Disk 41 (September 2012)

In June 2002, we first published the first issue of the Disk magazine for those interested in dramatic/scenic art and we knew that we are not interested in this field “because of the discipline itself but we perceived it in the context of culture in geographical and historiographical context necessary for understanding [scenic/dramatic art].” Július Gajdoš has the same opinion and his essay “Modernism in Us” opens the 41st issue of Disk. Gajdoš refers to Hans Belting’s quote from his book The End of the History of Art?: “public discussions about art reflect expectations overlapping compentences of art”. It is not a coincidence that the author of the ‘opening’ study in Disk 41 refers to the above‑mentioned book. The necessity to ask the very same question about possible ends and starting points of (modern) art – and modernity in general – draws from the essence of our contemporary situation: the present has been trying to form its own definition in relation to modernity. Other questions arise – they deal with a context of development, which is not a context of unified ‘Western art’ highlighted by Belting and analyzed by David Hopkins in his book After Modern Art. Hopkins is Gajdoš’s inspiration as well as culture sociologist Eva Illouz’s ideas expressed in her essential book Saving the Modern Soul. Therapy, Emotions and the Culture of Self‑Help. Július Gajdoš’s general essay is trying to overcome the low horizon which still seems to be defined by Lehmann’s Postdramatic Theatre and specific attitudes which accept neither what has happened in thinking about art since the 1990s nor specificity of more general issues drawing from Czech, Central European or East European development in the last 50 years.

Július Gajdoš draws from general problems of art, yet Jaroslav Vostrý’s essay “Great Theatre and the Need to Distance” inspired by performance of Chekhov’s Ivanov directed by Pácl in Ostrava has a clear relation to contemporary Czech social and political context. As we know, the local context must be related to general issues. It is a link between the public or the intimate and the public whose modern version has been applied significantly in theatre development: Vostrý opens the topic of so‑called great theatre and thinks about its constitutive features connected with the issue of an immediate experience of theatre events and distance. This distance is based on creation of an image which happens over and over again, i.e. it constitutes itself in mutual influence of director/stage designer’s ideas and actor’s action; treatment of words is essential here, too. Success of Pácl’s piece draws from the fact that it naturally avoids any danger of voyeurism based on the revolt against common (Czech?) shift (or decline?) of the intimate or familiar or the vulgar. It digs symbolic potential of a seemingly private story, which forms topicality of scenic action due to grabbing the private with a gesture foreshadowing frustration from certain qualities of contemporary public life, yet deriving them in order to create something which can get out of it. Due to mastering of certain conditions of great theatre with its necessary distance from smallness, theatre is then able to thematize smallness in a way it has nothing in common with it, yet it helps liberate from it during a performance.

In her study from the cycle “Comedians on Czech Stages”, Zuzana Sílová analyzes Nataša Gollová (1912–1988) and her acting “between lyricism and clownery”. Gollová draws author’s attention because it proves the importance of a new medium – sound motion picture which was an opportunity for many Czech actors to became famous and gain popularity, which was quite uncommon in theatre in the 1930s. But Nataša Gollová is a different case. Film – and mostly excellent comedy director Martin Frič – allowed her to use different features of her talent. Before she appeared in successful crazy comedy Eva Fools Around, directors from the Municipal Theatres cast her in “lyrical roles” she overreached not only with her height. Stage practice in contemporary high comedies contributed to actor’s perfect spoken and motion techniques and intentionally reinforced the need to interplay with a partner. Gollová could use both when shooting and thanks to a camera, we could see beauty, naturalness and quick reactions of an actor‑mime who proved that emotional and sensitive openness towards the world – which concerns its observer in happy and sad moments – is common for lyrical ingénues and clowns.

Denisa Vostrá, who deals with the concept of space in Japanese cultural tradition, decided to peep into this space using a text of the oldest extant Japanese chronicle, Kojiki, in her study “Ritual, Tradition and Energy – Another Contribution to Exploration of Japanese Perception of Space”. She examines the first mythological part which answers a question what Shinto is: it is important because you cannot understand Japanese culture and nature without knowing Shintoism. Described ancient holy space with all attributes (the cult of purification, omnipresence of “divine essence in things and people”) juxtaposed a contemporary form of devotion of a Japanese Shintoist who does not know feelings of estrangement and is charged with energy due to his openness in this space. Space, its use, motion in it and temporal dimension deal with sociologist issues using thoughts about energetic tension in space and Japanese understanding of ki energy. If we understand ki as vibrations in a body and delights, we are close to internally tactile perception with varying energy and focus within the meaning of detailed kinetic act and energetic ‘occupation’ of the space. This naturally concerns scenic space we can experience as well (as actors and viewers).

