SAD 2/2016

An essay by Miroslav Petříček, “The Same, or Something Else” introduces excerpts from works by Raoul Eshelman entitled “Performativism or the End of Post-Modernism”. In the opening section “The End of… Olympus” this is followed by two interviews under the shared title “Real Realists versus Rapturees”, a selection from Dave Davis’s essay “Reality of Excrements” and Milo Juráni’s essay about a round-the-clock “ancient” production by Jean Fabre (“Fabre’s New Cult of the Body”). In the section “In Footsteps of… Štědroň and Frič” Jakub Škorpil writes about the latest production by the holder of many Theatre Critics’ Awards from last year, the composer and screenwriter Miloš Orson Štědroň (“On the Path to Tepid Sobriety”) and Kateřina Veselovská (“Between Imitation and Therapy”) on five productions by Jan Frič, the director of last year’s winner Velvet Havel. The section “And Peaks… By Others” looks back at results of this year’s critical survey and Vladimír Mikulka writes here about Dušan D. Pařízek’s productions Kauza Schwejk / The Švejk Case and Die lächerliche Finsternis (The Ridiculous Darkness) (“The Good European Pařízek”), Karel Král about The Brothers Karamazov at the Činoherní klub (“Devilish Candies without Sugar”) and Karolina Plicková about Gossip by the choreographer Lenka Vagnerová. The section “Venus… with Children” is dedicated in its entirety to the alternative venue Venus in Švehlovka. It includes Martin Švejda’s essay mapping out local dramaturgy (“Life in the Cavern”) and an interview with Jakub Čermák, the literary manager of Venus in Švehlovka and the leader of its “home” company Dismal Children (Depresivní děti) (“I am Grateful for the Opportunity”). In the section “The Young… and Makropulos” Lenka Šaldová writes about the upcoming generation of opera directors (“Young and Successful” – q.v.) and Michaela Mojžišová about Konwitschny’s production of The Makropulos Affair at the Slovak National Theatre (“Miss Makropulos”). Dominika Široká writes about the productions Proletenpassion 2015 ff by Christine Eder and Civil Wars by Milo Rau in her essay “Back under the Red Flag” in the section “Onwards… the Left”. The section “Posh… Theatre” is dedicated to Ostravian theatres, with Barbora Etlíková writing about an adaptation of Škvorecký’s Cowards at the Petr Bezruč Theatre (“Danny Has Not Grown Up…”) and Marek Lollok about the Komorní scéna Aréna repertoire (“Focused on Actors”). An interview with the playwright and literary manager Tomáš Vůjtek entitled “The Past is Still Part of the Present” introduces his play Hearing, which won Best Play of the Year in the 2015 critical survey. This issue’s “Comedy Mix” presents excerpts from Anthony Jeselnik’s show Thoughts and Prayers and a further instalment of the comic strip cycle “Theatre Sadism Lessons” by S.d.Ch. is entitled Baskerville Old Face.

Young and Successful In 2007 Jiří Heřman, then 32 years old, became the head of the National Theatre Opera. Two years later the Slovenian director Rocc, at the age of 30, took over the Brno Opera, then moving first to the State Opera and subsequently to the National Theatre. Naturally, they both sought (and continue to seek) colleagues from their own generation: conductors, literary managers, set designers, directors. Their move into leadership positions started a deep-reaching generational change in Czech operatic theatre which is now coming to fruition. Five young directors are introduced here: Magdalena Švecová, Dominik Beneš, Tomáš Pilař, Linda Keprtová and Tomáš Studený. They have recently graduated in Opera Stage Directing, most of them from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The school gave them an excellent technical knowledge for theatre practice, but may have been less successful in inspiring them to deeper reflections on the potential of modern theatre. It is surprising that in spite of their youth, in most cases they have not come up with youthful and original interpretation of operatic works, leaning instead to more traditional operatic theatre methods including their trust in conventional operatic “dramatic art”. They all share a rejection of descriptive, historicizing, decorative set design. Linda Keprtová is perhaps the most consistent in her move away from the imitation of reality: nothing evokes a specific milieu, it is rather symbolic space. And there is no probable and easily comprehensible conduct, but rather symbolic action. The core is not thought processes (which are sometimes rather coded) but a suggestive stage form. Tomáš Pilař too is concerned less with originality of thought than with visual changes: he prefers large colourful surfaces (symbolic whites, reds and blacks dominate) and he uses lighting aggressively and spectacularly colourfully. And it seems that for him an actor also represents first and foremost an art object which must be properly placed and lit in space. Tomáš Studený, on the other hand, emphasizes communication through eloquent theatrical action – he experiments with various dramatic techniques and ways of developing actors’ personalities. He also differs from others of his generation in his readiness to treat a score more freely than is usual in our operatic theatre.

Tomáš Vůjtek and His Hearing This work by a playwright who is based at the Komorní scéna Aréna of Ostrava is the second part of a trilogy dedicated to infamous historical periods. His plays are focused on Czech history: the communist terror with its co-creator and victim Rudolf Slánský in the play With Hope and Without It, and the Czech retribution on the German population following the Second World War in the play Reconciliation. His play Hearing deals with Nazism and the holocaust and with Adolf Eichmann, a solicitous official who worked out “a final solution to the Jewish question”. Eichmann is primarily an anti-hero who reviews the critical events of his life and defends himself. The judge to whom he turns is meant to be the Ultimate One. There is a Nazi general governor Hans Frank in occupied Poland standing against Eichmann, and on his side there is Vlastička, an ordinary Czech woman, an inconspicuous anti-Semite: she concludes that killing Jews was not right but the majority of them deserved it. The second theme of the play is dedicated to a quartet of Ostravian Jews who undertook the journey from the occupied countries to the Soviet Union and back. The play written in a genre of documentary drama draws on various literary works beginning with David Cesarani’s biography Eichmann: His Life and Crimes and ending with Mečislav Borák’s book The First Deportations of European Jews: Transports to Nisko on the San River. This is also the theme of the interview with the author entitled “The Past is Still Part of the Present”. The play and the production which won several Theatre Critics’ Awards are also considered by Marek Lollok in his essay Focused on Actors.