Representatives of the independent theater

The beginnings of an independent experimental scene can be dated back to the first post-revolutionary years, when there immediately emerged several ensembles (the best known are Stoka, Hubris, GUnaGU, Balvan, A dato, Divadlo a.ha, etc.). Most of the founding personalities of the then progressive ensembles are still active on the stage, even though not all are active in terms of non-establishment conditions (Viliam Klimáček, Viki Janoušková, Jozef Vlk, Blaho Uhlár, Anna Grusková, Zuzana Hájková, Anna Sedláčková, Miloš Karásek, Marta Poláková, Martin Ondriska…).

Viliam Klimáček, founder and leader of the GUnaGU ensemble, is the most revered person among contemporary Slovak creators, also in stable theaters, while actors cooperating with the GUnaGU theater transferred authorial theater procedures, a sense of humor, the current language or slang and themes typical of the formation of this theater from performances into television and entertainment formats. Viliam Klimáček is, moreover, also the author of numerous plays dealing with historically difficult periods of Slovakia and negative figures from Slovak history, who brought to the total contribution the cultivation of a documentary style in the Slovak theater. They follow the pattern of mainly German post-war theater, Slovak theater also having become an important platform for social discourse during a sensitive cultural and historical turning period.

The Stoka Theatre and its director Blaho Uhlár, especially in the creations of the mid-90s, strongly influenced the later productions of the independent theater. It also brought to stable theater the practices of authorial theater, collective improvisation and new tips – characters that are often antithetical heroes of the time. Stoka united personalities from different artistic orientations – musicians, artists and writers who experimented with theater as an appropriate means to explore and see the drastic changes that went through Slovak post-socialist society. They reflected the mood of society after the fall of the regime, mammon, proliferative nationalism, mafia policy practices and the cultural decline of society. They became the creators of a new theatrical aesthetic, whose starting points were declining genres, parody, collage, fragmentary narrative and improvisation. They are important representatives of post-dramatic theater. The ensemble also operated in the Stoka Bar, until the demolition of the building functioning as a meeting place for representatives of the independent art scene, and all young people and intellectuals, besides love of the theater, also linked to the resistance against the establishment and the then-policy. The ensemble successfully performed in several international festivals. At home the theater critic recognized the ensemble and its significance only after the fact.

The demolition of the building in which the Stoka ensemble worked, occurred during the construction of the new commercial and shopping district near the wider center of Bratislava. The disintegration of the ensemble itself, in addition to the loss of space, also contributed to the departure of some creators from common poetics and work on their own artistic projects. It can be said that the original Stoka generated some important groups, which are still making things happen in independent theater. The leader and director of the original ensemble, Blaho Uhlár, founded a rejuvenated ensemble with the same name of Stoka, which operates in the spaces of Cvernovka. Former members of the Ľubo Burgr ensemble, Vlado Zboroň, Ingrid Hrubaničová, Vít Bednarik and Dada Gudabová along with the actor Milan Chalmovský and in particular director Dušan Vicen, who previously collaborated with the leading amateur ensemble Ka Theatre in Tvrdošín and Disk in Trnava, founded the SkRAT Theater. The A4 – Zero Space cultural center in Bratislava also operates with other civic associations. Laco Kerata, playwright and director, also a former member of the Stoka Theater, worked within the same period with the MED group, later with the Non Garde association based in the Central European House of Photography. Musician and author Lucia Piussi stopped dealing with theater, dedicating herself to music and literature, while Zuzana Piussi, who was the costumes and theater author for the Stoka Theater and later performed as an actress, is currently a leading Slovak documentary filmmaker and is dedicated primarily to filmmaking.
Several groups were notable in alternative musical and scenic creations. Musician Lubo Burgr initiated the emergence of the experimental Association for Contemporary Opera group, which had the ambition of theatrically presenting works by contemporary Slovak composers (Martin Burlas, Daniel Matej, Peter Zagar). Composer Marek Piaček created several theatrical-musical works in collaboration with the singer Stan Beňačka and the playwright and writer Martin Ondriska, and recently has been dedicated to experimental musical-theatrical production for children and youth. In staging their work all the mentioned composers cooperated with dancers and choreographers (known collaborations between musicians and dancers: Monika Čertezni Horná and Marek Piaček, Petra Fornayová and Peter Machajdík)

The young composer and performer Miro Tóth, following experimental creations, creates together with Marek Kundlák works that combine documentary practices and video art, and blends pre-played passages with improvisation.

After the end of the Hubris performance troupe, which was led by Jozef Vlk and Martin Ondriska, operating in the early 1990s in Bratislava in a variety of non-traditional theater spaces, which combined the traditions of performance, dance and challenging philosophical texts, there was formed the Debris Company dance ensemble, whose leading figures are the director and musician Jozef Vlk and the dancer and choreographer Stanka Vlčeková.