This issue also brings translation of the fifth and final play about Mrs Komachi with a commentary by Czech Japanologist and translator Zdenka Švarcová. When we launched the whole cycle in Disk 9 in 2004, we stated that the aim of the publication is to set our perception in a different way than we are forced to by contemporary media. We wanted to return to something .“which has always belonged to cultural potential of theatre; performing what can provide us with experience and attune us to these ways of experience – of the commonly non‑reflected aspects of existence – which contemporary market deprives us of: it respects its own priorities than demand (which is often unconscious and manipulated by advertising).” Our aim was to refer to live heritage of Eastern aristocratic culture which must be completely unfamiliar to contemporary vulgar ignobility, yet it can be more familiar to sensitive perceivers. “We live in an environment of (allegedly) postmodern ideological aggressiveness,” we said at that time and we asked a question: “Can an appeal for a momentary change in the way of perception demanding imagination have any hope?” and we added: “If we were not confident, we would not print contributions of this nature.” We would like to thank Prof. Zdenka Švarcová that we have reasons to remember publications of her translations in the last but one issue of Disk.

We also publish the second part of a comprehensive essay by Josef Valenta called “Prolegomena for a Research Methodology of Education Drama” and the author closes his paper with the following words: “‘Theatre/drama as a research report’ is technically applicable (we do not have to stage results of researches or ‘researches’ done by our students but we can do that using results of researches conducted by real researchers). No matter if we do a ‘research by theatre’ or (only) ‘education discovery’ of phenomena which are common, we definitely have a chance to form ‘research competences’ like ‘You can explore the world using these methods.’ And you do not only have to explore the world as a topic. Students also learn to explore theatre and drama (however, they explore what is not new for ‘the world’). ‘Theatre/drama research’ opens an enticing possibility to explore ‘children’s production’, relationships between a young or amateur theatremaker and art demands etc. ‘Exploration of theatre/drama results’ is ‘clear’ in an education system and it does not need any other commentaries. ‘The research of non‑theatre reality with a metaphor of theatre/drama’ is a completive attitude towards ‘a research for theatre’ and ‘a research by theatre’. The ‘educated’ as an agent and participant in the research have limited research possibilities. ‘The educator’ has big possibilities. ‘Dramatic education’ seems to be very interesting as a subject of a research.”

In this issue, you can find Radovan Lipus’s article “Jan Letzel’s Scenic Feeling”. Lipus made Letzel’s portrait from quotations in his letters. Jiří Šípek deals with a problem “Scenicity in Literary and Oral Tradition” for the second time: it is material he used in his previous study in Disk 28 (June 2009) where he spoke about Egils Saga and adds Russian Bylinas published in Czech in 2011 as well as oral culture of the Buganda nation (Uganda) as recorded and commented on by I. N. Kizza. In her article “The Origin of a Performance”, Tereza Šefrnová compares conditions and ways of actor’s work in the Czech Republic with methods applied on Broadway: she collected the material when she observed the origin of one performance on Broadway and interviewed American and Czech actors. Jan Císař wrote an article called “Manifestation of Staging” and deals with general connections in this year’s programme of the Open Air in Hradec Králové. Jan Hyvnar reviews Císař’s book Czech Theatre Tradition: Myth or Live Reality? in his article “Czech Theatre Tradition or Czech Theatre between Sanctuary and Sugar Factory”. In the essay “Of Solid Foundations of High Towers”, Jana Cindlerová wrote a report about Tarant’s performance of Ibsen’s The Master Builder in the context of contemporary Olomouc drama, Hana Nováková and Pavel Bár wrote about musicals and Denisa Vostrá contributed to our magazine with a short note about Japanese cat mascots.

You can find Almir Bašović’s Re: Pinocchio translated by Hasan Zahirović and Zuzana Perůtková in the appendix.

Translation Eliška Hulcová