 1904), and director Josef SKŘIVAN (b. 1902) were all sentenced to death in 1942.

Numerous Czech of German speaking Jewish artists imprisoned in the Terezín ghetto added a unique chapter to theatre history. While waiting to be transported to extermination camps, they performed for children and adults. Composers Hans KRASA (1899 - 1944) and Viktor ULLMANN (1898 - 1943) even created new opera works there.

World War II was particularly detrimental to Prague’s rich multicultural life and community. When the war ended, the long and mostly beneficial co-existence between Czech and German cultures ceased as well.

Theatre Since World War II
A period of relative political freedom occurred between 1945 and 1948. Most of the previously persecuted artists returned from abroad and from concentration camps. Theatres that had been controlled by the Germans were turned over to the state for use by Czech groups. At this time, Prague and other smaller cities experienced the spontaneous emergence of newly formed ensembles such as Velká opera 5. května (The Great Opera of the 5th of May) and Vesnické divadlo (The Village Theatre). Perhaps the most popular ensemble of the period was Divadlo satiry (Satire Theatre) in Prague.

A revival of interest in Eastern and Western theatrical art emerged. Many young enthusiasts followed the work of eminent representatives of the avant-garde before the Second World War. Two fundamental tendencies characterised play production during these years: stylised poetic theatre and contrasting, temporal, Realistic art. Theatre at this time was thus clearly tied to the rich development and continuity of the pre-war period.

In February 1948, the Communists took control of the country. Though their cultural policies secured social stability for theatres, free artistic development was stopped; and through the mid-1950s, dogmatic theories of Socialist realism dominated the stage. Virtually all contemporary western plays disappeared from the repertoires at this time, replaced by approved Soviet plays and dramatic works from other socialist countries. The domestic authors were forced to write in the newly approved “agit-prop” style. The official powers only allowed certain classical plays to be performed, while suppressing the best works of the pre-war playwrights. Even the acting styles had to conform to an ideologically-distorted interpretation of Stanislavski.

Once again, many theatres were forbidden to perform, including the Satire Theatre and the Great Opera; and many major artists were no longer permitted access to the stage. All theatre that was neither realistic nor Russian-like - especially in modern dance and pantomime - was suppressed. Policies were established not only by artistic directors, but also by the Communist Party’s hierarchial system of the entire society, which included theatres. Members of the Party attended political congresses and conferences which set themes, styles of expression, and working methods for the theatre.

In charge of the Municipial Theatre at Vinohrady since 1945, J. Frejka was forced to leave at the beginning of the 1950s. Burian distanced himself from his creative work after some unsuccessful attempts at employing the government’s desired style. Later, he renewed his previous staging techniques of the pre-war era. Other artists, such as Voskovec, chose once again to leave the country. Among the oppressed were Saša MACHOV (1904 - 1951) and Ivo VÁŇA-PSOTA (1906 - 1952), who laid the foundation of the modern Czech ballet. Both died as the victims of hatred in the political atmosphere.

In the mid-1950s, after the death of Stalin, a period so- called “the thaw” emerged when the political pressure slowly relaxed. At this time, Jan Werich and Miroslav HORNÍČEK (b. 1915) revived the clowning tradition of the Liberated Theatre on the stage of Divadlo satiry - ABC (The ABC Satire Theatre) which existed from 1955 to 1962. In this way, various levels of theatrical life began to express their disturbances with the official ideology.

During the 1960s Czech theatre experienced another brief period of relative political freedom, again returning to their original European contexts while retaining the financial advantages of working in a highly-subsidized cultural environment. This was especially true at the National Theatre in Prague and at the Státní divadlo (State Theatre) in Brno. At these theatres, the country’s leading directors had outstanding actors and the best resources at their disposal.

From 1956 to 1961 director Otomar KREJČA (b. 1921) led the drama ensemble of the National Theatre. He synthesized the poetic vision of modern drama with the tradition of psychological, realistic acting. His achievements as well as the unique style of another extraordinary director, Alfréd RADOK (1914 - 1976) contributed to the most famous era of this theatre. Artists such as director Václav KAŠLÍK (1917 - 1989) and conductor Jaroslav KROMBHOLC (1918 - 1983) helped create a movement towards a new form of opera theatre. Radok’s excellent film work compelled him ti begin a series of experiments involving the simultaneous use of both film and stage. These experiments ultimately led to the creation of the Laterna Magika (The Magic Lantern) in 1958, a project Radok collaborated on with his brother Emil (1918 - 1993) and the renowned stage designer, Josef SVOBODA (b. 1920).

Krejča left the National Theatre, and he started his own - the Divadlo za branou (Theatre Behind the Gate) during 1965 in Prague. This small company created a kind of theatre workshop, whose artistic program was greatly influenced by Chekhov’s dramatic style.

At the same time, the younger generation was making itself known with the emergence of many small theatres - albeit a little belatedly - whose repertoires were similar to those of the European “cellar” theatres.

Founded in 1958 by Jiří SUCHÝ (b. 1931), Ivan VYSKOČIL (b. 1929), and Ladislav FIALKA (1931 - 1991), Divadlo na Zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade), became a significant centre of the younger generation. The company achieved international fame in the mid-1960s with Jan GROSSMAN’s (1925 - 1993) contributions to Czech theatre in the movement of the Theatre of the Absurd.

The focal point of theatre in Moravia was traditionally in Brno where Státní divadlo Brno (the State Theatre Brno) developed an original variant of Brechtian drama and later a new version of folk baroque theatre, thanks to personalities such as director Evžen SOKOLOVSKÝ (1925-1998) and team of his colaboraters.

During this period numerous theatrical movements dominated Czech drama, ranging from Brechtian Theatre to the Theatre of the Absurd, from poetic theatre to clearly national plays. In the mid-1960s, pantomime and black-box theatre incorporated ballet and conducted many experiments with form and style. Cabarets flourished as did other dramatic forms, including satirical theatre and poetic theatre. Analogous processes were occurring in ballet and opera. Set design bloomed, the talent of Josef SVOBODA (b. 1920) largely contributing to its success. Czech theatre again found its place within the European mainstream.

The doors closed once again, however, in August 1968, when the Warsaw Past troops invaded the country. The so-called Prague Spring was followed by almost a year of continual opposition within the cultural community among others. As a result, the government, with the help of a massive network of secret police, finally decided to use force to wipe out artistic opposition.

The powers’strict restriction compelled many major artists to leave the country at this time. These artists included Alfréd RADOK, actor Jan TŘÍSKA (b. 1936) and actor and dramatist Pavel LANDOVSKÝ (b. 1936) as well as dramatists and writers Milan KUNDERA (b. 1929), Pavel KOHOUT (b. 1929), and Ludvík AŠKENAZY (1921 - 1986). Theatres such as Divadlo za branou (Theatre Behind the Gate) were closed down (1972).

Those artists who remained in the country were forced to leave the major cities. Among them were wuch important personalities as directors Jan GROSSMAN, Jan KAČER (b. 1935), and Miloš HYNŠT (b. 1921). A number of the best dramatists, such as Václav HAVEL (b. 1936) and Josef TOPOL (b. 1935) as well as eminent critics, theoreticians, and historians were not permitted to work in their fields and were, in effect, blacklisted. In fact, their names could not even appear in the media because the government did not want the nation to be influenced by their work. Even theatre magazines were forced to cease publication. Performances undesirable to the powers, including certain Soviet plays, were banned. International contacts were severely limited.

Throughout the 1970s, political struggles continued with younger artists adopting many of the “opposition” approaches of their banned predecessors. As a result, many productions at this time incorporated imaginative and coded political messages, especially the works of director Evald SCHORM (1931 - 1988) at Prague’s Divadlo Na zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade) as well as those of Brno’s Divadlo na provázku (Theatre on a String) and HaDivadlo (The Ha Theatre). As political pressure mounted in the largest cities, much of the creative activity shifted to the provinces. The development of theatrical art centered around a great number of small studio ensembles that emerged. This process caused marginal forms, such as pantomime and black theatre, to flourish. During the 1980s the provincial ensembles and especially the fringe theatres began to perform in the suburbs of Prague as well. This activity influenced an even wider spectrum of amateur and semi-professional theatres in Prague.

In the 1970s handwritten copies of banned works began to be circulated. From time to time, the texts of persecuted authors were performed under false names. Another response war the development of a form of theatre known as “bytové divadlo” (apartment theatre) in which especially actress Vlasta CHRAMOSTOVÁ (b. 1926) performed in private flats for selected audiences.

This situation as well as the constant scruting of a strong state censorship had unfavourable consequences on the quality of stage art in big towns. On the other hand, these circumstances evoked a higher quality of creative work in rural areas and counter-pressure from the political and artistic opposition.

In November 1989 theatres became the places where students on strike as well as other members of the dissatisfied public protested against the regime. With improvised programs they promoted the ideas of the Velvet Revolution’s leaders, informing the audience about the political development in Prague and in other big towns. The Czech artists remained faithful to their cultural tradition.

The 1990s clearly represented quite another process in theatre art - the search for Czech theatre’s new artistic profile. The Czech theatre’s transformation process is being importantly stimulated by the attempts of adjusting the existing network to the new economic conditions, and, after all, also by searching for the place and function of theatre in society. In this situation a number of theatres whose existence was threatened have shown their ability to survive; formation of new companies, such as Kašpar (Casper), Divadlo bez zábradlí (Theatre Without a Balustrade) in Prague, or Městské divadlo (The City Theatre) in Mladá Boleslav, as well as changes in the traditional repertory theatres, such as Divadlo pod Palmovkou (The Theatre at Palmovka), and Divadlo Labyrint (The Labyrinth) was being accompanied by demise of other, formely renowned companies. Establishment of new conditions in which theatres could operate is a problem we still try to resolve.

Encouraging phenomena were for example the growing artistic success of young talented directors such as Petr LÉBL (1965-1999), Hana BUREŠOVÁ (b. 1959), Jakub ŠPALEK (b. 1968), Jan BORNA (b. 1960), J. A. PITÍNSKÝ (b. 1955), Vladimír MORÁVEK (b. 1965) and Michal DOČEKAL (b. 1965), the establishment of Centrum experimentálního divalda (The Centre of Experimental Theatre) in Brno in 1993, and the opening of theatres such as the Archa (The Ark) in 1994, Spirála (The Spiral) in 1991, and Dejvické divadlo (The Dejvice Theatre) in 1992, as well as the increase in various theatre activities even outside of the traditional theatre centres of Bohemia and Moravia.

Artistic Profile
Prague, the nation’s capital, is the country’s largest city, with a 1990 population of 1,2 million. This city also boast the highest concentration of theatre companies in the country. The largest theatre institution in the country is Prague’s Národní divadlo (the National Theatre).

The National Theatre has three ensembles: a drama company as well as ballet and opera companies. These groups alternate use in the National Theatre’s various buildings. The main building is used for drama, opera, and ballet just like another building, the Theatre of the Estates. The third small space of the National Theatre in Kolowrat Palace is used only for experimental performances. Until 1991 the National Theatre also owned the Smetana Theatre (now the State Opera) and the New Scene, built in 1983 and now occupied by the Laterna Magika (The Magic Lantern).

As the country’s first official theatre, the National Theatre faced the strongest political pressures during the period immediately following World War II. In the post-1956 era following Stalin’s death, the National Theatre reached new artistic heights because of its exceptionally talented directors, designers, and actors.

From 1956 to 1961 director Otomar KREJČA and dramaturge Karel KRAUS (b. 1920) guided the National Theatre. During the next few years, the company explored theatrical classics in a poetic style, ranging from Chekhov’s The Seagull (1960) to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1963). Krejča and Kraus also introduced a number of new Czech plays to the National Theatre’s stage.

Another extraordinary director, Alfréd RADOK, worked with Krejča at the National Theatre. During his career Radok directed productions in a wide range of forms and styles, including dramas, musical comedies, operas, and films. Among his major achievements at the National Theatre were John Osborne’s The Entertainer (1957) and Gorki’s The Last Ones (1966).

Other significant directors who emerged from the National Theatre during this period included Jaromír PLESKOT (b. 1922), who became known for his topical interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays, such as his Hamlet (1959) and Miroslav MACHÁČEK (1922 - 1991), who specialized in staging the works of older Czech playwrights as well as world classical plays.

The National Theatre experienced a sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s. Its repertoire became increasingly conservative and its working methods outdated. The artistic work of Miroslav Macháček proved an exception during this period of drama drought. Macháček helped the drama company maintain some semblance of quality with productions such as Stroupežnický’s Naši furianti (Our Pigheads, 1979) and an outstanding Hamlet (1982).

Since 1989 the National Theatre has been attempting to restore and rejuvenate its ensembles under new artistic directors. The drama company, guided by Ivan RAJMONT (b. 1945) has oriented itself also thanks to the work of directors Jan Kačer and Miroslav Krobot toward a domestic and European repertoire while the opera company, working under Eva HERMANNOVÁ (b. 1929), and the ballet company, led by Vlastimil HARAPES (b. 1946), were both struggling to raise these troupes to a world level once again.

The second largest theatre in Prague is Divadlo na Vinohradech (Vinohrady Theatre), founded in 1907 as the Vinohrady Municipal Theatre. While constantly competing with the National Theatre in artistic leadership, the company has long maintained a tradition of a true actors’ ensemble. During its early years, the group concentrated on expressionism and psychological realism; in 1945 Jiří FREJKA began synthesizing the realistic and avant-garde approaches to acting, applying this new style to classics and exceptional contemporary plays, such as Neveux’s Le Voyage de Theésée (The Voyage of Theesee) and Griboyedov’s Woe from the Ration.

During the 1960s, when František PAVLÍČEK (b. 1923) ran the theatre, the company became known for its productions directed by Luboš PISTORIUS (1924-1997) and Jaroslav DUDEK (1932-2000) as well as new plays by KOHOUT, AŠKENAZY, and Ivan KLÍMA (b. 1931). Many of these works, such as the 1963 Čapek - Kohout War Against Salamanders, were antiillusionistic and spectacular. In the 1970s and 1980s, many television and film stars worked for this theatre, and the repertoire was adjusted to accomodate them.