During the 1990s, there emerged from the Academy of Performing Arts a few personalities who have significantly influenced events in independent theater. The most significant among them, still operating today, are Rastislav Ballek, Ján Štrbák, Edo Kudláč, Soňa Ferancová, Zuzana Hájková, Marta Poláková, Šárka Ondrišová, Jozef Gombár, Silvester Lavrík, Viera Dubačová, Marián Amsler and the younger generation of directors Ján Šimko, Iveta Jurčová, Alena Lelková, Julia Rázusová as well as graduates of the Czech Janáček Academy of Music (JAMU) in Brno: Martin Čičvák and Viliam Dočolomanský. All against the past brought a shift in working methods and a move away from a strictly psychological theater, often scraping the boundaries between drama and physical theater, dance or on the other hand between professionals and amateurs. An important feature of independent theater is a strong authorial approach, i.e. the creation of one’s own texts/scenes – props for staging, or focusing on the staging of contemporary Slovak and world drama. Even the graduates of the Academy of Performing Arts Bratislava (VŠMU), the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (JAMU) and The Theater Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU) (particularly the Department of Alternative Works in Prague), who are recognized within official theater in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have firstly tried their practice currently using in stable theaters in independent theater, since most of them also led their own independent theater for at least a few seasons. Edo Kudláč founded the J.A.V. theater, later the phenomenontheatre, Ján Štrbák the Stromy association, Viliam Dočolomanský, winner of the prestigious European award for new theatricality, settled in the Czech Republic, where he founded and leads Farmu v jeskyni, Jakub Nvota Túlavé divadlo and Ondrej Spišák the Teatro Tatro. In 1997 the choreographer Zuzana Hájková founded Štúdio Tanca in Banská Bystrica (today she is the director of an eponymous theater with the founder of VÚC BBSK), and for many years has been the driving force in the region outside Bratislava in the field of contemporary dance and dance education. From the dance studio and dance department at the Conservatory in Banská Bystrica, which she also established, there emerged leading representatives of contemporary independent dance and performance theater, many of whom are internationally successful (Peter Jaško, Tomáš Nepšinský, Lucia Kašiarová, Jaro Viňarský, Stanka Vlčeková, Dano Raček, Zuna Kozánková…). Choreographer Šárka Ondrišová arrived to independent theater in the opposite direction; after several successful seasons on large, commercial stages, in 2007 she founded an independent association that ran a dance theater and dance school called elledanse, which in the 2014/2015 season operated in the reconstructed premises of a former slaughterhouse in Bratislava. The Prešov National Theater is a project by playwright Michael Zakuťanský and director Julie Rázusová, which brings together young artists in Prešov, appealing to young audiences with topics that are especially highly topical in the East, as there is a mass exodus of a large number of people for work and better conditions abroad, high unemployment and a feeling of isolation.

The projects of performer and director Sláva Daubnerová, acting under the auspices of the P.A.T. theater, are characterized by thorough dramatic preparation, a documentary starting point and then an attempt at a complex, visually rich theatrical form with a very distinct physical component.

In 1998, acting alumni from the Academy of Performing Arts established a student theater called Kaplnka with a regular program and repertoire which, although presenting only school projects, from the beginning introduced a dramaturgically ambitious repertoire and contributed significantly to the promotion and acceptance of authorial work and contemporary drama. The theater under this name disappeared with the Theater Faculty relocation to new premises, but student work continues to be presented in the school LAB Theater.

In Slovakia there are several community theaters, which also belong to the independent theater. Divadlo z Pasáže works with people with intellectual disabilities and is the organizer of the Arteterapia international community theater festival. Divadlo bez domova operates in the Pisztory Palace and works with the homeless and people with disabilities as well as being the organizer of the Error international festival for homeless theaters. The Len tak tak integrated dance group works with disabled people. The Nomantinels theater group is devoted to LGBT issues.

Alternative puppet groups formed for an adult audience include Dezorzové Lútkové Divadlo, which works with parodies of declined genres and dark themes, while the Med a prach group by prominent puppeteer Ivan Martinek presents musical and poetic work.

Main street theaters include Túlavé divadlo by director Jakub Nvota and Teatro Tatro, led by director Ondřej Spišák, operating in their own caravan and combining the tradition of quality drama theater with circus arts and street clowning with Nitra as the main town for these activities.

Out of theaters presenting to a young audience the LUDUS Theater and the White Theater in Bratislava are significant, in addition to authorial and educational productions, providing a variety of creative youth theater courses.