Disk 37 (September 2011)


Prof. Jaroslav Vostrý (1931) deals with contemporary Czech thinking about theatre in his study “From Theatri(sti)cs to Scenology?”. A conference in Brno organized “ad honorem prof. PhDr. Ivo Osolsobě” by the Theatre Faculty of the Janáček Academy provided an opportunity to confront with some contemporary foreign tendencies three years ago; the author of the quoted study relies on the anthology from this conference published in 2010. In the first part of this study we print in this issue, he notices two ‘tendencies’ represented by Berlin theatre researcher Joachim Fiebach and Petr Oslzlý. Whereas the first one does not deal with theatre and staginess or theatristic and focuses on non-specific scenic aspects of social reality, the second one remains in the limits of theatre run because of theatre as such. These different attitudes are demonstrated on different levels in relation to contemporary theatre: if the statement of Petr Osolsobě consists of criticism of the contemporary state of theatre, the contribution from Václav Cejpek draws from confirmation of the current state that is offered to theatre research as such (and it is not bad, according to Ce-jpek).

Vostrý himself contrasts scenicity and staging of an event with (mere) staginess because identification of ‘sceniza-tion’ or ‘scenitiveness’ of contemporary reality with (simple) ‘theatricality’ seems to be very inaccurate. When trying to protect oneself and justify one’s own academic rightfulness (which is fragile), application of some categories and terms connected originally or allegedly with theatre serve the theatre research now for expansion of the field out (not ‘behind’ but ‘out of’) the movable border of the theatre. In connection with the so-called performative twist in culture sciences, staginess seems to be indistinguishable from performativity – it is the same case when ‘what’ is not differ-ent from ‘how’ (which is very important from scenologic point of view) in action that has been crucial for new tendencies in theatre research from the 1990s. According to Vostrý, theatre research did not originate as a historical branch by accident and theatre theory cannot be faithful to its subject if it derives its theses only from the research of ‘contemporary trends’ or if we look at theatre from the point of view defined by the latest fashionable tendency cultivated by academically powerful institutions (of power) instead of drawing from theatre in its whole historic area.

PhD student Mgr. Jana Cindlerová (1979) pays attention to two performances of the drama company which ranks among the top ensembles in the category of so-called local or regional theatres; her essay is called “Wasted Victim? Kerosene Lamps and The Comforter in the South Bohemian Theatre”. The point of the importance and success of the South Bohemian drama is apparent in a good connection of creative and aggressive dramaturgy with a well equipped ensemble. High-quality adaptations and new plays by dramaturg Olga Šubrtová and art director Martin Glaser are created for the members in this theatre (successful The Man of Seven Sisters inspired by J. Havlíček whose text can be found in Disk 15 from March 2006; see the essay by Z. Sílová and J. Vostrý called “Ensemble Theatre: Drama in České Budějovice” in Disk 24 from June 2008. This is the reason why impressive and contemporary artwork origi-nates in such a creative environment that is supported not only formally by the management of the four-ensemble theatre – let these pieces be Kerosene Lamps which is a one-hundred-year-old story (performances of Lenka Krčková who plays the main character as well as the whole ensemble led by director Michal Lang are great) or the newest play by Šubrtová-Glaser called The Comforter (we printed the text in the March issue of Disk) directed by Glaser.

Another study by doc. Zuzana Sílová, Ph.D. (1960) from the cycle Comedians on Czech stages that is a part of the research project of the Czech Science Foundation called Forms and Ways of Acting deals with exceptional actor of the first half of the 20th century. Hugo Haas (1901–1968) was a popular star of a salon plays and film comedies that now belong to the golden oldies of Czech cinematography. In the first part (‘A Lover, Comic or Character?’), the author follows Haas’s journey from the Vinohrady Theatre where he started as a salon lover, however, he surprised with exceptional changeability in a so-called character field, to the National Theatre which used actor’s modern civil acting in melodramas and comedies. Czech film also used Haas’s charm and ironic playfulness as well as passion for reincarnation when creating various comic masks of young and old men. The second part of the study (‘From Mime to Dramatic Acting’) deals with new forms of Haas’s acting which connects comic distance with authentic imper-sonation to a character and its situations that reached their peak in the opportunity to play Galen in Čapek’s White Disease and continued in American emigration where he acquired deserved respect in dramatic studies in psychologi-cal melodramas he wrote and directed.