Actress Jiřina JIRÁSKOVÁ (b. 1931) took over the artistic direction of the Vinohrady Theatre in 1989, and succeeded in making it Prague’s best attended theatre as it boasted a repertoire of popular plays performed by well-known actors. In the early 1990s, its most successful play was Kohout’s Ubohý vrah (Poor Murderer).

The Prague Municipal Theatre combined several smaller city stages. Created in 1950 by artists from the Vinohrady Theatre under the direction of Ota ORNEST (b. 1913), this theatre tried to promote a more intimate style of acting, often staging contemporary western plays during the first twenty years of its existence.

This theatre’s most important director was Alfréd Radok who, after leaving the National Theatre, staged major productions wuch as Gogol’s The Marriage (1963) and Romain Rolland’s Play of Love and Death (1964). The company’s resident playwright during this period was Vratislav BLAŽEK (1925 - 1973).

Since 1989, the company has operated three theatres whose most stable part is at the moment the ABC stage. Neither the brief period of company Kašpar’s (Casper) work in the Rokoko theatre - which has been terminated already - nor the existence of theatre K on the stage of Komedie (Comedy) does not allow us to make any predictions about the future of this complex organism.

Realistické divadlo (The Realistic Theatre) operated in a downtown space which has a tradition of folk theatre extending back into the 1870s. In the 1950s, under the direction of Karel PALOUŠ (b. 1913), it became a workshop producing plays in a dogmatically - interpreted Stanislavski style. At this time, it began to present new plays, such as early works of literary reformers, including Pavlíček and Kohout. During the 1970s, productions by Pistorius drew an enthusiastic audience. By the 1980s, it had become a Prague base for directors who, during the previous decade, had made a name for themselves working in the provinces. Among these were Karel KŘÍŽ (b. 1941), the artistic director of this theatre since 1991; Miroslav KROBOT (b. 1951); and Jiří FRÉHAR (b. 1938).

In 1991, the theatre changed its name to Labyrint (The Labyrinth), and the company changed its image by setting itself up as a cultural centre for Prague’s “left bank” and forging a new repertoire geared toward the intellectually-challenging.

Many of Prague’s “fringe” theatres can trace their origin back to the literary cabaret, Reduta, founded in 1957. Such companies were created in opposition to the official “big” theatres, and the first of these unofficial groups was the 1958-born Divadlo Na zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade) which worked in a variety of genres and styles including drama, pantomime, song, and cabaret. In the 1960s, under the leadership of theorist/director Jan GROSSMAN and repertory-advicer and later playwright Václav HAVEL, the company’s drama section created a unique Czech version of the Theatre of the Absurd. Both Grossman and Havel, however, were forced to leave the theatre for political reasons in 1969. Despite the popularity of Havel’s works, man of his later plays were only accessible in underground editions and only performed abroad.

In addition to Havel’s plays, Theatre on the Balustrade also staged plays such as Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1964) and Kafka’s The Trial (1966). During the 1970s and 1980s, the company - thanks to the work of director Evald SCHORM - offered provocative and grotesque interpretations of plays such as Hamlet (1978) and adaptations of contemporary Czech or classical Russian prose. Theatre on the Balustrade became the most important theatre in Prague. After Schorm’s death in 1988, Grossman returned to the theatre and became its artistic director in 1989, working closely with playwright Karel STEIGERWALD (b. 1945). Not surprisingly, Grossman has achieved major successes with Havel’s plays - namely Largo Desolato in 1990 and Pokoušení (Temptation) in 1991. After his death in 1993 Petr LÉBL, director and designer himself, was appointed the artistic director. Petr Lébl is a founder of the Jelo company, and his stagings of plays by Tankred Dorst, Jean Genet, Stroupežnický, and Chekhov indicate that this theatre will succeed in preserving its character as an important experimental stage.

Founded in 1965 as a loose association of stage directors and actors, Činoherní klub (The Drama Club) created productions that featured outstanding casts who, in a relatively small theatre space, were able to maintain close contact with the audience. The founders of The Drama Club - theorist Jaroslav VOSTRÝ (b. 1931), actor and director Jan KAČER, and playwright - and director Ladislav SMOČEK (b. 1932) all contributed significantly to the theatre’s success. Guest artists who worked here included the film directors of the Czech “New Wave”, Jiří MENZEL (b. 1938) and Evald Schorm. After the theatre’s leading personalities were forced to leave the company, critic, actor, and translator Leoš SUCHAŘÍPA (b. 1932) was also prohibited to work there. The ensemble of actors, however, remained, for the most part, unchanged; and the theatre continued to boast a high level of acting and to be very popular with audiences. In 1990, Vostrý once again took charge of the company until his appointment as a rector of AMU (Academy of Performing Arts).

After Otomar Krejča left the National Theatre, he founded (together with a few close colleagues) Divadlo za branou (The Theatre Behind the Gate). Krejča stressed a detailed analysis of the texts, demanded carefully considered interpretations from his actors and insisted that the cast work together in complete harmony (like clockwork), such as that in Krejča’s interpretation of Chekhov’s plays. Krejča abandoned a historical concept, opting for an existential treatment of the texts, as portrayed in his stagings The Three Sisters (1966) and Ivanoff (1970). In 1972, however, the theatre was closed for political reasons, and Krejča went to work abroad. The company was revived in 1991, and is now called The Theatre Behind the Gate II.

The Semafor Theatre was another notable small stage in Prague during this period. A cabaret created in 1959 by composer Jiří ŠLITR (1924 - 1969) and actor-singer-playwright Jiří SUCHÝ (b. 1931), the Semafor experienced its greatest success with the 1962 production of Jonáš a tingl tangl (Jonah and the Tingle Tangle). During the 1960s, the theatre nurtured a number of very talented singers.

Author, actor, and professional psychologist Ivan VYSKOČIL started Ne-divadlo (Non-Theatre) in 1964. During the difficult decades of the 1970s and 1980s, Vyskočil performed his own texts as improvised theatre tales. His intellectual approach addressed the philosophical ways to escape a nihilistic system which manipulates man. At the 1967-born Divadlo Járy Cimrmana (The Cimrman Theatre), Zdeněk SVĚRÁK (b. 1936) and Ladislav SMOLJAK (b. 1931) continue to develop a humorous, satirical program founded on the principles of mystification and the work of the non-existent jack-of-all-trades personality, Jára Cimrman.

The country’s second largest theatre centre is the city of Brno, with a population of 400 000. Since the end of the 1950s, the drama ensemble of the State Theatre has offered a specialized repertoire dealing with Brecht’s politically-oriented plays. Director Miloš HYNŠT (b. 1921) has guided the group while working with playwright Ludvík KUNDERA (b. 1920), dramaturge Bořivoj SRBA (b. 1931), and director Evžen SOKOLOVSKÝ.

In 1959 a political satire troupe called Večerní Brno (Evening Brno) joined the State Theatre company. At the end of the 1960s, a number of small groups also came into being. One of the most important is Husa na provázku (Goose on a String, later known as Theatre on a String). Created by Peter SCHERHAUFER (1942-1999), Bořivoj SRBA, Eva TÁLSKÁ (b. 1944), and Zdeněk POSPÍŠIL (1944 - 1992), the company put on productions which portrayed the Czech penchant for translating verbal metaphors into visual ones. Throughout its existence, the company has been an oasis of dramaturgical imagination complete with spontaneous expression and non-ideological poetry. The internationally-acclaimed mime, Boleslav POLÍVKA (b. 1949) worked with this theatre.

Although it has been operating in Brno since 1980, Ha-divadlo was founded by Svatopluk VÁLA (b. 1946) in the town of Prostějov. Later run by Arnošt GOLDFLAM (b. 1946), the company employs a method based on equality between the dramatic word, physical actions, and graphic scenic images; it also utilizes both montage and free association.

Director, actor, playwright, and designer Jan SCHMID (b. 1936) founded Studio Y in Liberec during 1963. The company is known for its actors’ method of collective creativity and naively poetic rearrangement of reality, as well as for its improvisation. It moved to Prague in 1978, where it continues to operate.

Ivan RAJMONT, director and head of the National Theatre’s drama ensemble since 1989, helped create Činoherní Studio (The Drama Studio) in the town Ústí nad Labem during 1972. This company became known for its absurdist productions as well as for the opportunities it afforded both young playwrights and directors who, at the time, were banned from working in Prague for political reasons.

In addition, the country also boasts a vast network of strong provincial theatres, especially those in Plzeň, Ostrava as well as in other smaller towns. A wide range of semi-professional and even amateur alternative theatres have been operating not only in Prague but also in many other cities since the late 1980s. These theatres share common characteristics: their lack of interest in traditional forms and styles and their opposition to social reality. One of the most important of these groups was Divadlo na okraji (Theatre on the Edge), which existed in Prague from 1970 to 1986 under the direction of Zdeněk POTUŽIL (b. 1947).

The death of Karel Čapek in December 1938 marked the end of pre-war Czech dramaturgy. Immediately after the war, several texts by prose writers and poets began to appear on stage. Jan DRDA (1915 - 1970) incorporated the domestic tradition of fairy tale plays, while Josef KAINAR (1917 - 1971) concentrated on contemporary issues by staging satirical and lyrical plays.

Ideological pressure from the Communist Party after 1948, however, soon forced dramaturgical development away from this direction and towards socialist realism. The plays of excellent pre-war dramatists such as Karel Čapek and František Langer disappeared from the repertoires of the theatres. It was only after the thawing of Stalinist politics in the late 1950s that dramatists were at long last able to move away from the stiff conventions of dictated aesthetics. Among the first to do so was František HRUBÍN (1910 - 1971), who in 1958 saw his Chekhovian-styled play, Srpnová neděle (August Sunday) staged at the National Theatre in Prague. His next play, Křišťálová noc (Crystal Night) followed in 1961.

Other writers did not fare so well. Experimental plays by Jiří KOLÁŘ (b. 1914), Chléb náš vezdejší (Our Daily Bread, 1949) and Mor v Athénách (Plague in Athens, 1961), for example, simply never reached the stage.

Among the many important Czech dramatists working during these years, several stand out, such as Josef TOPOL and Václav HAVEL, whose works perhaps best exemplify the two poles of Czech dramatic art. Other notable personalities in this field include Milan UHDE (b. 1936), Ivan KLÍMA, Milan KUNDERA (b. 1929), Pavel KOHOUT, and Ladislav SMOČEK.

Topol served as resident author for the National Theatre workshops led by Otomar Krejča. A sensitive analyst of human relations, his works - at the same time simple yet imaginative - examine the impact of social evils on human intimacy. Among his major works are Jejich den (Their Day, 1960; Konec masopustu (End of the Carnival, 1963); Kočka na kolejích (Cat on the Rails, 1965); Hodina lásky (Hour of Love, 1968), and Sbohem, Sokrate (Goodbye, Socrates, 1976).

The plays Václav Havel wrote during the 1960s as resident author of the avant-garde Theatre on the Balustrade analyzed, above all, the mechanisms of totalitarian might in relation to the fates of individuals. Trademarks of Havel’s works include strong thought constructions, machine-like setting of themes, motifs, and speeches. Havel was often considered a member of the absurd theatre dramatists. Ranking among his most important works are Zahradní slavnost (The Garden Party, 1963); Vyrozumění (The Memorandum, 1965); Vernisáž (The Opening, 1975); Largo Desolato (1984); and Pokoušení (Temptation, 1985). At his best, he creates moving parables about the fate of contemporary humanity.

The other dramatists previously mentioned who have all leaned toward the absurd are Uhde in his Král Vávra (King Vavra; 1964); Klíma in his Zámek (The Castle, 1965); and Milan Kundera, another graduate of Krejča’s workshop, in many of his works written for the stage as well as in his novels. Among Kundera’s important plays are Majitelé klíčů (Owner of the Keys, 1962); and Ptákovina (Stuff and Nonsense, 1968), a burlesque parable dealing with the theme of human might; and an adaptation of a Diderot novel, Jakub a jeho pán (Jacques and His Master, 1970). Kohout’s works are more varied, including his August, August, August (1967) and Ubohý vrah (Poor Murderer, 1971).

Many of these same characteristics are revealed in the works of the best dramatists from the Činoherní klub (The Drama Club): such as Ladislav Smoček, author of Podivné odpoledne Dr. Zvonka Burkeho (The Strange Afternoon of Dr. Zvonek Burke, 1966); Alena VOSTRÁ (1938 - 1992), author of Na ostří nože (On the Knife’s Edge, 1968); and Pavel Landovský, who also favors writing absurd comedies such as Hodinový Hoteliér (The Hour Hotel Keeper, 1969).

Three other dramatists of note are the Brecht-inspired Ludvík KUNDERA (b. 1920), author of Totální kuropění (Total Cock’s Crow, 1964) and Labyrint světa a lusthaus srdce (Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, 1983); satirist Vratislav BLAŽEK, author of Třetí přání (The Third Wish, 1960); and František PAVLÍČEK, author of several problem dramas such as Zápas s andělem (Fight with the Angel, 1959) and Nanebevstoupení Sašky Krista (The Assumption of Saska Kristus, 1967).

One of the most popular writers in the post-1969 period was Oldřich DANĚK (b. 1926), who adapted historical themes in his plays such as Vévodkyně valdštejnských vojsk (The Duchess of Wallenstein’s Troops, 1981). Among the writers who emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s, the most promising have been Daniela FISCHEROVÁ (b. 1948) with her Princezna Turandot (Princess Turandot, 1986) and Báj (The Fable, 1987); and Karel STEIGERWALD, the author of several analytical dramas about Czech history such as Tatarská pouť (The Tartar Pilgrimage, 1979) and Dobové tance (Period Dance, 1980).

The writings of Bohumil HRABAL (1914-1997) also have become extremely popular thanks to frequent dramatizations of his stories and novels. Among his most widely-acclaimed works are Bambini di Praga (1978) and Hlučná samota (Too Loud A Solitude, 1984), a work which combines a torrent of tavern talk with poetic realism. Jiří Suchý, author of Jonah and the Tingle Tangle (1962) and Ivan Vyskočil, author of Haprdáns or Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1981) are other plays that have been performed on small stages and have received enthusiastic praise from audiences.

One writer whose works began to enjoy popularity in the post-1989 period is dissident playwright Karol SIDON (b. 1942). Two of his 1972- written plays received attention in the early 1990s - Shapira (staged 1990) and Labyrint aneb Cirkus podle Komenského (The Labyrinth or The Circus According to Comenius, staged 1991).

