Divadelní revue (Czech Theatre Review) 2017 · no 2

vol. 28 · december 2017 · no 3

Summary

The third issue of 2017’s Theatre Review focuses on the post-1945 Czech theatre history. Honza Petružela’s “The Devil in Boston: Radok's Television Production of Lion Feuchtwanger in 1957” discusses Alfréd Radok’s 1957 live broadcasted and un-recorded television production of Feuchtwanger's play Devil in Boston, which elaborated on the 17 th century Salem witch trials. Based on the extant versions of scripts, the essay reconstructs the production and analyzes Radok's directing strategies in the context of emerging mass medium. The author accentuates the insertion of original text into the “museum” framework, which unsettled the interpretation of history by means of film practices that enabled the director to highlight his own topic of political trials. Unlike the film, the more accessible and ideologically less contaminated context of television enabled Radok to work on his own anti-ideological dramaturgy in the precarious times; co-operating with the foremost actors, he created a thematically and creatively compelling production with an impressive atmosphere. Vladimír Just’s “Step by Step – From Resistance to Ritual (Production of Alois Jirásek’s Jan Roháč and the National Theater as an anticipation of the behavior of Czech society after August 1968)” addresses the issues related to the onset of normalization in the National Theatre. The National Theater was one of the first institutions that publicly disagreed with the occupation of the country in August 1968. The first premiere of the 1968/69 season was the production of Jan Roháč, 1914 historic play written by the national classic Alois Jirásek. The production of Jirásek’s play, set in the time of the defeat of Hussite Revolution (15 th century), was a political allegory. The story of Jan Roháč, the chieftain who – as the only one – did not surrender to dominant forces, was supposed to fight the defeatist attitudes in the society. Jirásek’s play already enacted this stimulating role in 1918 and again on the threshold of the Nazi occupation in 1939. In 1968, it premiered on the same day when the National Assembly legalized the invasion of occupying Warsaw Pact military forces. A member of the same assembly – also a member of the Central Committee of Communist Party, the top body of the organization – was paradoxically the National Theatre actor Vítězslav Vejražka who embodied the title role of the heroic “rebel”. The director was also longtime communist Václav Špidla. It is probably why this protest gesture became futile. The ever-decreasing declarations of National Theatre addressing the public gradually followed the speeches of representatives of so-called “real politics”, which were also heard at meetings in the historic building of National Theatre. These meetings, as well as an appropriately adapted repertoire, established the tradition of collaborative rituals that first scene staged until the end of 1980s. Barbara Topolová’s “‘Obese Realism’: Groping for Style in the Normalized National Theater” examines the 1970s dramaturgy of the National Theatre. The essay, based on a sample of productions of contemporary foreign plays which were presented in the 1970s at the National Theater (Paul Zindel’s The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, David Storey’s The Farm, Robert Patrick’s Kennedy’s Children, Viktor Rozov’s The Heather Cock’s Nest), seeks to identify a symptomatic style of productions. Although the style had many external features of realism, to which the official communist criticism required Czech art to return after the so-called crisis of the 1960s, it apparently lacked contact with the reality and proved that the representation of the present remained a constant problem in the period of normalization. A specific attention is dedicated to the work that surpassed these ongoing failures – the production of Andrei Kuternicki’s Nina, adapted under the title As if we did not even know each other... and directed by Miroslav Macháček. The issue contains the interview with Czech theatre and dance reviewer Nina Vangeli, reviews of recently released books, and Dita Lánská’s report on the 4 th theatre studies doctoral students symposium which took place in Telč.

