Czech Theatre Review

2010, vol. 21, n. 2 – peer-revied articles

Martin J. Švejda: And what are you so hunched for… (Czech Theatre Journals between 1985–1989).

The article analyses Czech theatre journals that came out towards the close of the communist era, between the years 1985–1989, when the civil society was becoming activated and the communist regime was already in gradual decline. In the first part of the article the author outlines the situation before 1985, which was radically influenced by the liquidation of the journals Divadlo (Theatre) and Divadelní Noviny (Theatre News) by the normalization regime in the early 1970s. Between 1985 and 1989 three theatre journals emerged – O divadle (On Theatre), Bulletin Aktivu mladých divadelníků (Bulletin of the Forum of Young Theatre Practicioners) and Divadelní revue (Theatre Review) – which, ­together with the journals Scéna (Stage) and Dramatické umění (Dramatic Art), published by the normalization Artists Union – formed a group of periodicals differing from one another in their respective relations to the political structures, as well as by their overall character, ideological positions and generational and social affiliations of their authors. In the second part of the article the author provides detailed analyses of the particular journals.

Vladimír Just: November 1989 and Brecht, or Were There Really No Shows? (Notes on the concept of political theatre – performance from November to December 1989).

Historical studies commonly maintain that since the declaration of the so-called theater strike from the 18th of November to the 10th of December 1989, Czech theaters performed their revolutionary role by not performing. Indeed, in protest against the police crackdown of the 17th of November the theaters cancelled their announced shows and put their premises at the disposal of debates with citizens. However, were there really no shows? Is it imaginable that some sort of theatre performance did take place there, and we only still lack an adequate term to describe the ongoing communication between the audience and the actors? Could Hans-Thies Lehmann’s theory of the so-called “post-dramatic theatre” provide us with a more specific conceptual framework? The study describes the events in those days in two outstanding Prague theaters, Semafor and Činoherní klub (The Drama Club, where the Civic Forum was founded on November 19th by the initiative of Václav Havel). A specific narrative pattern was gradually established there: that of a commented narration and demonstration of one central event – the brutal intervention of the police against the students – with the purpose of exposing that central event to the spectator‘s criticism, taking it out of the context of the totalitarian obviousness, and turning it into an unacceptable fact. The pattern was essentially based on the famous model of the so-called Street Scene of Bertolt Brecht, which is the prototype of epic theatre. H.-T. Lehmann argues that contemporary theatre is no longer the centre of the polis (of its self-awareness) as in the Antiquity. Only exceptionally can theatre as a medium for public gathering contribute to a heightened perception of injustice. Howeverm that is precisely what happened in the Czech Socialist Republic in 1989.

Barbara Mazáčová: Racket under Stalin: Contribution towards the Cultural History of the 1990s.

In October 1990 the space under the former monument of Stalin on Letná in Prague saw an event named Totalitarian Zone, which was organized by the Linhart Foundation, established shortly before. The spacious crypt under the monument hosted a series of installations, created by young artists from seventeen countries. The installations followed the idea of organic art, and represented objects made primarily from waste material (including the remains of Stalin’s monument, demolished in 1962). The evening hours were devoted to various concerts, performances and theatre productions. For several days the site was also the broadcast venue for the pirate Radio Stalin. The study outlines the form and dramaturgy of this unique event, of which very little concrete evidence has survived, defines its site specific genre characteristics, follows the non­‑standard circumstances of its emergence, stemming from the post­‑revolution instability of the official apparatus, as well as from the welcoming atmosphere in the society, and reconstructs the generally shared climate of freedom, joy and openness which accompanied the event and brought about a cathartic experience for both its participants and audiences.