Finally, it should be noted that during the 1970s and 1980s, when so many significant dramatists were simply not allowed to have their plays performed, many of them worked collectively under false names with particular theatres and created theatrical events that were less literary than theatrical. As such, many of these works cannot be easily defined in print and so remain uniquely tied to the productions at specific theatres.

Music Theatre
Music theatre, in general, and opera theatre, in particular, have a long and rich tradition in the Czech Lands, partially due to their great influence on the development of the monumental fields of the new-age Czech culture during the last two centuries, reaching significantly far into national life.

With the fundamental instigation of Bedřich Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride, 1866), opera rapidly reached a European level. Antonín Dvořák’s works such as Rusalka (Naiad, 1901) as well as the creations of Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů (1890 - 1959) initiated the next development. The expressive interpretative style of both great Prague opera stages - the Czech National Theatre and the German Provincial Theatre - progressed between the two World Wars and is linked to the work of conductors Otakar Ostrčil and Alexandr Zemlinsky. Aside from an international Italian, French, and German repertoire, both theatres devoted much of their time to Mozart’s works while the company performing at the German theatre chiefly produced Wagner’s works. These theatres also created a modern repertoire in 1924, when the world premiere of Schoenberg’s Erwartung took place in the Neues Deutsches Theatre and in 1926, when Berg’s Wozzeck was performed in the National Theatre.

Until 1945 operas staged in Bohemia were performed in either the Czech of German language; after 1945 all operas were performed in Czech only. Contemporary opera productions, of course, break this national convention. The Theatre of the Estates, built in 1783, is presently the oldest opera house in Prague; the opera houses in Plzeň, Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc, Ústí nad Labem, Liberec, and Opava also enjoy a lengthy tradition. A modern opera house, dubbed the Janáček Theatre, was built in Brno as recently as 1965.

The style and staging of the larger Prague theatres oriented the creativity of the smaller ones outside of Prague along their pivotal routes. From the end of the 1940s, the dramatic program concentrated on promoting traditional operas, based on an international repertoire; the Czech National opera house had a strong interest in Russian works, chiefly those of Prokofiev.

During the post-war period, the opera of the National Theatre reached its peak, under the guidance of Václav Talich and Jaroslav Krombholc, two of the finest interpreters of Smetana, Janáček, and Mozart opera.

In 1945 the new independent opera ensemble Velká opera 5. května (The Grand Opera of the 5th of May) arose in the former Neues Deutsches Theatre. Under the direction of composer Alois HÁBA (1893 - 1973), whose quarter-tone opera Matka (The Mother) premiered in Munich during 1931, Velká opera developed into an ambitious avant-garde ensemble and became home to some of the country’s most important musical talents of the time: conductor and director Václav Kašlík; designer Josef Svoboda, and director Alfréd Radok. The ensemble’s emphasis on only the most contemporary of operatic works clearly distinguished it from virtually all other companies in the country. In 1948 this young and progressive theatre ensemble merged with the National Theatre’s opera company. The name of the building was changed to the Smetana Theatre. In 1992, under the name of the State Opera Theatre, it became the second major opera stage.

Apart from the National Theatre in Prague, Brno specializes in producting the operatic works of Leoš Janáček. The Janáček operas set realist dramas to music: Jenůfa (based on the drama by G. Preissová); Káťa Kabanová (based on Ostrovský’s The Storm); Čapek’s play, The Affair Macropoulos; along with written prose: The Cunning Little Vixen (based on the text by Rudolf Těsnohlídek); and From the House of the Dead (based on the novel by Dostojevsky). They incorporate the composer’s realistic style enriched with ethnographic motifs. Their style further characterizes the expression of the motifs, the dramatic quality of the material, as well as the succinct melodic invention, rhythmically and concisely animated.

A number of Czech directors also established themselves during this time by focusing on the works by Janáček and other national composers. These notable directors include Ferdinand PUJMAN (1889 - 1962); Václav KAŠLÍK; and Luděk MANDAUS (1898 - 1971).

In the forefront of the 1960s, Bohuslav MARTINŮ, still another noteworthy Czech composer, received national attention again. His works were frequently produced, and among these are Julietta, first staged at the National Theatre in 1938; Mirandolina, first performed at Prague’s National Theatre in 1959; and Řecké pašije (Greek Passions), which was succesfully produced both in Prague and in Brno during the 1960s.

Because productions of new works from the West were discouraged by government policy in the 1960s and 1970s, external influences became less and less significant. On the positive side, this forced Czech artists to become more and more imaginative about developing their own work. On the other hand, the policy also left the country without any real sense of the latest contemporary trends in the field. It was only when Czech opera groups were invited to travel abroad on official tours that these Czech companies were able to witness first-hand foreign performances, and that Czech production could begin to penetrate beyond Eastern Europe.

In this sense, when Prague’s National Theatre opera company performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1964, it marked the West’s discovery of Janáček’s works.

The creations of certain other artists attracted special attention to a number of the smaller Czech opera companies. Of particular note were the accomplishments in the city Ostrava by conductor Jaroslav VOGEL (1894 - 1970), an outstanding interpreter of both Wagner and Janáček as well as the author of a fine monograph on Janáček. In the city of Olomouc, the composer Iša KREJČÍ (1904 - 1968) authored several fine operas including a 1946 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, called Pozdvižení u Efesu (Uprising in Ephesus); and in the city of Plzeň, conductor Bohumír LIŠKA (1914 - 1990) gave his company a special place in the national repertoire by conducting works by composers such as Britten and Prokofiev.

Director Bohumil HRDLIČKA (b. 1921) started his career in Ostrava, but quickly began working all across the country. Many still consider his 1957 surrealistic production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute as definitive within the country. His interpretation of events of the time ensured the opera a framework, generalizing the wartime experiences and post-war totalitarian power; for example, his interpretations involved contemporary costumes of the priests during Sarastro’s empire, tests through fire and water, symbolic watch towers of concentration camps, surreal signs of the Queen of the Night’s procession. However, their avant-garde qualities set them clearly against the government’s official aesthetic doctrines, and Hrdlička eventually left Czechoslovakia for a career in a German-speaking part of Europe, where he was instrumental in introducing Janáček’s work.

Two other Czech operatic artists of note also earned major reputations outside the country: conductor Zdeněk CHALABALA (1899 - 1962), who worked most extensively with Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre; and Václav NEUMANN (1920-1995), who worked mostly with Berlin’s Komische Oper.

Conductor Rafael KUBELÍK (1914-1996) contributed to the best postwar years of the Covent Garden Theatre, and opera singer Ludmila DVOŘÁKOVÁ (b. 1923), best known for her interpretations of Wagner’s creation, has made a name for herself on the great opera stages of the world.

Since the end of World War II, the only other Czech composers of note have been Jan HANUŠ (b. 1915), creator of the 1957 opera Sluha dvou pánů (Servant of Two Men); and Josef BERG (1927 - 1971), creator of the 1967 opera Eufrides před branami Tymén (Euphrides Before the Gates of Tymen).

Dance Theatre
The development of dance theatre, particularly ballet, in the Czech Republic after 1945 can be divided into several clearly-defined stages. The first, in the immediate post-war years, is characterized by the growth of the genre generally within the purview of opera performance, and its attempts, at this time, to break away from the domination of opera.

The major figures in this development were the choreographers Saša MACHOV in Prague and Ivo VÁŇA-PSOTA in Brno. S. Machov’s artistic program sprang up from the collaboration with E. F. Burian and his Theatre D 34 - 37 and was inspired by experiencing English ballet during World War II. He attempted to create a specifically Czech national ballet. As head of the National Theatre’s ballet group, he formed the basis of the theatre’s repertoire with the works of Czech and Russian composers. One example is Zbyněk VOSTŘÁK’s (b. 1920) Viktorka staged in 1950. I. Váňa-Psota, a former dancer with the Original Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, developed an outstanding ensemble working particularly with the Diaghilev repertoire in Brno.

A second phase began in the 1950s when the national policy demanded that art conform to the realistic ballet-drama favoured by the Soviets. Works of this type simply preferred the content, the event, and ideological confession. Perhaps the single choreographer of this period whose work was of real note was Jiří NĚMEČEK (1924 - 1992), a seasoned director who helped create the concept of full-length dramatic ballets. His work peaked in his 1959 production of Othello, which was composed by Jan Hanuš.

A third phase can be said to have begun in the early 1960s with the development of a more poetic ballet based on specific dance expression, abbreviation of movement, exaggeration, and metaphor. Choreography of this period stepped out of the narrowly-defined, canonized territory of the classical pas. The period ushered in a new era of modernization and individual choreographic expression. The number of shorter ballets in the repertoire increased significantly.

Among the important choreographers emerging at this time were Luboš OGOUN (b. 1924) and Pavel ŠMOK (b. 1927), who jointly founded the independent Ballet Prague which existed between 1964 and 1970. Not associated with any specific theatre, the company often toured abroad and became an experimental laboratory for all Czech ballet. A work that typifies the company’s style of the early 1960s was Ogoun’s 1963 production of Hiroshima in Brno, set to the concrete music of William Bukový. Later on, Šmok’s choreography to Janáček’s Listy důvěrné (Intimate Letters, 1968) characterized the period. Still another noteworthy choreographer here was Jiří BLAŽEK (b. 1923).

The political turmoil of 1968 and the Prague Spring brought about a return to the spiritual and political climate of the 1950s. Czechoslovak dance lost all contact with the rest of the world when connections abroad were severed. During this time, many important artists emigrated [among them, Jiří KYLIÁN (b. 1948), who in 1977 became artistic director of the Netherlands Dance Theatre]. Artistic standards in Czechoslovakia dropped significantly.

One exception to this trend was the 1980-founded Prague Chamber Ballet, under the direction of Pavel Šmok. His American Quartet (1977), set to the music of Dvořák; his choreography of Smetana’s work From my life (1983); and his Transfigured Night (Verklärte Nacht), set to the music of Schoenberg, were highlights of Czech dance during this time. The group also influenced the growth of the art across the country.

The oldest and largest permanent ensemble is the ballet company of the National Theatre with more than 100 members. Among the most important artistic representatives were Miroslav KŮRA (b. 1924), a brilliant dancer-actor and choreographer; Marta DROTTNEROVÁ (b. 1941), the first Czech ballerina of world standard, and dancer Vlastimil HARAPES (b. 1946), the current director of the ballet ensemble.

A number of younger artists began to develop during the late 1980s when some of the dance troupes were established outside the official structures and in some cases in direct opposition to them.

As the 1990s began, nine permanent ballet ensembles were operating in Prague, Brno, Plzeň, Ostrava, and several smaller cities. As well, there were several professional traveling dance ensembles which were attempting to maintain the country’s folk tradition, such as the Czechoslovak State Song and Dance Ensemble, founded in 1948.

The country’s dance community also has a major publication, Taneční listy (Dance Journal).

Pantomime already was an area of special interest for Czech avantgarde choreographers as far back as the 1930s. During World War II and afterwards, there were new attempts in this genre, especially on the stages of Prague and Brno. By 1948, the art of pantomime fell victim to ideological bans which tried to eliminate evrything from Czech theatre that was not socialist realism in style. At that point, pantomime became simply a branch of dance and actors’ training.

The French artists Jean-Louis Barrault and Marcel Marceau, whose films were shown in Czechoslovakia, were the ones who inspired a new generation to take the form seriously and to recreate it as an independent genre. By the end of the 1950s, a number of small mime companies came into existence, the most important one created by Ladislav FIALKA, the co-founder, artistic director, and leading figure of the pantomime troupe at the Theatre on the Balustrade.

The uniquely stylish and poetic character of his pantomime was, on one hand, based on ballet techniques, and, on the other hand, on a strong feeling for plasticity. Working as well with a strong sense of the romantic tradition, Fialka and his troupe performed such full-length productions as Devět klobouků na Prahu (Nine Hats on Prague, 1960); Cesta (Path, 1962); Blázni (Fools, 1965); and Knoflík (The Button, 1968), all of which were remarkable for their unique blend of the fantastic and the picturesque along with a genuine poetic point of view.

The flip side of Fialka’s work was that of Ctibor TURBA (b. 1944) and Boris HYBNER (b. 1941), who at their Alfred Jarry Pantomime Ensemble (which existed from 1968 to 1972) worked in an absurdist style. Rejecting traditional mime masks as well as white face, their purposeful ugliness, shocking aggressiveness, and black humour propelled their theatrics to daring extremes. Perhaps their most impressive piece of this style was the 1968 production Harakiri.

During the 1970s and 1980s, another mime of particular importance both withine the country and abroad was Boleslav POLÍVKA (b. 1949). An actor with Brno’s Theatre on a String, Polívka went on to create a series of mime performances in which he achieved a genuine synthesis of poetry, intellectual-political jests, and clowning. He was at his most inventive in such works as Pépé (1974) and Šašek a Královna (The Jester and the Queen, 1983).

Throughout the late 1970s and in the 1980s, pantomime became extremely popular because it could speak - without using words - to an audience about officially-banned topics. The development of the genre led to the formations of a lot of different mime ensembles of various styles. Since 1973 the unique program of the Křesadlo (The Flint Theatre) - led jointly by Václav MARTINEC (b. 1936) and Nina VANGELI (b. 1946) - developed the artistic protest through the form of motion theatre. In 1981, the Braník Pantomime Theatre opened in Prague and has hosted many semi-professional groups. In the mid-1980s, the department for pantomime education was founded at the Musical Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. After 1989 Czech nimes created several private theatres and schools.

Theatre for Young Audiences
The tradition of staging plays for young audiences in the Czech Republic is a clear continuation of a form that had its modern beginnings in Russia. Czech performances, however, vary greatly from naturalistic retellings of classic children’s fairy tales and often include original poetic works which may or may not have didactic purposes.

The first professional Czech theatre for young people was founded in Prague during 1935 by Míla MELLANOVÁ (1899 - 1964). After the war three new companies emerged: in Prague, the Jiří Wolker Theatre (1953); in Brno, the Julius Fučík Theatre (1955 - 1965); and in Ostrava, the Petr Bezruč Theatre (1951). All staged productions exclusively for schools.

In the 1960s, however, director Jan KAČER (b. 1936), during his short time there, began to stage some performances for adults as well at the Bezruč Theatre, extending the notion of theatre for the young in the process.