Another part of the cycle dedicated to virtuoso actors of the 19th and the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by Prof. PhDr. Jan Hyvnar, CSc. (1941) originated thanks to the above-mentioned grant from the Czech Science Foun-dation called Forms and Ways of Acting. The study called “H. Modrzejewska: The Star on Two Continents” is dedicated to a Polish actor in the late 19th century who played not only in Polish but also in English and she became the European and American actor. Her career starts in provinces, later she was successful in the Krakow Theatre and then she had the first success in Warsaw. When the actress was at the peak, however, she decided to move to Califor-nia and live there with other Polish intellectuals on a farm but she soon learnt English and started to conquer Ameri-can cities as “Modjeska”. In the second part, the author described characteristic features of this Shakespearean ac-tress’ acting method, i.e. fidelity to play in playwright’s intentions, a synthesis of idealization and realism and a critical attitude to ‘virtuosity’ of many contemporaries. Modrzejewska was a representative of a spiritual function of a religious concept of Art and this was connected with her role of a patriot in the time when Poland was occupied by three countries.

In her essay “Tragic Death in Jan Zátorský’s Photos”, Bc. Tereza Šefrnová (1980) draws from the fact that report-age and partially documentary photography (so-called ‘life’ documentary photography) is typical for its conscious and purposeful work with the cut-out of time and space. What moves photography journalism towards a document, i.e. from attempts to exact and balanced record of real plot to original authorial portrayal or commented tackling of an event is also flawless ‘cut-outs’ of everything that would draw viewer’s attention from concentrated perception of a photo picture to its shallow and momentary observation. All three analyzed photos do not need the context of other photographs from corresponding cycles. A short notice is enough: this is the case of photographs of hands who pass over newspapers with the portrait of tragically deceased Polish president; when we speak about the photo of ‘mum-mies’ during tragic tsunami, it would be enough to write a notice: 27th December 2004, one day after tsunami. The power of photographer’s staging lies in a carefully selected cut-out of reality which ignores a classic ‘cliché’ of ruins. It is not a coincidence that the author deals with the photo Polish Tragedy in greatest details: parallels she draws attention to provoke a more informed viewer to deduction knowledgeable photographer Jan Zátorský uses to mobilize viewer’s imagination.

The starting point for the article about Šrámek’s play The Moon Above the River – with the label of a “dramatur-gic problem” – was the staging of Šrámek’s classic text in Moravian Theatre in Olomouc that had the premiere this year. PhD student MgA. Milan Šotek (1985) selected the play as a dramaturg of the drama in Olomouc and he also took part although he did not receive an opportunity for real dramaturgic cooperation. Apart from a short analysis of the play where he notices especially comic base of situations and dramatic tension between ‘the uttered’ and ‘the concealed’, he deals with the adaptation by director Zdeněk Černín. This leads him to a more general reflection about dramaturgic interventions which want to expound the language of the play to a ‘young viewer’. Šotek notices what happens if we deprive the text of scenic potential included in the very language of the play thank to the stylization. Can the problem of similar attempts be solved by certain scenic stylization which is primarily set on the linguistic level?

The text by PhDr. Jiří Šípek, CSc., Ph.D. (1950) “Two Encounters with Scenicity” returns to some more general connections of scening in art and in our common life. It offers several apertures on concrete examples – be it a vivid philosophical work or an art production from the field of music-dramatic art. At first, the author briefly summarizes the definition of scenicity and the field of scenology in the sense of its object and method. The first ‘encounter’ is dedicated to Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts, i.e. his understanding of Dyonisiac and Apolline principles of ancient theatre. For instance the function of choir described by Nietzsche is possible to understand in connection of the topic of staging, internally tactile feeling and distance. The second ‘encounter’ is dedicated to two music-dramatic per-formances, especially to this year’s opening concert of PROMS and an FOK concert from 2004. In both cases, the author focuses on the diseur (Jan Tříska) and the way of his recitation. We can see again that there are many interest-ing and inspiring moments from scenology points of view in a speech that is emotionally controlled. – An original addition to Šípek’s article is an essay by RNDr. PhDr. Tereza Nekovářová, Ph.D. which deals with staging in nature as an original phenomenon that does not necessarily need a human observer. In this context, staging is signalization in social situations with many speeches. Staging can be found on various levels – as specialized morphologic struc-tures, colours and congenital patterns of behaviour (like birdsongs, court dances or ritual fights) but we can also include sophisticated intentional behaviour we can see with apes or birds related to ravens.