M. A. Katritzky: Zan Bragetta and Jean Potage: performing traders touring early modern Europe.

Many early modern professional performers toured Europe in troupes that combined performing with non-performative trading. This article overviews how and where travelling troupes performed and traded: their licences and their venues, and what they traded: their products and services, and examines two Italian charlatan or quack troupes, of the type who integrated their performances with medical trading. The troupe of Zan Bragetta was seen in Avignon in 1598 by the Swiss physician Thomas Platter the Younger; that of Jean Potage was seen at an Antwerp carnival fair by the English royalist exile Lady Margaret Cavendish in the 1650s. Reasons for their theatre-historical importance are considered; Zan Bragetta is identified as the Italian actor Giovanni Paolo Alfieri, and factors surrounding the possible identity of Jean Potage are discussed.

Markéta Polochová. Hamlet or non-Hamlet? A slightly different fratricide.

The treatise, divided into four parts, examines the Hamletian theme, centered on a German version of the story entitled Tragedy of Fratricide Punished or Prince Hamlet of Denmark (Tragoedia. Der bestrafte Brudermord oder: Prinz Hamlet aus Dännemark, manuscript 1710, published 1781). The first subchapter introduces the phenomenon of the (English) strolling players on the Continent in the 17th century; the second one discusses the matter of authorship and theatergrams in the temporary playwriting, including the specific role of the author. The two following subchapters pay attention to the Tragedy of Fratricide Punished – its possible origin, connection to the traveling troupes and, in a form of an analysis, distinctive features of its plotline and sujet without linking it directly to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Further on, today’s perspective is included in the intertextual view of the story in question.

Bärbel Rudin: In the Spa with Hanswurst and Thomas More: Kuks or Ems? Cultural and Spatial Aspects of Baroque Spa Theatres.

The study provides the first survey of the theatrical activities in the milieu of Central European spas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including a number of new discoveries about theatre companies which participated in them, as well as about their repertoires. A significant portion of these companies operated in the Czech lands as well, where many of the localities under study were situated (ie. Carlsbad, Kuks). The study is based on the author’s systematic research in the German municipal, as well as chateau archives, many outcomes of which are published here for the first time.

Kateřina Bohadlová: The Role of the Comical Character in the Plays by Heinrich Rademin in the Context of Travelling Theatres of the Early 18th Century.

The comical character of the professional German travelling companies underwent a radical development in the course of the seventeenth century. From a secondary role in comical interludes it gradually evolved into the shadow protagonist of the main course of action. The author of the typified comical figure of Hanswurst is, along with J. A. Stranitzky (1676–1726), also the long neglected theatre artist Heinrich Rademin (1674–1731). As a dramaturge of various theatre companies he translated and adapted a number of plays, mainly from Italian librettos, into which he inscribed the comical role of Hanswurst. Rademin’s texts document the enormously speedy development of theatre in the early eighteenth century, and provide evidence of their author’s exceptional position in the history of German theatre.

Jan Roubal: Theatre Studies After the Performative Turn – The Science of Performance. Notes on the Introduction to Theatre Science by Erika Fischer-Lichte.

The article provides detailed information about the book by a leading German theatre scholar, Erika Fischer-Lichte, Theaterwissenschaft. Eine Einführung in die Grundlagen des Faches. (Theatre Science. Introduction into the Basics of the Field.) From the methodological perspective it is obvious that Fischer-Lichte’s study is based on the explicit complementarity of theatre semiotics, phenomenology and theatre anthropology, but mainly on the author’s original notion of performative aesthetics, as well as its inspiring dynamism in the understanding of performance, and “openness” towards the current issues of theatre studies and their methods. The author of the article points out certain pitfalls of some of the suggested solutions, which in some aspects may lead to undue marginalization of some partial problems of the aesthetics of production, creation and reception, which theatre science oriented towards the aesthetics of performance has tried to overcome (ie. the questions of the absolutization of performance as the main subject matter for theatre science, of the relation between performance and production, or of the borders and limits of artistic and non-artistic performances). In spite of these pitfalls, the book represents an inspiring contribution and challenge towards a fresh self-reflection for theatre science, mainly in the face of the new forms of theatre and the interdisciplinary discourse of humanities today. Back