Besides those companies specializing in this field, a number of other groups also included occasional performances for young people in their repertoires. One of the most consistent in this respect was Prague’s Pocket Theatre, headed by mime Zdeňka KRATOCHVÍLOVÁ (b. 1936).

Young people were also enormously attracted to the workshop productions, directed by Eva TÁLSKÁ (b. 1944) at Brno’s Theatre on a String as well as those by Jan SCHMID (b. 1936) at Prague’s Studio Y.

For the record, Czechoslovakia is one of the founding members of ASSITEJ, the international association for children´s and young people’s theatre. The organization’s first international congress was held in Prague during 1965.

Puppet Theatre
Puppet Theatre was enormously popular in the Bohemian countryside at the end of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries. Dozens of wandering puppet troupes helped to preserve the Czech language as well as a sense of pride for the Czech nation in the predominantly German environment. Modern puppetry must to be understood keeping in mind the genre’s historical origins.

The earliest of the modern ensembles in the Czech territories was that founded in Plzeň during 1930 by Josef SKUPA (1892 - 1957). In 1945 this company changed its name to Divadlo Spejbla a Hurvínka (Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre) and its home to Prague. The company was a unique modern professional troupe working alongside a number of travelling groups before World War II. In 1948, when puppetry was involved in the nationalization of the country’s theatres, this art was given the same professional status as other theatrical forms.

By 1949, a network of professional puppet troupes performed across the country, but their members were often recruited from amateur groups. One man who contributed to the professionalization of puppet theatre as an art at this time was Jan MALÍK (1904 - 1980), who as far back as 1930 has gained a reputation as a reformer in the field.

In 1949, Malík founded the Ústřední loutkové divadlo (Central Puppet Theatre) in Prague, a company which operated for many years in the pictorial tradition perfected by the Soviet puppet master Sergei Obraztsov. The use of the traditional rod puppets significantly influenced the choice of the repertoire. From 1950 on, this company continued to set the fairy tale Zlatovláska (The Golden-Haired Princess) by Josef Kainar is still one of the mainstays in Czech puppet dramaturgy.

By the second half of the 1950s, however, Malík’s style became too dependent on words, reducing the puppet to simply an illustrative object. Those that opposed this style included the experimental group Salamandr in the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre as well as the students of puppetry at the Academy of Performing Arts, founded by Skupa in 1952 as the world’s first university-level school of puppetry.

The development of the genre in the ensuing years can be characterized as an oscillation between two poles: on one hand, there were the productions which presented the world realistically; on the other hand, there were the productions which strove to achieve a non-realistic communication with the viewer. It is this latter direction which has led the form into the further developments relating to the poetics of theatrical objects and the exploration of the stage metaphor.

The general resurgence of interest in the marionette tradition can be seen in the innovative work of the company Drak, based in the city Hradec Králové. Founded in the mid-1960s by Vladimír MATOUŠEK (1900 - 1977) and later under the direction of Jan DVOŘÁK (b. 1925), the company has played a significant role in the development of the form thanks to the audacious dramaturgy and directorial inventiveness of Dvořák, Josef KROFTA (b. 1943), and the woodworking artistry of František VÍTEK (b. 1929) as well as the design and technological virtuosity of Petr MATÁSEK (b. 1944).

Drak’s productions tend to combine the use of puppets, live actors, and stage props, the latter which can be interpreted in many different ways. The company has performed in many theatres for both children and adults. Among their major successes are Šípková Růženka (Sleeping Beauty, 1976); Sněhurka (Snow White, 1979); Popelka (Cinderella, 1982); and the philosophical allegory, Píseň života (Song of Life, 1985).

Founded in 1949, the puppet company Loutkové divadlo v Liberci (The Puppet Theatre in Liberec) is another group that has made significant contributions in this genre. Known as the Naivní divadlo (Naive Theatre) since 1968, this group is especially reputed for its “mateřinky” which utilize playfulness and fantasy as artistic guides. The company’s key figure is stage designer/puppeteer Pavel KALFUS (b. 1942).

The Divadlo Spejbla a Hurvínka (Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre) has continued to retain a prominent position in the field thanks to the leadership of Skupa’s successor, Miloš KIRSCHNER (1927-1996). The company also continues to be one of the country’s most popular groups, thanks to its high standards and its productions for both children and adults. The characters the company was named for, the mythical and very popular Spejbl and Hurvinek, have appeared in many productions since the 1920s and continue to do so.

These positive developments in this art, however, have led to an enormous dependence on the directors and an underestimated use of the puppet itself as a means of expression. Nevertheless, this genre remains very popular.

At the beginning of the 1990s, ten professional Czech puppet groups existed, all state subsidized. In addition, there were dozens of amateur groups and several black light companies. The most significant was the independent Černé divadlo (The Black Theatre), founded in 1964 by Jiří SRNEC (b. 1931). Their productions - such as Létající velociped (The Flying Bicycle, 1975) and Alenka v říši divů (Aspects of Alice, 1989) - straddle the boundaries between pantomime and puppet theatre as objects move in a kind of fantastic free-play.

Still another group, Vedené divadlo (The Guided Theatre) had a short existence in Prague between 1969 and 1972, under the direction of Karel MAKONJ (b. 1947). This company, in its 1969 production of Camus’ La Malentendu (The Misunderstanding), introduced giant mannequinlike puppets to the stage, and this kind of puppet has subsequently been used by other groups.

Perhaps the most striking contemporary trend in Czech puppetry is the simultaneous use of both puppets and live actors, a style particularly used by both Drak in Hradec Králové and Naivní divadlo (The Naive Theatre) in Liberec.

Finally, it should be noted that one of the oldest puppet magazines in the world, Český loutkář (The Czech Puppeteer, since 1993 Puppeteer) was founded in Prague during 1912. In 1929, UNIMA, the international puppetry organization, was also established in Prague.

Theatre Design
Czech stage design during the second half of the twentieth century has been closely tied to movements in the field of art from the pre-World War II period. Cubist architecture - a movement centered around the work of Pavel JANÁK (1882 - 1956) - entered Czech theatre around 1920 under the banner of expressionism and cubo-futurism.

Introduced by such artists as Vlastislav HOFMAN (1884 - 1964), Bedřich FEUERSTEIN (1892 - 1936) and Jiří KROHA (1893 - 1974), this approach was further developed by František TRÖSTER (1904 - 1968). Tröster’s discovery of “dramatic space” in the 1930s anticipated the principle of sculptural architecture in the 1960s.

Soviet constructivism inspired the Czech avant-garde movements of the 1920s and helped create a new individual style - “poetism”. This new approach was inspired by the Dada movement and by artists such as Mayakovsky, Apollinaire, and Picasso. This style was translated onto the stage by directors Jiří Frejka and Jindřich Honzl and by the architect Antonín HEYTHUM (1901 - 1954). Osvobozené divadlo (The Liberated Theatre) proved the hub of its activities.

At this theatre Emil František Burian began his career. Burian, together with Miroslav KOUŘIL (1911 - 1984), employed slide and film projection in their work at the Divadlo D 34 (D 34 Theatre), dramatically linking these elements with the overall visual composition. Their “Theatregraph”, patented in 1938 and directly related to the film technology of the 1936 - 1938 period, involved the use of a transparent projection area across the front of the stage.

The onset of World War II and the nationalization of all the professional theatres during 1948 disrupted the natural evolution of design in the country. The need to follow prescribed forms and the 1968 occupation by Soviet forces further prevented free developments in the field. Despite these barriers, there were short spurts of significant creative activity during the years just prior to 1948 and during the twelve years from 1956 to 1968.

In Prague, it was Velká opera 5. května (The Grand Opera of the 5th of May) which began to develop entire programs around the work of the country’s most imaginative designers - notably Josef Svoboda - in the immediate post-war period (1945 - 1948). Svoboda’s work showed not only imagination but also simplicity, and his career quickly catapulted him to the stage of the National Theatre and later abroad.

After a short period during which he experimented with socialist realism, he developed, in collaboration with Otomar Krejča and Alfréd Radok, the concept of psycho-plastic space capable of expressing a wide range of changes in dramatic settings. Svoboda’s 1957 design for Bohumil Hrdlička’s production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, indicated new ways to exploit the visual aspects of the stage through both technique and technology, especially in the use of lighting.

At the 1957 world exposition in Brussels, Svoboda presented a program with director Emil Radok and Laterna Magika (The Magic Lantern) company utilizing the “Polyekran”, still another innovation in this new direction. In 1959, these new concepts won Czechoslovakia first prize at an international design competition at the Sao Paulo Biennale in Sao Paulo, Brazil. F. Tröster earned a gold medal as the Best Foreign Stage Designer, marking the first of many such awards received by Czech designers at this event in the coming years. Later recipients included Svoboda himself, Jiří TRNKA (1912 - 1969), Vladimír NÝVLT (b. 1927), and Oldřich ŠIMÁČEK (b. 1919).

International design successes such as these inspired the 1967 creation of a similar Czechoslovak event, the Prague Quadrennial, the world’s largest international exhibition of stage design and theatre architecture.

Subsequent national trends in this field during the mid-1960s involved designers such as Zbyněk KOLÁŘ (b. 1926) and Vladimír ŠRÁMEK (b. 1927), stylizing dramatic reality into strongly aesthetic abstract or symbolic signs, while Zdeněk SEYDL (1916 - 1978) created solitary and purely visual art productions.

Towards the end of the 1960s, stage stylization began to be separated into specific elements either accentuated or taken out of normal contexts. By 1975, a new “action” stage design emerged, consisting of a constant confrontation of empirical and dramatic realities with the on-stage actor as their living organizer. Costume design, too, became a new centre of artistic dramatic expression, as evidenced in Libor FÁRA’s (1925 - 1988) designs for Grossman’s 1964 production of Jarry’s Ubu Roi at the Theatre on the Balustrade.

Throughout the 1980s, graduates of various stage design schools for the most part determined the characteristic designs. The work of specialists who were neither painters nor architects represents even more contemporary examples of action stage design, including Otakar SCHINDLER (b. 1923); Jaroslav MALINA (b. 1937); Jan DUŠEK (b. 1942); Miroslav MELENA (b. 1937); Jan KONEČNÝ (b. 1951); Ivo ŽÍDEK (b. 1948); and Marta ROSZKOPFOVÁ (b. 1947). This school reflects the humble nature of the surroundings at the challenge of the 1960s “arte povera”. Linked with the small theatres, it managed to survive until the end of the 1980s. The youngest generation reveals itself with purposeful anarchy towards its expressional surroundings. Action set designs are being driven out and abused by new graphic designs.

Perhaps the single protesting voice of design during this period is Jan VANČURA (b. 1940), who has been inspired by the Romantic designs of the nineteenth century.

Entering the 1990s, the Czech stage seems to facour collage and assemblage forms, and a trend is developing toward decoration and even kitsch, apparent in the work of Daniel DVOŘÁK (b. 1954) and Karel GLOGR (b. 1958). This form was first seen in costume design which bridged the older and newer styles. Among those working in this way the key figures are Jindřiška HIRSCHOVÁ (b. 1922), Helena ANÝŽOVÁ (b. 1936), Irena GREIFOVÁ (b. 1939), and Josef JELÍNEK (b. 1949).

Architecture and Technology
Most theatre buildings in both the Czech and Slovak territories were built in the traditional Italian style. The oldest ones have all been declared historical monuments. Two of the most architecturally and theatrically significant buildings are Prague’s Stavovské divadlo (Theatre of the Estates, 1783), a building designed in the classical style by Anton HAFFENECKER (1725 - 1783), and the host of the world premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787; and the National Theatre, built in 1883 by Josef ZÍTEK (1832 - 1909) from donations by Czech citizens during the major period of national revival.

In Brno, the Mahen Theatre, completed in 1882, is a major architectural achievement. Another unique building is the baroque-style Castle Theatre, constructed during 1767 in Český Krumlov. This theatre has been preserved in its entirety, including original stage decorations and props.

At the time of the creation of the Czechoslovak state in 1918, twenty-three independent theatre buildings existed; twenty-two of them are still used for productions. After 1918, more buildings and halls were added in smaller towns.

Among the significant theatres built since 1945 are the 620- seating capacity, open-air theatre with a Johan BREHMS (b. 1907) - designed revolving stage, constructed in Český Krumlov during 1958; and the Janáček Opera House in Brno, which has two side-stages and one rearstage. Built in 1965 by the team of Jan VÍŠEK (1890 - 1966), Vilém ZAVŘEL (b. 1910), and Libuše ŽÁČKOVÁ (b. 1921), this theatre boasts a seating capacity of 1 383, a 20 by 22 meter stage, and an orchestra pit that can accommodate ninety musicians.

The City Theatre in Zlín, with a seating capacity of 796 and a 19 by 23,5 meter stage, was built in 1967 by Miroslav ŘEPA (b. 1924) and František ROZHOŇ (b. 1926). The ground plan of the auditorium is based on the Gropious oval of a conventional theatre. A segment of the proscenium can be used as a forty-musician orchestra pit.

Built in 1987 by Ivo KLIMEŠ (b. 1932), The City Theatre in Most consists of a trapezoid-shaped stage which narrows from 31 meters to 16 meters with a depth measuring 13,6 meters. The proscenium arch is 7,5 meters high with a width ranging from 12 to 21,5 meters. The auditorium seats 500 spectators.

The National Theatre’s New Scene in Prague is an open space designed during 1983 by Karel PRAGER (b. 1923). The auditorium seats 510 and has space for twenty-four musicians.

In the Czech territories state conservatories exist on the secondary school level (13 to 18 years of age) for the training of actors, musicians, and dancers in three cities: Prague (though the conservatory was founded back in 1808, the drama department was only established in 1919); in Brno (founded in 1919); and in Ostrava (established in 1959).

Advanced training is provided by the 1946-founded Akademie múzických umění (Academy of Performing Arts) in Prague, which has several faculties; and by the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno, established a year later than the one in Prague. Both institutions train aspiring professional for different branches of theatre, dance, music, and film. Since 1952, the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague has also had a special chair in puppet theatre, one of the first in the world. It was transferred 1990 in The Department of Alternative and Puppet Theatre. Both academies have their own theatres and opera studios.

A number of so-called Primary Schools of Art across the country also offer theatre training for amateurs during evenings. Since the begginning of the 90s have emerged also new privat establishments on the field (Duncan Centre Conservatory).

