Trial by Theatre

Trial by Theatre
ISBN: 978-80-246-3953-6
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Barbara Day

Trial by Theatre

Reports on Czech Drama

The motto Národ sobě – “From the Nation to Itself” – inscribed over the proscenium arch of Prague’s National Theatre symbolizes the importance theatre holds for the Czechs. During the National Awakening of the 19th century, theatre took the place of politics, becoming an instrument of national identity in the hands of the revivalists. In what was then part of a German-speaking empire, the Czechs devised a complex and evocative theatre language made up of allegory, allusion, juxtaposition, games, wordplay, legend, history, illusion and music. A sophisticated avant-garde theatre flowered in Czechoslovakia between the wars, and became a symbol of independence during the Nazi occupation. It survived Socialist Realism and Stalinism to blossom again in the “Golden Sixties” when Prague became “the theatre capital of Europe” (Kenneth Tynan) and a generation of theatre and film directors (Radok, Grossman, Schorm) and playwrights (Havel, Kundera, Topol) were at the forefront of the Prague Spring. Reprisals took place after the 1968 Soviet invasion when, under “normalization,” hardline Communists tried to silence the voices of the ‘60s; thousands were forced into internal and external emigration. The theatre culture, however, flexible and experienced from previous repression, again provided a basis of opposition to totalitarianism. For two decades it operated in the provisional spaces of culture houses, studios, gymnasiums, bars, trade union halls, art galleries and living rooms. Strategies were devised and implemented to bring freedom back to the theatre and society. A strong sense of justice and ethics intensified the mutual commitment of theatres and audiences, leading the way to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the installation of a playwright as President.


List of Illustrations

I. Bohemia Ressurgent
National Awakening
National Theatre
Arenas and Tingle Tangle, Cafés Chantants, and Cabaret
Turn of the Century

II. Independence: The Founding and Fall of the First Republic
In the New Republic
Devětsil and the Avant-Garde
"The Daring Threesome": Honzl, Frejka, E. F. Burian
Jindřich Honzl and the Dědrasbor
Jiří Frejka and Constructivism
Honzl, Frejka, and the Liberated Theatre
Frejka and the Theatre Dada
E. F. Burian and the Voiceband
Voskovec, Werich, and the Liberated Theatre
Jaroslav Ježek and the Jazz Revue
The Turn of the Decade
The Prague Structuralists
Frejka at the National Theatre
E. F. Burian and Déčko
The Fettered Theatre

III. Under the Protectorate
E. F. Burian and the Gestapo
The Little Theatre for 99 and Occupied Prague
Terezín and the Concentration Camps

IV. Liberation, Victorious February, and What Became of the Avant-Garde
Brief Window - 1945-1948
Socialist Realism
The Daring Threesome and the Fhief of Happiness
After Stalin

V. The Golden Sixties
Spring Awakening
Akord Club, Reduta, and the Text-Appeal
Otomar Krejča at the National Theatre
Laterna Magika
Theatre on the Balustrade
Founding of the Theatre on the Balustrade
Ivan Vyskočil at the Theatre on the Balustrade
Jan Grossman at the Theatre on the Balustrade
No Heroes Live in Thebes with Otomar Krejča
The Invention of the Grenoble
Václav Havel's The Grden Party
Ubu Roi, Beckett, and Ionesco
Havel's The Memorandum
Grossman's The Trial, and the End of an Era
The State Theatre Studio (Statní divadelní studio) and Other Small Stages
Origin of the State Theatre Studio
Suchý, Šlitr, and Semafor
The Drama Club (Činoherní klub)
The Theatre of Jára da Cimrman
Krejča at the Theatre Beyond the Gate
Evening Brno

VI. "Normalisaion"
The Theatre on the Balustrade and What Became of Jan Grossman
The Theatre Beyond the Gate and What Became of Otomar Krejča
The Fates of Macháček, Radok, and Schorn
Semafor, Drama Club, and the End of the State Theatre Studio
Václav Havel, Charter 77, and the Anti-Charter
Irregular Dramatrugy
Theatre [Goose] on a String
HaDivadlo (Theatre of the Haná Region)
Between Dog and Wolf

VII. The Theatre and the Velvet Revolution

Dramatis Personae
Titles of Czech and Slovak Plays, Operas and Films
Select Bibliography

Karolinum, Praha 2019, 320 str., 170 x 240 mm, ISBN 978-80-246-3953-6