Czech Theatre

Honza Petružela
The Devil in Boston: Radok's Television Production of Lion Feuchtwanger in 1957 [peer-reviewed article]


Vladimír Just
Step by Step – From Resistance to Ritual (Production of Alois Jirásek’s Jan Roháč and the National Theater as an anticipation of the behavior of Czech society after August 1968) [peer-reviewed article]


Barbara Topolová
“Obese Realism” Groping for Style in the Normalized National Theater [peer-reviewed article]


interview

Non-belonging (Where is my home...) Interview with Czech theatre and dance reviewer Nina Vangeli (Jana Pilátová) [interview]

reviews

Dalibor Tureček
Drama as an Allegory of Politics: Contributions and Limits (Peter Deutschmann: Alegorien des Politischen. Zeitgeschichtliche Implikationen des tschechischen historischen Dramas [1810–1935]) [review]

Markéta Klosová
Ad Tomáš Havelka: “My, družina školáků, na něž se tu díváte” DR 1/2017 [review]

new book releases (November 2017 — January 2018)

reports

Dita Lánská
Doctoral students to themselves (report on the 4 th Theatre Studies Doctoral Students Symposium — Telč 2017) [report]

Resumes of peer-reviewed articles

Honza Petružela
The Devil in Boston: Radok's Television Production of Lion Feuchtwanger in 1957.

Director Alfréd Radok made the first Czech television film V pasti (Trapped) in 1956; his 1957 live broadcasted and un-recorded television production of Feuchtwanger's play Devil in Boston, which elaborated on the 17 th century Salem witch trials, remains unnoticed. Based on the extant versions of scripts, the essay reconstructs the production and analyzes Radok's directing strategies in the context of emerging mass medium. The author accentuates the insertion of original text into the “museum” framework, which unsettled the interpretation of history by means of film practices that enabled the director to highlight his own topic of political trials. Unlike the film, the more accessible and ideologically less contaminated context of television enabled Radok to work on his own anti-ideological dramaturgy in the precarious times; co-operating with the foremost actors, he created a thematically and creatively compelling production with an impressive atmosphere.

Contact: Honza Petružela | Kabinet pro studium českého divadla, Theatre institute, Prague, Czech Republic | honza.petruzela(at)divadlo.cz.

Vladimír Just
Step by Step – From Resistance to Ritual (Production of Alois Jirásek’s Jan Roháč and the National Theater as an anticipation of the behavior of Czech society after August 1968)

The National Theater was one of the first institutions that publicly disagreed with the occupation of the country in August 1968. The first premiere of the 1968/69 season was the production of Jan Roháč, 1914 historic play written by the national classic Alois Jirásek. The production of Jirásek’s play, set in the time of the defeat of Hussite Revolution (15 th century), was a political allegory. The story of Jan Roháč, the chieftain who – as the only one – did not surrender to dominant forces, was supposed to fight the defeatist attitudes in the society. In 1968, it premiered on the same day when the National Assembly legalized the invasion of occupying Warsaw Pact military forces. A member of the same assembly – also a member of the Central Committee of Communist Party, the top body of the organization – was paradoxically the National Theatre actor Vítězslav Vejražka who embodied the title role of the heroic “rebel”. It is probably why this protest gesture became futile. The ever-decreasing declarations of National Theatre addressing the public gradually followed the speeches of representatives of so-called “real politics”, which were also heard at meetings in the historic building of National Theatre. These meetings, as well as an appropriately adapted repertoire,

Contact: Vladimír Just | Theatre Studies, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic | vjust(at)email.cz

Barbara Topolová
”Obese Realism“: Groping for Style in the Normalized National Theater

The essay, based on a sample of productions of contemporary foreign plays which were presented in the 1970s at the National Theater (Paul Zindel’s The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, David Storey's The Farm, Robert Patrick’s Kennedy's Children, Viktor Rozov's The Heather Cock's Nest), seeks to identify a symptomatic style of productions. Although the style had many external features of realism, to which the official communist criticism required Czech art to return after the so-called crisis of the 1960s, it lacked contact with the reality and proved that the representation of the present remained a constant problem in the period of normalization. A specific attention is dedicated to the work that surpassed these ongoing failures – the production of Andrei Kuternicki's Nina, adapted under the title As if we did not even know each other... and directed by Miroslav Macháček.

Contact: Barbara Topolová | Theatre Studies, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic | barbara.topolova(at)divadlo.cz