Critism, Scholarship, and Publishing
The foundations for modern Czech theatre analysis were laid by Otakar ZICH (1879 - 1934) in his seminar book, The Aesthetics of Dramatic Art, published in 1931. In this work, Zich argues that theatre should be a dynamic concert involving a wide range of elements while, at the same time, laying the broad foundations for taking the semiotic approach to art.

The later Prague structuralists too found their work growing directly of Zich’s essential ideas. Among them were Jan MUKAŘOVSKÝ (1891 - 1975); Petr BOGATYREV, a Russian scientist living in Prague; and still later, Jiří VELTRUSKÝ (1919 - 1993), who left the country in 1948.

The development of Czech structuralism was interrupted in the late 1940s and early 1950s by official government attempts to deny that this movement had any validity whatsoever for socialist art. As a result, at this time, there was virtually no collaboration between theatre studies, aesthetics, and the more general theories of art. Theories were, in fact, developed almost by accident as a by-product of the activities of dramatists, directors (particularly Jan Grossman), and critics. Most theories appeared as essays rather than as books. Interestingly, when Mukařovský’s Studies of Aesthetics was published in 1966, semiological research - particularly as it related to music theatre and the work of Ivo OSOLSOBĚ (b. 1928) - was clearly tied to structuralist concepts.

In the post-war years, Czech theatre studies developed a wider institutional base when the Chairs of Theatre Studies were established at Prague’s Charles University and at the University of Brno. Serving as the Prague Chairs were former dramaturge of the National Theatre, František GÖTZ (1894 - 1974); and historians Jan KOPECKÝ (1919 - 1992) and František ČERNÝ (b. 1926).

In history, the Cabinet for Czech’s Theatre Stadium under leading František Černý created the important four-volume Dějiny českého divadla (History of Czech Theatre) which covers Czech theatre from the Middle Ages to 1945 and was published by the Academia Prague between 1968 and 1983.

Since 1959, Prague’s Divadelní ústav (Theatre Institute) has compiled national theatre documentation. The older documents are housed in Prague’s National Museum and in Brno’s Moravian Museum.

Special theories are found in the literature by Růžena VACKOVÁ (1901 - 1982), Výtvarný projev v dramatickém umění (Visual Artistic Expression in Set Design and the Dramatic Arts), published in 1948; and Věra PTÁČKOVÁ’s (b. 1933) Česká scénografie 20. století (Czech Stage Design in the Twentieth Century), published in 1982.

In the immediate post-war years, the key journals for theory and criticism were Divadelní zápisník (Theatre Notebook) and Otázky divadla a filmu (Problems of Stage and Film). At the end of the 1950s, a new generation of critics and theorists contributed to the periodical Divadlo (Theatre) and Divadelní noviny (Theatre News), both of which ceased publication in 1970.

During the late 1970s, the most important source of theatre criticism was Scéna (Stage), which in the 1980s became a centre for critical attacks on official cultural policies. In 1986, the samizdat review O divadle (About Theatre) became a voice for dissidents in theatre. Since 1989, many new publications have also appeared, including Divadelní revue (Theatre revue), which began publication in 1989; Svět a divadlo (World and Theatre), which began publication in 1990; and Divadelní noviny (Theatre News), which was started as recently as 1992, and Czech and Slovak Theatre (1991) renamed since 1994 Czech Theatre.

Bezděk, Zdeněk. Československá loutková divadla, 1949 - 1969. [Czechoslovak Puppet Theatres, 1949 - 1969]. Prague: Divadelní ústav, 1973. 160 pp.

Černý, František, ed. Dějiny českého divadla. [History of Czech Theatre], 4 vols. Prague: Academia, 1969 - 1983.

Černý, František, ed. Divadlo v Kotcích. Nejstarší pražské městské divadlo 1739 - 1783. [Theatre in Kotce. The oldest Prague Municipal Theatre 1739 - 1783]. Prague: Panorama 1992. 478 pp.

Černý, František. Měnivá tvář divadla aneb Dvě století s pražskými herci. [Changeable Face of Theatre or Two centuries with actors from Prague]. Prague: Mladá fronta, 1978. 319 pp.

Císař, Jan. Divadla, která našla svou dobu. [The New Movement’s Founding Theatres]. Prague: Orbis, 1966. 126 pp.

Císař Jan ed. Cesty českého amatérského divadla - Vývojové tendence. [Paths of Czech Amateur Theatre. Tendencies of the Development.]. IPOS: Praha, 1998.

Fencl, Otakar. The Czechoslovak Theatre Today. Prague: Artia, 1963. 84 pp.

Goetz-Stankiewicz, Markéta. The Silenced Theatre: Czech Playwrights Without a Stage. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.

Hájek Jiří, Olga Janáčková, Vladimír Just, Johana Kudláčková, Štěpán Otčenášek, Ladislava Petišková, Jan Pömerl, Adolf Scherl, Eva Šormová, Alena Urbanová: Divadlo nové doby 1945 - 1948. [Theatre of a New Age 1945 - 1948]. Prague: Panorama, 1990. 505 pp.

Hedbávný, Zdeněk. Alfréd Radok. Zpráva o jednom osudu./Alfréd Radok, The Report about one Destiny/. Národní divadlo, Divadelní ústav. Prague 1994. 401 pp.

Herrmannová, E., Illingová E., Kuna M. České hudební divadlo v letech 1945 - 1960 [Czech Musical Theatre from 1945 to 1960]. In Příspěvky k dějinám české hudby II [Contributions to the history of Czech music II]. ed. Milan Kuna, 155 - 232. Prague: Academia, 1972.

Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura. [Czech Theatre Architecture]. Divadelní ústav: Praha, 1999. 319 pp.

Just, Vladimír. Proměny malých scén. [Changes in the Small Theatres]. Prague: Mladá fronta, 1984. 344 pp.

Just, Vladimír ed. Česká divadelní kultura 1945-1989 v datech a souvislostech. [Czech Theatre 1945-1989. Dates and Circumstances]. Divadelní ústav: Praha, 1995. 469 pp.

Konečná, Hana, ed. (Kopecký, J., Ptáčková, V.). Čtení o Národním divadle. Útržky dějin a osudů. [The National Theatre: On Its History and Its Fate]. Prague: Odeon 1983. 412 pp.

Nádvorníková, Marie. Postavy českého divadla: výběrová bibliografie knižních publikací a článků z divadelního tisku 1945 - 1980: [Productions of Czech Theatre: Selected Bibliography of Books on Theatrical Activities, 1945 - 1980]. Publikace Státní vědecké knihovny v Olomouci, 4. Olomouc: Státní vědecká knihovna v Olomouci, 1983. 85 pp.

Osolsobě, Ivo. Divadlo, které mluví, zpívá a tančí. [A Theatre Which Speaks, Sings, and Dances]. Prague: Supraphon, 1974. 242 pp.

Procházka, Vladimír, ed. Národní divadlo a jeho předchůdci. [The National Theatre and Its Predecessors]. Prague: Academia, 1988, 623 pp.

Ptáčková, Věra. Česká scénografie XX. [Czech Theatre Design in the Twentieth Century]. Století, Prague: Odeon, 1982. 365 pp.

Šormová, Eva. Divadlo v Terezíně 1941 - 1945. [Theatre in Theresienstadt, 1941 - 1945]. Theresienstadt: Severočeské nakladatelství, 1973.

Šormová, Eva, ed. Česká divadla - Encyklopedie divadelních souborů. [Czech Theatres - The Encyclopaedia of Theatre Companies]. Divadelní ústav: Praha, 2000. 615 pp.

Trensky, Paul I. Czech Drama Since World War II. White Plains: Sharpe, 1978.

Kopáčová, Ludmila, Paterová Jana ed. České divadlo. [Czech Theatre]. Vol. 2, Divadlo studiového typu. [Studio Theatre], by co-authors: Obst Milan, Kolář Jan, Dvořák Jan, Křovák Miroslav, Gallerová Vlasta, Just Vladimír. Prague: Divadelní ústav, 1980, 87 pp.

Kopáčová, Ludmila, Paterová Jana, Roubínek Otakar, Tomeš Jonatan ed. České divadlo [Czech Theatre]. Vols 6 and 8, O současné české režii. [On Contemporary Czech Directing], by co-authors: Císař Jan, Czech Jan, Lázňovský Michal, Grossman Jan, Hořínek Zdeněk, Daněk Oldřich, Jindrová Zuzana, Lukavský Radovan, Žídek Ivo, Vašut Vladimír, Dvořák Jan, Osolsobě Ivo, Just Vladimír, Königsmark Václav; Císař Jan, Krobot Miroslav, Sochorovská Valerie, Srna Zdeněk, Křovák Miroslav, Kudělka Viktor, Stašek Marek, Kacetlová Eva, Roubínek Otakar, Ulrichová-Mrázová Darja, Šormová Eva, Císař Roman, Krautmannová Vlasta, Srba Bořivoj, Urbanová Alena, Klem Jiří, Vinklář Josef, Lukavský Radovan, Oslzlý Petr, Scherhaufer Peter, Tálská Eva, Hajda Alois, Vyskočil Ivan. Prague: Divadelní ústav, 1982 - 1983, pp. 160 (Vols. 6) and 492 (Vols 8).

Czech Theatres during the Season 1990-91 and 1991-92

Marie Boková

General Situation

A searching probe into the contemporary Czech theatre scene taking into account the broader context of the preceding period leaves no room for doubt that the initial spell of euphoria pervading the revolutionary season 89-90 was followed by a steadily mounting tide of economic and hence social insecurity. Czech theatres experience the onset of fundamental economic and social changes. Radical transformations affect the companies’ personnel structure and the flux and fluidity of the current situation are documented by the decline of old and the rise of new theatre companies, groups and agencies.
What is at issue is a transformation of the entire structure of the country’s theatre network. For this reason alone, no detailed coverage can be given of the period under review. The process of change is still in progress and theatre production takes place in extremely challenging conditions.


The overwhelming majority of Czech theatres are financed and operated by local town authorities which grappling with the current straits and difficulties afflicting society as a whole have drastically slashed the subsidies so far given to the theatres from their budgets. To mitigate the impact of this belt-tightening policy, Czech theatres have now started to explore a broad range of other possible financial resources: sponsors’ contributions, collateral economic activity such as the lease of halls, buildings, car-parks, costumes, services, etc. Thus in the summer of 1992 the National Theatre let out on a two-week lease the building of the Estates Theatre to the Opera Mozart Theatrical Agency for the commercial “video-clip” production of The Magic Flute; the Na Vinohradech Theatre (Divadlo na Vinohradech) let out on a lease spanning the three summer months its building for performances of the Czech version of the Les Misérables musical produced by Adam Novák.

Theatres on the Wane

In the two seasons under review, the following Czech professional companies ceased to exist - E. F. Burian Theatre (Prague), Veeerní Brno (Brno), Theatre Kolín. The same period saw the rise (but also the decline) of a number of agencies, associations and groups (e.g. Divadlo na cesti //On the Road Theatre// attached to the West Bohemian Theatre //Západoeeské divadlo//, Cheb; as to the new companies, suffice it to mention the puppet theatre group Buchty a loutky //Buns and Puppets// attached to the Works Theatre ZD Cheb, the Kašpar Association //Spolek Kašpar// attached to the Municipal Theatre Prague //MDP Praha//, the Amphitryon Studio //Studio Amfitryon// at Palmovka Theatre //Divadlo pod Palmovkou//). All of them were established by groups of recent Prague DAMU (Drama Academy of Performing Arts) graduates.

Personnel Changes Affecting Czech Theatres

Besides the total exchange of directors and artistic directores in individual companies (see below), the period under consideration witnessed a massive migration of actors and, in some cases, thorough changes affecting the cast. This applies in particular to Prague-based theatre companies. Bearing the brunt of waning theatre attendance (and dwindling finances), some of the theatres find themselves in a particularly distressing situation. Their plight is aggravated by the alarming number of unfinished reconstruction projects still in progress in their operational buildings and, especially, by the Act on the Restitution of Property confiscated after February 1948. A relevant example is Realistické divadlo /Realistic Theatre/ - today called Labyrint /Labyrinth/ - which long before November 1989 had been one of the major centres of Anti-Communist intellectual resistance. A year ago, this theatre was awarded the Literary Foundation’s Prize for its innovative experimental productions - Mein Kampf, Res baltica and Travesty /Travestie/ and yet it forfeited its right to use the building in the 1992 court dispute considering the owner’s restitution claim. Few theatres effected the reshuffle of leading management staff without frictions, problems and small-scale “revolutions” flaring up in the ensembles. The revolt of Hudební divadlo Karlín /Music Theatre Karlín/ against its director, the spectacular exodus of the entire ensemble of Divadlo Na zábradlí /Theatre on the Balustrade/, three new directors within the span of two seasons at Liberec Theatre - are but a few examples of the current turmoil afoot in the rapidly changing Czech theatre scene.
The same period, of course, witnessed the comeback of some of the seasoned professionals, original directors or co-founders of the legendary Prague theatres of the 1960s including artists of international stature: thus Jan Grossman returned to Divadlo Na zábradlí /Theatre on the Balustrade/, Jaroslav Vostrý to Činoherní klub /Drama Club{, Otomar Krejča to the renewed Divadlo Za branou II /Beyond the Gate Theatre II/. In those theatres too, however, the situation is far from simple: new artistic direction as well as new companies keep emerging into the limelight, there is a good deal of tension between the companies’ “old” and “new” members, the staged productions reflect a pretty unbalanced standard of achievement, and - worst of all - the declining attendance figures recorded by some of the theatres.
Perhaps the best way to cope with the current crisis was that of Jan Grossman confronting the ensemble’s open revolt sparked off by his nomination as director of Divadlo Na zábradlí /Theatre on the Balustrade/ in June 1991. After a protracted series of conflicts, well nigh all members of the original ensemble left the theatre and founded a completely new venture - Divadlo Bez zábradlí /Theatre without the Balustrade/. Under Grossman’s directorship, the newly established ensemble staged three successful productions during the 1991-1992 season (Havel’s Pokoušení /Temptation/ - at that time, the one and only “legitimate” Havel play produced by a Czech theatre - Yuryev’s Pogrom v nádražním bufetu /Pogrom in the Railway Station Cafeteria/ and the third version of Moliere’s Don Juan). The life-long continuity of Grossman’s theatre work has thus asserted its vitality and vigour.
At Prague’s Činoherní klub /Drama Club/ Jaroslav Vostrý is no longer the company’s sole director. The original constellation of seasoned veterans has its persuasive exponent in Ladislav Smoček who directed Birinsky’s Mumraj /Pother/ with a flourish. A new promising name is the talented director Jan Nebeský whose professional adaptation is no easy process.
Otomar Krejča reconstituted his original cast at Divadlo Za branou II /Theatre Beyond the Gate II/ and rejuvenated the ranks of his company by a sizeable contingent of up-and-coming Czech actors. Krejča seeks to revive the theatre’s creative continuity and heal the rift incurred in 1972. During the 1990/91 and 1991/92 seasons he staged Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Nestroy’s Rope with One End (an updated replica of the 1967 production) - yet with an admittedly more problematic outcome and perceptibly weaker audience response than twenty years ago.

