Czech Theatre Review

2011, vol. 22, n. 3 – peer-revied articles

Lenka Jungmannová: The Beginnings of Václav Havel's Playwriting Career, and the Emergence of The Garden Party.

The article discusses the beginnings of the literary and dramatic career of Václav Havel. In the 1950s, when he began writing for the first time, the communist regime in Czechoslovakia defaced the marxist dialectics with the aim to manipulate the social consciousness of the country's inhabitants. Havel analysed and made the target of his absurd grotesque the perversity of this, so­‑called dialectic metaphysics, according to the tenets of which two opposing claims are merged into one, and thus the validity of both is obviated. This “ground­‑breaking” dialectic metaphysics was caricatured in his first produced play, The Garden Party (1963), the protagonist of which plays chess with himself, and so is able to concurrently win and lose the game. The article analyses Havel's early poetry, polemical articles, reviews, essays and early plays (for example The Family Gathering, the first version of The Memorandum) and his poems­‑typograms (The Anticodes), and seeks to identify in them the elements of the criticism of “dialectic metaphysics”, in order to demonstrate the influence of the author's earlier work upon The Garden Party.

Matthias Dreyer: Politics of Time – Dimiter Gotscheff's Epic Tragedy and the Historicity of Theatre.

Theatre has often been related to special temporal perspectives. In accordance with Marvin Carlson theatre could be characterized, as “haunted stage”, i.e. a place of memory or re-membering. It seems that the wish to understand theatre as a site of social transformation demands a critical examination of experience of time. But why is the analysis of the temporal processes of theatre still among the most difficult tasks? The article reflects on the methodological and theoretical perspectives that were developed to grasp the experience of time in theatre. While the concept of performance as an event of “absolute presence” has emerged since the 1960s, recent research has reflected on theatrical capacities of remembrance, and highlighted the paradoxical intersection of the concepts of presence and absence in theatre. On this basis, I follow the hypothesis that the “untimely”qualities of Greek tragedies in contemporary theatre have the potential to newly challenge the understanding of time in performance. I refer to a staging of Aeschylos' The Persians by the Bulgarian director Dimiter Gotscheff, which premiered 2006 at the Deutsches Theater Berlin and was shown in many European countries in recent years. Which methodical means of performance analysis could be adequate to trace the “politics of time”?

Petra Ježková: The Vain, the Hurt and the Unappreciated: Symptoms of the Creative Unrest in the Czech Theatre of the Last Decades of the 19th Century.

There is no doubt about the fact that the development of Czech literary, and consequently dramatic arts of the last two decades of the 19th century cannot be discussed as simply an onset of realism, without at the same time considering several other, mutually competing artistic styles. The same can be argued about the development of theatres, which culminated at the beginning of the period in question in the opening of the National theatre in Prague. Its dramaturgy, which, in contrast to the idealistic endeavour of literary and dramatic criticism, depended on the aesthetic perceptions of the audiences, as well as on various social pressures, reflected the coexistence and competition of the styles of the time, as well as the demands of the emergent artistic practice. The dynamic situation of European literatures and theatre establishments in the last decades of the 19th century reflected frequent new experiments, which were consequently experienced in the Czech milieu as well. Besides occasional polemics, this heated artistic atmosphere is characterized by feelings of isolation, hurt pride, or pessimistic resignation. The article follows the emotional capitulations and comebacks of dramatic authors of different artistic orientations (those of Julius Zeyer, Jaroslav Vrchlický, Gabriela Preissová, and Vilém Mrštík). It discusses their careers as exemplary cases documenting the complexity of the given period of Czech literary and theatre history, which absorbed a number of new incentives, and suffered from absence of mature critical reflection.