Slovak theatre after 1989

After what is referred to as the Velvet Revolution in 1989, all restrictions and bans imposed by the outgoing Government lost their legitimacy. New stages were founded (Theatre Astorka Korzo ’90, Theatre Ludus, Aréna Theatre) and dramatic creation was refreshed by the arrival of a new generation of creators, unconventional procedures, concentrated conceptual work, bold projects, efforts to transform the theatre network and changes in cultural policy.
The activities of the Slovak National Theatre now focused on the work of directors who had been active there before (L Vajdicka, V Strnisko, P Mikulik, and P Haspra), while productions directed by M Huba also gained international attention (A P Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, 1995, M Huba and M Porubjak’s Dancing Room, 2001).
Creativity at the Nitra Regional Theatre Company (today’s Andrej Bagar Theatre) was profiled by a newly-arrived young dramaturgist and director, S Sprusansky. During this period many visiting national and foreign directors (V Moravek, V Gintaras, J A Pitinský, J Bednarik, M Pecko and R Alfoldi) were also invited to work at the venue.
For the SNP Theatre in Martin (today’s Slovak Chamber Theatre) this was a period of creative searching and above all a change of generations. Continuity of its work was secured by M Olha and R Polak, while the younger generation was represented in a more systematic way by the work of director J Gombar.
The State Theatre Košice went through a major restructuring in the 1990s, which accounted for its decreasing artistic level at this time. The drama ensemble there was only able to consolidate its work after 1999, when it became independent again (after separating from the theatre of Prešov) and acquiring new management. The nomination of director R Polak to the position of manager also brought artistic development. Polak in collaboration with dramaturgist M Vannayova stabilised the ensemble and carried through its topical dramaturgic line (B M Koltes). He also contributed to the promotion of the ensemble at national level through co-operation with British director J W Bosch (P Marber’s Closer, 2001).
Jonáš Záborský Theatre in Prešov’s project Kemu ce treba, directed by prominent Czechoslovak director P Scherhaufer, is one of the most extraordinary events of the 1990s. It consisted of seven productions presented in short intervals in unconventional spaces in the years 1990-1991.
Amongst the activities of the Ruthenian Theatre of Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, the productions of theatre-makers B Uhlar and M Karasek stand out. Dramaturgist V Turok maintained the continuity and style of the theatre. Making use of the specific features of the ensemble, director Valentin Kozmenko-Delinde (N V Gogol’s Ženba, 1993) and visiting Slovak directors M Olha and R Ballek also collaborated with the theatre.
As far as the theatre of the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia is concerned, the Thália Theatre in Košice became independent in 1990, and in the same year the Hungarian Regional Theatre in Komárno was renamed as the Jókai Theatre in Komárno.
These innovations are attributable to S Beke, a graduate of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (VŠMU) in Bratislava and the Academy of Dramatic Arts of Budapest. It was also in the Jokai Theatre where in 2001 J Czajlik, a young graduate of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Bratislava, presented a remarkable production of P Shaffer’s Amadeus. Jószef Czajlik holds at present the post of the director of the further theatre scene of the Hungarian minority – the Thália Theatre in Košice.
When Theatre Astorka Korzo ’90 opened in 1990, several members of the Štúdio Novej scény and the theatre of Trnava joined it. In the course of that decade Astorka Korzo ´90 acquired a deserved position among the top stages of Slovakia. It was awarded various prizes and took part in various international festivals (for instance, Edinburgh International Theatre Festival). The profile of the ensemble was formed by the work of directors like R Polak (E Rostand’s Cyrano, 1993; A P Chekhov’s Uncle Vanja 1996; A N Ostrovskij’s Forest, 1997) and J Nvota (plays by R Sloboda). The excellent actors ensemble of the founding personalities (Z Kronerova, Z Furkova, A Siskova, B Farkas and others) was after 2000 enriched by the group of exceptional young talented actors (among others M Miezga, L Latinak and J Kemka). The artistic director of the theatre at present is Marian Amsler, who has influenced many theatre stages with his original director style in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic.
Romathan Theatre (1992) for the Roma minority living in Slovakia originated as a result of positive tendencies in the complicated social and cultural situation of the Roma minority (A Place for the Romas, 1992; S Samkova and S Kasarda’s Magic Violin of Cinka Panna, 2000).
In the 1970s and the 1980s various small stages and amateur theatre groups had represented the ideological opposition to the governmental theatre policy. After 1989 non-governmental small theatre companies were founded, often in the form of civic associations. Independent theatres had and still have an irreplaceable role in the development of theatrical art and drama in Slovakia. The most conspicuous theatre phenomenon in Slovakia is that of STOKA Theatre, one of the most progressive ensembles in Slovakia in the 1990s. Led by director B Uhlar (Dyp Inaf, 1991; Donárium, 1992; Chamber, 1995; Bottom, 1998; Impasse, 2000), Stoka Theatre developed the procedures of authored theatre. Stoka Theatre under the director Blaha Uhlar has shaped cultural events in Slovakia since 1991. Stoka is referred to as an ‘iconic theatre’ phenomenon that has never been in Slovakia before and will never be (Stoka is in a reduced form active until today). In the new millennium Stoka experienced two groundbreaking years – in 2000 when one part of the ensemble left and 2006 when the theatre lost their venue. Stoka staging is typical of scenic collage, clip style of sequences and often absurd outcomes at first glance. All pieces of staging (the most important of them include eg. Eo Ipso, Collapse, Impasse, Faces) were created through collective improvisation and the resulting dramatic creations are combined in the collective authorship. Skrat Theatre (established by former members of Stoka Theatre) under the leadership of artistic leaders Lubomir Burgr and Dusan Vicen proceed in their creations in a similar way as it was usual in the Stoka Theatre using the method of collective improvisation (what the Anglo-American drama teachers call ‘devised theatre’), but the thematic and formal aspects of the productions are different. GUnaGU Theatre has the longest history of the mentioned theatres – it was established in 1985. It is a home stage of the playwright Viliam Klimacek and the director Karol Vosatko. While in the 1980s and 1990s GUnaGU Theatre with its unusual and original poetry resembled the Polish avant-garde theatre (eg. the staging of Mária Sabína), it significantly tends to stage easily digestible genre variety, pop culture and mainstream, even though they paradoxically use mocking and parody in their productions in recent years (eg. Fashion Models, English is easy, Csaba is dead, Dealers, Sharon Stone let me go).
At the beginning of the 1990s Theatre a. ha. was founded in Bratislava. Featuring actors from various professional stages in Bratislava, the theatre lacks a permanent ensemble, producing domestic dramas of a chamber character. In 2010 the theatre transformed into a new subject – a chamber theatre Ticho a spol. (Silence and Co.). Led by the dramaturgist Viki Janouskova, the director Robo Hornak and the author Milos Janousek the transformed Theatre a. ha. into the Silence and Co. Theatre stages chamber theatre plays as well as literary and musical creations.
Of particular note during this period is the work of Theatre from the Passage in Banská Bystrica, which works with mentally handicapped persons, employing a form of theatre therapy under the leadership of director Viera Dubacova.
The topic of marginalised social groups and communities or of different aspects of discrimination is developed by further theatres – Divadlo bez domova (The Homeless Theatre) – problematic issues of homeless people and social inclusion; and Nomantinels Theatre – gender stereotypes and discrimination, LGBT community and queer drama.