New Activities

A new remarkably expansion-prone phenomenon of the Prague theatre scene is the multi-pronged activity of the Opera Mozart agency association (combining the collaborative efforts of Opera Furore, Golem Agency, National Marionette Theatre /Národní divadlo marionet/, Studio Ypsilon and individual artists). With Jan and Daniel Dvořák in charge this joint venture largely concentrates on foreign audiences and gears its programmes towards tourists during the summer season and throughout the year. The skyrocketing ticket prices account for the near-absence of Czech audiences. Breaking out of the pattern set by the spectacular profusion of Mozartian-Kafkaesque-Golemesque glamour productions are two puppet theatre shows: Don Giovanni at the National Marionette Theatre /Národní divadlo marionet/ and Play Magic Flute - an original one-man show conjured up by actor and puppeteer Vladimír Marek.
The new and - let’s face it - largely restructured phenomena of current Czech theatre life include the contemporary identity of the former Brno-based alternative theatres. Divadlo Na provázku /On-the-String Theatre/ has resumed its original name Husa na provázku /Goose on a String/ which under the umbrella of the Experimental Theatre Centre /Centrum experimentálního divadla/ has now launched its new operational base in the historic building Dum pánu z Fanalu /The Lords of Fanal House/ which, however, is still under reconstruction. The ‘String’ Theatre runs two studios of its own: the original Children’s Studio //Dětské studio// changed its name to Non-Children’s Studio /Nedětské studio/ led by Vladimír Morávek. Director Eva Tálská opened the Dum /House/ Studio for young audiences. Peter Scherhaufer is preoccupied with work on his three-part Shakespearomania project to be implemented within the span of the next few years ahead. The respective parts of this mammoth undertaking are entitled Jeho Veličenstvo Blázni /His Majesty Fools/, Lidé Hamleti /Hamlet Folks/ and Člověk Bouře /Man Tempest/. Brno’s Ha-Divadlo /Ha-Theatre/ and Ochotnický kroužek /Amateur Theatre Circle/ have now joined forces in that singularly congenial venue of Brno’s cultural and social life called Kabinet múz /The Muses’Cabinet/. This is where theatre people, artists, musicians, philosophers and journalists meet for regular get-togethers with their audiences.
Prague’s new DIK college theatre stages regular new productions at Žižkov Theatre /Žižkovské divadlo/. The DAMU-based students’ theatre DISK has been given notice to quit its temporary home and is currently looking for other possibilities offered by the school’s building. Its Brno JAMU counterpart - the Marta Theatre - has now been reconstructed and serves the students’ needs.

New Periodicals

Since 1990 a whole spate of new theatre periodicals has gradually commenced publication: Svět a divadlo /World and Theatre/ published by Divadelní obec /Theatre Community/ - 10 times a year, English summary; Divadelní revue /Theatre Review/ published by CSAV /Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences/ - a quarterly, English summary; THEATRE Czech and Slovak /published by Divadelní ústav /Theatre Institute/ - twice a year, English and French edition; Divadelní noviny /Theatre News/ published by Divadelní ústav - a fortnightly; and the bulletin for the internal use of the Czech theatre community Zprávy Divadelního ústavu /News Bulletin of the Theatre Institute/, published by DU ten times a year, in Czech.

The Dramaturgy-Production Situation

Without claiming to provide complete coverage of the current situation and with reference to the developments reviewed above, we thought it best to open our report-in-progress with a quotation from Zdeněk Hořínek’s reflections on the dramaturgy of the past two seasons /the article was published in Divadelní noviny 1/92: “A run through of the repertoire of Czech theatres in the past season evokes the impression that nothing has really happened, that no substantive changes have occurred in Czech theatre life. Its cautious tenor and unbinding compositional pattern seem to be reminiscent of the slightly liberalized climate of the reformist or late normalization era of socialism, rather than the age of freedom and democracy. The well-tried titles of Western commercial art have proliferated… Oddly enough, nor does a brief look at the previous - immediately postrevolutionary - scene reveal any perceptible degree of change. True, in the beginning there was that short-lived upsurge of long-forbidden plays (Havel, Kohout, Landovský, Sidon, Uhde) with more or less political or otherwise taboo-ridden subject-matter, but this was soon engulfed by the massive flood of general media entertainment, a brand of entertainment claiming to possess a timeless appeal. Audiences glutted with politics - so the argument ran - need to be provided with fresh opportunities for pastime and distraction. Where else but in the theatre should such opportunities be sought? Confronted with the new situation, Czech theatre has opted for the slavish “man-serving-two-masters” role which it now proceeds to enact with an assiduous yet awkward innocence while dithering between art and the market. So far it has managed to steer clear of either of the two extremes, viz. commitment to high art versus subservience to the lowest reaches of the cash nexus.”
This is no doubt a fitting description which sums up the gist of the problem with remarkable concision. Yet, as we see it, the seemingly amorphous contour-map of contemporary theatre life does have its occasional dominants - ventures, projects or productions - which we wish to single out for special mention. Dramaturgywise, the list of not always successful comebacks featured by the repertoire includes Dürrenmatt /Czechoslovak premiere of Achterloo - 1990 in MDP /Prague Municipal Theatres/, Mrožek, Rózewicz, Ionesco, Beckett, Genet, Stoppard, Albee, Miller, Weingarten, Birinski, Bulgakov. In the 1990/91 season, however, interest in Czech Dissent drama was clearly on the wane. The following production figures speak for themselves: Václav Havel’s plays were performed 5 times, Pavel Kohout - 8 times, Milan Uhde - 5 times, Josef Topol - 4 times, Pavel Landovský - 5 times, Karol Sidon - 3 times, Ludvík Aškenazy - 3 times. In the 1991/92 season these Czech playwrights were represented by no more than 1 - 2 productions. A notable exception is Pavel Kohout whose Ubohý vrah /Poor Assassin/ and August, August, August seem to enjoy a wide measure of popularity and are permanently favoured by Czech theatre-goers. Czech playwrights accorded one or two productions in the season under review include Ivan Klíma, Jaroslav Vostrý, Ladislav Smoček, Milan Kundera, Karel Steigerwald, Daniela Fischerová, Bohumil Hrabal, Vladimír Páral. Theatre companies possessing their own ‘stalwart’ playwrights continue to bring their work on stage - just as they did in the pre-November period (Jiří Suchý - Semafor Theatre, Arnošt Goldflam - Ha-divadlo /Ha-Theatre/, J. A. Pitínský - Ochotnický kroužek /Amateur Theatre Circle/).
The new direction of the National Theatre brought a significant degree of change into dramaturgy which - though frequently criticized for its demanding quality - nevertheless produced a fine harvest (Ionesco - Les Chaises, dir. Jan Kačer, Tabori - White Man and Red Face - dir. Miroslav Krobot, Mitterer - Calling Hours, dir. Ivan Rajmont). Apart from drama, the National Theatre’s Opera Company has launched a determined quest for a new quality standard: foreign opera and drama directors, conductors and singers are invited to Prague for guest performances. A special event paying tribute to the Mozart anniversary and the re-opening of the Estates Theatre (12. 10. 1991) was the new Don Giovanni production (direction: David Radok, Sweden; Sir Charles Mackerras, Great Britain; Tazeema Firth, Great Britain). In April 1992 the National Theatre’s Opera Company split into two independent companies: the National Theatre and the State Opera, Prague.
Prior to the National Theatre production, George Tabori first reached the Realistic Theatre (today Labyrinth Theatre) which staged Jiří Frehár’s excellent production of Mein Kampf. At Divadlo pod Palmovkou /Palmovka Theatre/ Petr Kracik directed the Czechoslovak premiere of Speer’s Hunting Scenes /Lovecké scény/ - an utterly fascinating production. Studio Ypsilon enriched the range of productions commemorating the Mozart anniversary with its delightfully fresh musical causerie Mozart in Prague. Yureyev’s Pogrom in the Railway Station Cafeteria (Pogrom v nádražním bufetu) inspired an “inter-urban” project - within the compass of a single day, the Czechoslovak premiere of Yureyev’s play was staged both at Prague’s Divadlo Na zábradlí /Theatre on the Balustrade/ dir. Arnošt Goldflam and at the Brno Husa na provázku /Goose on a String/ theatre, dir. Peter Scherhaufer. As to the non-Prague productions, special mention must be given to Sidon’s Labyrinth at Cheb, Claudel’s Annunciation and Dostoevski’s and Camus’s Demons /Běsi/ - Brno, Zemské divadlo /Regional Theatre/, Marivaux’s Loves /Lásky/ - Ostrava, Kohout’s Ubohý vrah /Poor Assassin/ in Prague and Plzeň…
Surprisingly enough, the tradition of theatre festivals has survived the rigours of the post-November era, although the uphill struggle for new financial resources continues unabated. The two seasons under review saw festival presentations of Czech Baroque folk plays. A new festival has sprung into existence in the frontier region at Těšín /with Czech-Polish-German participation/. The traditional puppet theatre festivals Skupa’s Plzeň and Mateřinka - Liberec are still very much alive. A new festival-style event for puppet theatre companies is the Prague-based Flight over the Puppeteer’s Nest /Přelet nad loutkářským hnízdem/ with fringe festivals honouring the theatres’ major jubilees on a regional scale. A source of fresh incentive emerged in the festivals of the Slovak Theatre in Prague and the Czech Theatre in Bratislava and the tours of the two National Theatres organized on/Prague-Bratislava/Bratislava-Prague exchange basis.
In June 1991, the 7th Prague Quadrennial PQ 91 was organized by the Theatre Institute (Divadelní ústav). This international exhibition of stage design and theatre architecture continues to enjoy a steadily mounting tide of international interest and recognition. This time, the exhibition featured entries by stage designers and architects from 36 countries. The prestigious Golden Triga Prize was awarded to the exhibits of Great Britain. The winner of the Gold medal awarded in the W. A. Mozart thematic section was the Czech scenographer Jan Vančura.

Puppet Theatre

is still the unchallenged pride of Czech theatre. Top-ranking puppet theatre companies - primarily DRAK Hradec Králové and Naivní divadlo /Naive Theatre/ - Liberec cover a busy programme of foreign tours. DRAK’s new productions have reaped major laurels at Czechoslovak and foreign festivals. The prize-winning productions are Beatles or the English Lesson /Hodina angličtiny/, Pinocchio. The Liberec puppet theatre company proudly flourishes Zuzana Schmidtová’s one-woman show How Kuba Wooed Markéta /Jak chodil Kuba s Markétou/. No less rivetting is the same company’s fairy-tale production for the youngest audiences - The Palm-Sized Fairytale /Pohádka do dlaně/ directed by Iva Peřinová. The young puppeteers’ group Buchty a loutky /Buns and Puppets/ - Cheb won the prizes of the Skupa Plzeň Festival /Twain-Bečka: The Mysterious Foreigner /Tajemný cizinec/. Their success was to a large extent predetermined by the thorough training they had received back at College, viz. at the Department of Alternative and Puppet Theatre /Katedra alternativního a loutkového divadla/ DAMU, headed - since 1990 - by DRAK’s artistic director Josef Krofta under whose sure-handed guidance actors of all-round professional orientation, stage directors, literary directors and set designers are trained.

Czech Theatre during the 92-93 and 93-94 Seasons

Marie Boková, Jana Machalická


The two most recent theatre seasons are marked by events like the split of Czechoslovakia into two independent States. This is naturally reflected in the interrupted continuity of close developments between both national cultures. The severance of these natural links was replaced - and that is something of a paradox - by the much more frequent participation of Slovak theatre-professionals in Czech theatre, for example Vladimír Strnisko as manager of the Drama Club, Martin Porubjak as dramaturge and stage director of the National Theatre, Roman Polák as guest stage-director at both Prague and Brno National Theatre, Jozef Bednárik as guest stage-director at the National Theatre, Ján Závarský as guest stage designer and teacher, etc.
In the Czech Lands the professional theatre is facing many different complications. Unclarified legislation, perpetual commercial pressure, the departure of personalities, the theatre critics’ lesser prestige, loss of interest on the part of the theatre-going public - all this is reflected in the standard of the productions and the future prospects of theatre. This situation is still further intensified by the Czech Ministry of Culture (the ministerial chair being held during this period by M. Uhde, J. Kabát, P. Tigrid) which represents the pragmatic attitudes of the cabinet. Their opinion is that investments into culture should be returnable and that this area should be predominantly selfsufficient financially. Under these difficult conditions the efforts of the Czech professional theatres to stay open and to make arrangements aiming for a better future are truly worthy of admiration. It is from this point of view that we must look at the critical evaluations of the standard of Czech theatre during the two recent seasons.