An essay by MgA. Lucie Burešová (1983) called “Butoh Dance in the Context of Modern History of Japan” fo-cuses on the phenomena of the Japanese art of dance, issues of its origin and development. It analyzes the term butoh from the linguistic point of view, it deals with inspiration, social-cultural background and conditions for the origin of “new dance”. It understands butoh as an important cultural project from the art and social point of view. On the one hand, butoh is strongly influenced with traditional culture, however, we have to search for sources of inspiration in European (dance) art. It logically links to art of theatre in Japan in the 20th century but social-political after-war events were probably the main impulse – desire to express oneself not only about the tragedy of was but about the following unstoppable economic growth in Japan and social changes. It goes through many art fields, it deals with physical human naturalness but to philosophic and spiritual concepts as well – it draws from Buddhism, Shinto and Christianity. The analysis of individual fields which participated in the origin of butoh is completed by portraits of two founders of this dance – Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. When Ohno deceased last year, butoh has acquired a status of artificially maintained tradition after many years of decline. Its influence on contemporary theatre and dance art in Japan is clear.

In the article “Scenologic Experience with the Building of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet”, director doc. Jakub Korčák (1961) introduces the building of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo that is a unique example of successful connection of top modern architecture with the greatest functional and technical de-mands of contemporary theatre operation. The author of the article focuses on a detailed description of the building and it lies on personal experience with the operation of the building during rehearsals of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin. The building has become a new cult place in the Norwegian capital and it categorized Oslo among the most important centres of opera and ballet art. We can read Korčák’s article in the context of so-called creative or cultural industries opened by Prof. PhDr. Július Gajdoš, Ph.D. (1951) with his essay “Creative Industries: Development of Culture or New Market Totalitarianism?”. Mgr. Martin Cikánek, M.A., the author of Creative Industries – an Oppor-tunity for New Economics published by the Arts and Theatre Institute in 2009 reacts to this essay by his article “Crea-tive Industries: the Journey from the Land of Assemblies and Transit Sheds”. M. Cikánek works in the Institute as a head of the research project called Mapping of Cultural and Creative Industries in the Czech Republic (NAKI DF11P010VV31). Július Gajdoš got the opportunity to react to conclusions of his opponent as well.

Július Gajdoš contributed to this issue of Disk with his article “Kroner’s Paradoxes of Laughter” written for the pub-lication by Zuzana Bakošová-Hlavenková et al. called Elixir of Laughter with the subtitle Josef Kroner and Kroner Family published in Bratislava in 2010. Another book – Pavel Drábek’s Czech Attempts to Stage Shakespeare – is analyzed by Prof. PhDr. Jan Císař, CSc. (1932). Drábek’s book was published as a private print of a work of an associ-ate professor that has a lot to say about the state of contemporary historiography of Czech theatre. According to Císař, the drawing point of the book is Drábek’s opinion that this discipline of the theatre research searches for new princi-ples, processes, methods and methodologies – we can briefly summarize it as new paradigm which it urgently needs in the contemporary state, Drábek’s study follows translations of Shakespeare’s dramatic texts into Czech since late 18th century until nowadays and it confirms a great and irreplaceable function of Shakespeare’s work during the birth of new Czech theatre, especially drama. It behaves like this in the context of its own subject – the development of theatre and Czech society. According to Císař, he reaches a simultaneous scope which is a contribution of the above-mentioned seeking for new paradigm of Czech theatre historiography.

In the supplement, we print Jiří Šípek’s dramolett Asteroid 152.

Translation Eliška Hulcová