Changes in the Theatre Network

According to the pertinent legislation, city magistrates became the founders of most of the Czech and Moravian theatres. Although this process took place gradually, the system was fully applied for the 92-93 season onwards. It is now up to the towns to decide how to spend the sums they receive from the state budget if they are not specified for certain ends. The right legislation is still lacking to make it possible to finance theatres from various sources and thus end their dependence on a single source of income (with the exception of occasional sponsorships). The increasing costs for the running of the theatres, the production of stage-decorations etc. mean that the subsidies have in effect decreased. The influence of these negative factors is reflected in the present situation - the continuity of the Czech theatre network (dating back to the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) is being disrupted, there is a clear tendency to decrease in size and discontinue permanent theatre companies and this damages the development of local culture.
The permanent theatre company in Teplice (Krušnohorské divadlo) for example, has been discontinued and it had enjoyed a tradition over a hundred years old. In the near future, the method of financing and the transformation of further Prague theatres are to be resolved (Otomar Krejča’s Divadlo za branou II, the Chamber Opera, the State Opera, the Chamber Ballet). New ensembles are being set up, but they are mostly the discontinued ones regrouped (e.g. the theatre in Mladá Boleslav, Boleslav Polívka’s Theatre in Brno, the Drama Studio moving from Ústí nad Labem to Prague). The exception is the Dejvice Theatre in Prague, where last year’s drama graduates are acting.
The only example of a newly constructed interior is the Divadlo Archa in Prague, which originated through a reconstruction of the former E. F. Burian Theatre and will host the guest-performances of experimental groups from home and abroad. The Unique revolving stage in the chateau park of Český Krumlov has come alive again after several years of reconstruction work.
Agency and private theatres present dozens of productions but these are mostly single-performance and often commercially oriented events.
Personnel changes are taking place constantly in the theatre managements, which prevents the forming of a clear profile for the ensembles and dramaturgy.

Dramaturgy and Production

In this situation, the theatres are mostly settling for a popular repertoire - comedies, spectacular shows, but predominantly musicals of all types. The latter are mostly of Anglo-American origin (Chicago at the Ostrava State Theatre, Sugar at the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň, Hello Dolly at the Music Theatre in Brno and State Theatre in Ostrava, Cabaret at the Krušnohorské in Teplice, West Side Story at the Music Theatre Karlin in Prague, Animal Farm at the Slovácké theatre in Uherské Hradiště). The standard manner of presenting world musicals reached Czech stages only lately (after Les Miserables came Jesus Christ Superstar at the Spirála in Prague). Original new attempts in this sphere are poor, even when often accompanied by a bombastic promotion campaign - this being somewhat new in our setting (Stanislav Moša and Zdeněk Merta produce pseudophilosophical musicals - A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based on Shakespeare and The Bastard, based on Goethe). More successful are the producers who follow up the domestic genre traditions (The Voskovec and Werich Liberated Theatre, the fringe theatres of the sixties, the studio productions of the last two decades): Stars on the Willow at the Ha-Theatre in Brno, Josephine at the Karlín Music Theatre in Prague, School the Foundation-stone for Life, the Barber of Seville at the Labyrinth, Prague. The musical fever seems to have culminated in the 93-94 season.
The plays chosen are mostly the classics. For examples the Prague National Theatre surprised us with a dramatization of the chronicle by the Mrštík brothers, The Village Year (stage-director Miroslav Krobot) which was chosen as best production of 1993. Of the world classics on Czech stages - the most frequently played is Shakespeare, but Moliere and Carlo Goldoni are also presented. Unexpectedly, antiquity has also made a return to the Czech stages in several productions - the most significant contribution in this sense was the project Conquerors of Troy at the Labyrinth in Prague, stage-director Karel Kříž, translation by Jaroslav Král - a new conception in theatrology.
World drama dating back to the turn of the century was represented by Arthur Schnitzler (The Soul is a Broad Landscape at the Vinohrady Theatre in Prague, Masquerade at the Labyrinth, Prague), Frank Wedekind (Lulu - Drama Club, Prague, Awakening of Spring at the Drama Studio in Ústí nad Labem). This sort of drama, reflecting the fin-de-siecle, evidently corresponds to the emotions of our contemporary theatre-goers.
The work of Paul Claudel has also made a come-back to Czech stages (The Satin Slipper at the Prague and Brno National Theatres, Protheus at the Labyrinth, Prague).
Contemporary Czech drama, however, is a rare guest on our stages these days. Czech playwrights seem to have pulled back into anonymity even though supported by competitions and foundations. Moreover, when an interesting play does appear in a competition, theatres mostly do not present them because they fear to take the box-office risk. The short boom for plays banned for twenty years is more or less over (Václav Havel, Pavel Kohout, Pavel Landovský etc.), writers of the middle generation (Karel Steigerwald, Daniela Fischerová) do not appear on the stage either, the only significant representative of the younger generation is J. A. Pitínský (his successful Little Room at the Theatre on the Balustrade, directed by P. Lébl).
Equally unsatisfactory is the situation in the presenting of plays from abroad - either they are extremely tardy premieres (Zbygniew Herbert’s Cave of Philosophers), artistically unconvincing box-office successes (Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden) or plays of boulevard type (Ken Ludwig’s Overworked Tenor, presented at several Czech theatres).
From the average production practise (ever more dependent on the financial situation of the theatre) we see some strong younger stage-director personalities emerge, who gather younger ensembles: Petr Kracik at the Theatre pod Palmovkou - ambitious but sensitive interpretations of the classics (William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Henrik Ibsen: Peer Gynt, F. M. Dostoievsky: Idiot), Hana Burešová at the Labyrinth - highly cultivated intelligent entertainment, often following up the Czech tradition in the music-drama genre (her own adaptation of Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Jaroslav Žák’s School is the Foundation of Life), Jakub Špalek at the Kašpar - unusual titles in a stage conception to the taste of young theatre-goers (a dramatization of Keys’s novel A Rose for Algernon), the creative team of the Ha-Theatre in Brno - the production of non-theatrical titles - prose etc., aimed mostly at the intellectual public.
The greatest internal change has taken place at the Theatre on the Balustrade in Prague. The short period of management under Jan Grossman (1991-93) when he set up a new ensemble with decided, success and directed his last production, Alan Bennett’s Kafka’s Dick, was cut short by the sudden death of this excellent Czech stage director (10. 2. 92). After a successful competition the Theatre on the Balustrade is now in the hands of Petr Lébl, a young, controversial, provocative, admired and damned stage director and designer. His productions certainly have an unclichéd metaphor, characteristic novel design and a pleasant playfulness. Nearly all the plays he produced at the Theatre on the Balustrade during the first year under his management (J. A. Pitínský’s Little Room, Jean Genet’s Servant-girls, Stanislav Mráz’s She’s Good at Zoology, Ladislav Stroupežnický’s Heroism and Fury, A. P. Tchekhov’s Seagull) enjoyed decided acclaim from critics and theatregoers alike and often became the subject of polemics and discussions.
Czech opera ensembles are also coping with serious problems (reduced ensembles, the departure of personalities). During the 93 - 94 season, the Festival of Czech Music Theatre was held, which attempted to present artistic results particularly of the out-of-Prague theatres. There were successful presentations by ensembles from Opava (Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa), from České Budějovice (W. A. Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte), Plzeň (Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata). The Prague National Theatre split into two independent ensembles in April 1992 (the State Opera and the National Theatre Opera) and this brought about problems but also partially positive results (for example the production of composers as yet not presented on the stage - Hans Krása’s Dream Engagement at the State Opera). Beside some problematic titles, the Prague National Theatre Opera also presented Czech and world classics in an attractive way (Antonín Dvořák’s Jacobite, directed by Josef Průdek, W. A. Mozart’s Magic Flute, directed by David Radok). The climax of the 93-94 season as well as of the whole followed period was the practically shocking project presented by Slovak artists - Gounod’s opera Romeo and Juliet (directed by Jozef Bednárik). Otherwise the majority of ensembles presented titles mostly guaranteed successful with the public, for example the four most well-known Verdi operas sung in Italian.
In ballet no outstanding projects emerged during this period. One of the exceptions is the work of the Slovak stage director Jozef Bednárik and the progressive choreographer Libor Vaculík (Little Mr Friedemann, and Psycho, presented by the Prague National Theatre ballet). International Dance Prague have won international acclaim after several years’ effort and are successfully continuing to develop international contacts, however their work reflects domestic creativity only to a limited degree. Also successful is the cooperation between Czech and Dutch artists on the basis of the Kylián Foundation.
The mentioned transformations also hit the area of pantomime, are reflected for example in the disintegration of the pantomime ensemble at the Theatre on the Balustrade or the Movement Theatre Studio and also in the changed programme of Theatre M in České Budějovice. A positive phenomenon is the teaching of pantomime at the independent Seat for Non-verbal Theatre of the Academy of Arts, under Ctibor Turba. Moreover, the spectrum of means of expression in this genre has been extended by combining dance with puppetry. This enrichment has also been projected into two of the most significant of recent projects - Giro di Vita, and L’Amphiparnasso (Ctibor Turba at the Kaple Studio).
Puppet theatre remains a perennial value, even though this genre too is hit by the commercial trends - to mention the tendency to present popular “Disney-type” titles for children (Snow White, Cinderella …). There is thus less space for experiments addressed to the adult public (one of the few examples being the international project at the Drak Theatre - Tower of Babylon). The leading puppet theatres are regularly on tour abroad (theatres from Liberec, Hradec Králové, Plzeň, also from Ostrava, and Minor from Prague). One of the culmination points of the recent season was the variation on ancient puppetry plays, Iva Peřinová’s Headless Knight as presented by the Liberec Naive Theatre (directed by Tomáš Dvořák). National festivals - Mateřinka and Skupa’s Plzeň - are still held (now with international participation).

Periodicals, Prizes, Festivals

The majority of the professional theatre periodicals have concentrated under one publishing house during the recent period, this being the Theatre Institute (Theatre News, Theatre Revue, Theatre Czech, Theatre Institute News, The Puppeteer, Dance). The specialized revue The World and Theatre is published by the Theatre Community.
The Alfréd Radok Foundation initiated a competition for the best new theatre play - the Alfréd Radok Prize. Together with the editorial office of the periodical The World and Theatre, this foundation is organizing another competition - the Alfréd Radok Prize for the best production of the year. In 1992 this prize was won by stage director Hana Burešová for her production of Christian Grabbe’s Don Juan and Faust (at the Labyrinth), a year later the prize was awarded to stage director Miroslav Krobot for the production of his own dramatization of the chronicle by the Mrštík brothers, The Village Year (at the Prague National Theatre), special merits went to Karel David and his team of the Brno Ha-Theatre for the retro-musical Stars on the Willow. The latter production is a quite exceptionally creative effort which reflects the atmosphere of the sixties with authenticity, moreover with a brilliant music performance. The production was accepted absolutely positively by both the critics and the theatre-going public. The newly introduced Thalia Prize for acting performances, set up at the instigation of the Actors Association, is more of a social event than anything else.
What Czech theatre lacked since November 1989 was a chance for confrontation in the sense of a national theatre review. Its first stage was the biennale Meetings, organized by the City Theatre in Zlín. This review acquired an even more topical significance in context with the split of Czechoslovakia (Meetings in the sense of Czech with Slovak). A selection from the best productions is presented at the Theatre Festival which should be taking place annually in Plzeň in the future. This event is organized by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Plzeň. The review held in Cheb, One-Actor Theatre is the only one of its kind and seems to have acquired a new vitality lately.


It is a paradox that the old values which created Czech theatre and which could be followed up (for example Krejča’s Theatre Za Branou, the studio theatre movement, the conceptual trend of the Realist Theatre - the Labyrinth) are bagatellized and under-estimated. Everything seems to hint at the fact that during the process of the swift transformation of the economics and the whole of society, theatre has found itself on the very fringes of public interest. Theatre-goers have become easy prey to the flood of simple commercial imports and their domestic versions. After the barriers of ideology collapsed, the financial dictate arose. Since 1989 Czech theatre managements are practising “discipline” (reduction of ensemble members, cost economizing) to the highest possible degree. However, the theatres have no reserves of any kind in this respect and a swift general solution of their financial problems is now imperative. All the more so considering that there seems to be an increase in theatre-going in several theatres during the recent season.

Sinking into the Depths

(The seasons 1994-95 and 1995-96 in Czech Theatre)
Karel Král

How many world renown personalities can contemporary Czech theatre mention with pride? Václav Havel, certainly. It should also be Otomar Krejča, Jiří Menzel or Josef Svoboda. But not many people have probably heard of names like Hana Burešová, Petr Lébl, Vladimír Morávek, Jan Nebeský or Jan Antonín Pitínský. And yet recent theatre seasons mainly featured productions by these younger stage directors.

Very evident and unfortunate is the negligible contribution to the significant theatre productions of recent years made by the most highly esteemed personalities in Czech theatre. Václav Havel has been President for seven years and has been writing no plays for seven years. Moreover, it is interesting to note that since 1990 not a single author of the large group of noteworthy Czech playwrights banned by the communists has written a play either. Not even Milan Uhde, now an politicians, nor Karol Sidon, now the Chief Rabbi of Prague, nor yet Pavel Kohout or Ivan Klíma. Not even Josef Topol has written anything new since the eighties, even though the most was to have been expected from this writer because his plays had in the past not been linked closely to the political reality of the day - they were “ordinary” human dramas, the kind which Czech theatres yearned for as much as for freedom. And still do yearn for, in fact. Moreover, Topol is the contemporary playwright presented the most frequently in the Czech Republic these days. By the way, the most often represented and played world playwright in our country in recent years is Tchekhov. The plays by both these authors - Topol and Tchekhov - are typical for their introversion.

A new drama by Josef Topol was sorely needed at the Za Branou Theatre II, re-established after 1989 by stage director Otomar Krejča. Topol was Krejča’s “own” playwright right up to the closing of the first Za Branou Theatre in 1972. And thus it came about that Krejča, the greatest advocate of the apolitical stance and believer in “productions created with true fidelity to the playwright” finally ended his directing career in his re-established theatre with a basically updated version of the play by Luigi Pirandello “I Giganti della Montagna” (premiere 8. 10. 1994). His production became a play about the end of the art of theatre, in which hints were voiced about the Ministry of Culture having intervened negatively in the situation by deleting Krejča’s theatre from the list of State-subsidized theatre institutions. It was probably characteristic that in the performance the role of the uncultured masses was in fact played by the audience itself, reflected in the mirror-foils hung according to Josef Svoboda’s design. As there were not usually many in the auditorium in those days, they could by rights have felt like Krejča’s remaining faithful followers and thus found themselves in the paradox of two contraversial roles. It usually gave the impression that the embittered stage director does not need any audience at all, on the contrary, that he and his actors are elated by the feeling that they are the last Mohycans of theatre, deserted by all.

The Za Branou Theatre II had been expected to bring about a renaissance of great theatre which would not be tendentious, a renewal of professionality, true theatre craftsmaship. But theatre taken out of context of the times never brings a response from the theatre-goers. Even more than money, the new Za Branou Theatre lacked sufficiently numerous audiences. The stage director’s fate is tragic in the sense that the years when he had been forbidden to create “his” theatre in the Czech Lands are irretrievably lost in such a way, that they cannot be considered a mere interlude.1

The majority of the significant personalities of the older and middle generation in Czech theatre suffer from a similar uprooting - the feeling of uncertainty as to what to play these days. One of the causes is probably that the theatre they had been playing till 1989 was - as is a Czech tradition - a moral institution. Theatre was “decent” and stood up for truth against lies, while the lie had been represented by the communist regime in recent decades. The others pretended that the regime was not mendacious but only careful, by moderating all conflicting situations and apolitical dramas. In both cases the programme was quite simple and more or less simple means were sufficient. Nowadays, when there is nothing plays could stand for or against, the theatres are escaping from any obscure moralism and present a well-tried repertoire through the well-tried means. They continue with the caution they were accustomed to during the past twenty years, this time in fear of a public - this is the widely voiced opinion - who only want to receive a kind and gentle pat on the back from a theatre performance (with the exception of Jiří Menzel who is kind by nature). The theatres do not seem to have any other than the commercial reason for playing the plays they do in the way they do. This uncertainty is evident in the work of the stage directors as well as in the actors’ performances. It is valid for the small stages but all the more so for the large theatres. It even seems that what Czech theatre needs the most is the grandiose “stone theatre style” to represent the dignified traditions and conventions with such power that even the “opposition” consisting of children and experimentalists would have to come to terms with it. We can but regret Krejča’s unsuccessful comeback once again: it was he who had represented the promise for a renewed academic stance and real values.

But dignified tradition and convention are lacking elsewhere too, not only in the theatre. And so it happens that the present-day critics - and contemporary theatre - are applying seemingly conservative but very vague criteria. They do not base their stance on any conscious conviction about an ideal and an order, they seek it. This search is then an expression of human insecurity. The longing for conservative theatre abounds to quite a high degree, but not often is it satisfactorialy fulfilled. Out of all the stage productions of the recent seasons, the play that evidently came closest to these goals is “Platonov” (premiere 11. 2. 1995), presented at the Prague theatre Pod Palmovkou by Ivo Krobot. By the way - again it is a play by Tchekhov that people idientify with.

Although in my opinion the high qualities of this production comes into its own only in the Czech context, in this case it seems this is so also as a result of comparisons made with the repertoire of what is traditionally the first Czech stage - the National Theatre in Prague, and that even though three highly acknowledged Czech director-personalities have been active here since the revolution of 1989 - Jan Kačer, Miroslav Krobot2 and Ivan Rajmont (also as the theatre’s director for dramas). It seems that their artistic fate had been particularly strongly marked by the communist culture policy, which had stamped anyone who did not want to be loyal to the regime as “an individual too immature”. Thus it happened that they were unable to turn from artistic rebels into artistic conservatives at the right time. They evidently attained the rank of “teachers” too late and their arrival on the large stages of Prague theatres became more of a satisfaction for past injustice than the result of natural development.

It is therefore logical that the best productions at the National Theatre during the recent theatre seasons were partly the work of much younger guest-directors. In addition to “The Exiles” by James Joyce (by the way, again an introvert work), which was staged by Michal Dočekal on the studio stage, acclaim was won on the National Theatre’s large stage by Calderón’s “El mágio prodigioso” (premiere 9. 2. 1995), directed by Hana Burešová. She gave this religious allegory the character of magnificent and simultaneously naive Baroque theatre. And the morals from the lives of the saints gained credibility in her playful conception.

Playfulness, however, is one of the inherent Czech national traits and qualities - at least as far as the theatre is concerned. Mystifications, nonsense, poetic double meanings also represent our artistic traditions. Sometimes this achieves a “museum situation” of freedom in situations of non-freedom, at other times it is only a provocative game to play. We find traces of this tradition in various plays, for example in all of our absurd drama, including Havel’s work. It is therefore small wonder that Czech theatre is able to boast of quite a number of masters in playfulness. On this list we can quote Eva Tálská, who returns to the nonsense vein regularly, Boleslav Polívka the mime and author of plays on foolishness, or Ctibor Turba who is able to turn clowniade into world theatre. The Ypsilon Studio also belongs to this category, it has been cultivating a sophisticated and excentric game at naivité since the Sixties. Twice the successful heart and soul of his ensemble this year, Jan Schmid as stage director played about with the most national of Czech operas. “The Bartered Bride” by Bedřich Smetana (premiere 6. 6. 1996) which he pulled apart and set together again like a jig-saw puzzle. The poetic and playful attitudes of the ensembles obviously also suit the games played with the rules of the farce, this was obvious in the production “Head of the Jelly-Fish” by Boris Vian (directed by Milan Lasica, premiere 2. 2. 1996).

Playfulness is in the genetic code of Czech theatre, as is also borne out in the productions by our younger and youngest stage directors. However, in contrast to their predecessors they combine playfulness clearly with introversion, with mental processes often bordering on the morbid and marked by fatal terror.

Hana Burešová uses playfulness to enliven the old theatre styles, but her productions also resound with fatal “tones” even in crazy dramatic dialogues, as, most recently, in a variation on Moliere’s commedia dell’arte which the Theatre Na zábradlí (On the Balustrade) presented’under the title “Le médicin volant” (The Flying Doctor, premiere 20. 4. 1996).

Stage director Vladimír Morávek often plays about with decadent theatre means, but his subjects usually portray the dark, negative sides of the human disposition. He also contributed to the boom in murder-tragi-comedies. He found the subject matter in “The Bulldog Stance” {Buldočina)which is Pitinský’s play set in the present - a grotesque about entrepreneurs who commit murder (The Klicpera Theatre in Hradec Králové, premiere 18. 11. 1995) as well as in realistic stories from village settings. He actually presented productions of the Mrštík brothers’ “Maryša” in two forms (17. 2. 1995) at the Husa Na provázku Theatre (Goose on a String) in Brno, on 9. 2. 1996 at the Divadlo na zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade). What was originally a socially-critical drama of the 1890’s was changed - particularly in the second production mentioned - into an antisocial-psychoanalytical grotesque about a girl who felt rejected and decided on the “heroic” role of murderess.

A similar subject was handled by Petr Lébl in the form of clownish and eccentric theatre-about-theatre in his production “The Playboy of the Western World” (premiere 17. 6. 1995). Lébl, artistic director and stage director at the Theatre on the Balustrade, which has in many ways become the most significant stage of the Czech theatre scene of recent years, created a grotesque and visionary staging of Tchekhov’s “Seagull” (the Critiques’ Prize for Best Czech Stage Production of 1994) and then another Russian classic, Gogol’s “Inspector” (premiere 22. 3. 1995). Serious motifs found their right place even in this practically pure satire on provincial life - in this case a Russian-Persian setting.

Quite different, more lyrical and poetic, is the serious vein in Pitínský’s grotesques. “Sister Anguish” at the Dejvice Theatre in Prague (premiere 13. 3. 1995), where it has the likeness of a ritual of the post fin-du-siecle period, symbolizing the path to death. “Sister Anguish” was awarded the Critiques’ Prize for Best Stage Production of 1995.3 Pitínský is aspiring for such an awared this year with his production of Thomas Bernhard’s “Ritter, Dene, Voss” (Theatre on the Balustrade, premiere 14. 6. 1996). In this case the director was extremely conservative in his degree of fidelity to the author. It seems that such existential and dark comedies as Bernhard’s play suit the young generation stage directors and their view of the world.

This fact is also hinted at in Jan Nebeský’s attitudes, he is staging a similar repertoire at the Divadlo Komedie (Comedy Theatre). After Ibsen and Strindberg, he presented Samuel Beckett’s" End Game" (premiere 6. 6. 1966). There is surely no need for me to state that the subject of this absurd play is the fateful relationship between two invalids, disintegration and death. In the form of Nebeský’s pure and perfectionalist staging, this truly is an terrifying clowniade.

Turning to the very depths of the soul and existence, mixing the comic with the tragic or playing about with meanings and various high and low theatre and other art forms, are typical characteristics for the stage productions created by the mentioned directors. The question must arise what these inclinations point to. Some critical reviews hint at it being an unsound collapse of all values and aesthetic criteria. I am of a different opinion. I think that this theatre is healthy at least in the fact that it does not present a subject as a sermon, that it does not aspire to be a moral institution or a school. Moreover, the creative imagination and obvious personal involvement of the stage directors awaken sensitivity and imagination in the theatre-goer. Some people may think that is not enough - but present-day Czech theatre is offering nothing more honest.

  1. The Za Branou Theatre has come to an end with the 1995/96 season. Otomar Krejča is now preparing a production of Goethe’s “Faust” for the National Theatre. The premiere is scheduled for the end of the 1996/97 season.
  2. Even though Miroslav Krobot’s production of “Rok na vsi” (The Village Year) was acclaimed as the greatest success at the National Theatre since the 1989 revolution (and also awarded the Critiques’ Prize for Best Production of 1993), he decided to leave this theatre and is now building up his own ensemble with his former students, graduates from the Prague Drama Academy, at the Dejvice Theatre.
  3. As of the 1966/67 season, the former Dejvice Theatre ensemble under stage director Jan Borna linked forces with stage director Hana Burešová’s ensemble. They are working together at the Divadlo na Starém Městě (The Old Town Theatre), where they are also gradually “moving” their repertoire, including Burešová’s “Le Médicin volant” and Pitínský’s “Sister Anguish”.

Nothing dramatic happening in the Czech theatre

(The Seasons 1996-1997, 1997-98 and 1998-1999)
Marie Reslová

Money comes first

The last few seasons have passed quietly in Czech theatres. Everyone has grown used to the limitations of the state and city purses, which enable essential expenditure to be just about covered. Up to now the grant system has not made anyone a living, but it is beginning to function in a small way. From time to time (although less and less often) the theatres manage to wheedle a crown or two out of the pockets of sponsors. Paradoxically, most of the sponsorship money is raised from sponsorship agreements with the semi-state institutions of large theatres already well endowed by the state. Theatre workers outside the large centres have had to come to terms with existence on the bare minimum.
After the audience crisis of the early 1990s, theatregoers have begun to return to the theatres - some of them for reasons to do with social status, others seeking theatrical entertainment out of a distaste with the actual manifestation of the long-dreamed-of consumer society, others again looking for something (at least in their imagination) more permanent than the rate of exchange of the crown.

Former “amateurs” and indifferent professionals

In recent years, two Czech theatre directors have alternated as victors in the imaginary contest for the Alfréd Radok Award, the symbolic honouring of the best theatrical production of the year: Jan Antonín Pitinský (b. 1955) and Petr Lébl (b. 1965). The first of them has no permanent engagement, and in spite of the fact that he directs around five productions a year, cannot accept all the guest work he is offered. The other has for the last six years been artistic director of what is clearly the most recognised Prague theatre - the Theatre On the Balustrades. The paradox of contemporary Czech theatre is that neither of them studied theatrical direction as a profession.
In the second half of the 1980s, the declining years of socialist Czechoslovakia, a number of theatre workers - middle-generation contemporaries - preferred personal experience and more liberated, amateur work to conventional study and practice in the official theatres. At that time, in the make-shift conditions of the “Culture Houses”, and to a certain extent for a “closed society”, several legendary productions came into existence which foreshadowed the powerful quality of imagination and somewhat hermetic sensibility of the Czech theatre of the 1990s (for example, Pitinský’s Mother and Lébl’s Grotesque). The flood of talent from the ranks of these “indisciplined” amateurs, unusually disposed towards a startling and inward-looking insight into the staged work, encouraged a strengthening of rather dangerous tendencies in the Czech theatre: the informal organisation of theatrical activity and the “substituting” of theatrical and acted elements by the use of design, stylisation, personalities and subjective relationships and experiences. However, it is worth noting that the most highly valued productions (Pitinský’s stagings of Thomas Bernhard’s Ritter, Dean, Voss and The Theatreman or Lébl’s stagings of Chekhov’s The Seagull and Ivanov) emerged in cooperation with experienced actors who were attracted by the unconventional creation of these directors and who knew how to fill out the exaggerated fantasy of their imaginations with multi-layered skills. Meanwhile, where this life-giving conjunction is missing, it is apparent that even the legendary imaginative powers of a Pitínský or a Lébl have their limits and their clichés.
Many of the large “stone” theatres in the Bohemian and Moravian metropolises, including the National Theatre and Vinohrady Theatre in Prague, have followed a less encouraging development in recent years. Constantly repeated acting routines and conventions are often endowed here with a personal signature or stamp of confidence, whilst the dramaturgy is cautious, consisting of a safety net of guaranteed classics, occasionally a boulevard comedy or, at the opposite extreme, a blind leap into the treacherous waters of original work (the National Theatre), without the theatre being capable of influencing the quality of the text or making a rational estimate of the risks which might ensue. The social status of these theatres is great - most of them employ television and film stars and are permanently sold out. Unfortunately guest productions by talented young directors have so far shown no evident results - in these monoliths there is no possibility of working on the basis of personal relationships and trust, and the best-laid plans and ideas founder on professional inadequacies on both sides.

Hopeful Prospects

It is at least encouraging that there are places in the regions - linked mostly with the name of a director or the work of a specific group of young talents - which have drawn the attention of theatre specialists. In these places theatrical work is being created at a more direct level, in close contact with the public, whilst the genius loci of the town often plays an important role. For the last few years of the questionnaire set by the leading theatre journal Svét a divadlo (World and Theatre), the Klicpera Theatre in Hradec Králové has come near the top of the “theatre of the year” category (in 1998 it was the overall winner). Under the leadership of Vladimír Morávek it has produced some provocative Shakespearean stagings as well as a cycle of contemporary plays under the title The Night of the Antelope. The Municipal Theatre in Zlín has regularly made use of J.A. Pitinský’s personal connection with his native town (productions of Franz Kafka’s Trial, Helmut Schwab’s Presidents), whilst in Ostrava the little theatre Aréna has attracted attention, as well as the standard of work in the National Theatre of Moravia and Silesia. The Drama Studio of Ústí nad Labem has presented original Czech plays regularly and with an understanding for the genre, and in Plzeň the actor Antonín Procházka has been