East European Performing Arts Platform (EEPAP) supports the
development of contemporary performing arts (dance and theatre)
in 18 countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Look Back in Anger, Krakow, Poland




On Invention, Interpretation and Criticism of the Sources for Theatre History in Central Europe After 1945

Time: 4th - 5th of October 2011

Look Back in Anger


October 4th 14:00, Gallery of Contemporary Art Bunkier Sztuki, address: Szczepański Square 3a

14:00-15:30 Statements, Chair: Joanna Krakowska

  • Anna Czékmány (presented by Attila Szabó): “The Doomsday of the Reliable Museum” - In my belief the museum, in its classical concept, can be considered a storage facility of stable, referentially authenticated meanings, where the objects self-confidently propagate the gift of their singular and authorized significance. The objective values and teleological structure of the museum, however, seem to fall short on our contemporary reality. We can play with the thought that interactivity, social responsibility and the growing role of reflection are all symptoms of a “crisis”. And maybe it is better to venture an escape towards the theatre? A case study on how these phenomena can be spotted in the exhibitions of the Gizi Bajor Theatre Museum – then and now.
  • Jan Jiřik: “Archives and Theatre History Writing” - In my presentation I will focus on the status of the general archives, the archive of Theatre Institute in Prague and the Prague municipal theatres. I will mention recent works of Czech theatrical historians (Vl. Just, J. Černý) and their approach to the archives.
  • Ildikó Ungvári Zrínyi: “Body and image in the '70s : archiving photography” - In each culture bodies have a specific everyday knowledge and scenarios of their own. Is theatre photography a good mean of preserving the character of theatrical bodies? Can theatrical style be reconstructed with the help of photos? And what kind of aesthetic conception of art works is present in the photos from the '70s?
  • Attila Szabó: “Theatre and Dictatorship: Attempts to Summarize the Unspoken” - As memory is fading, archives are being opened, and on the other hand the personal witnesses are slowly disappearing, there is an urgent need for writing the theatre history of the last forty years of dictatorship. Several smaller projects have been launched in Hungary to prepare a bigger comprehensive volume. I would like to contrast and analyze two strikingly different approaches (both in methodology and historical concept): a new volume edited by György Lengyel, offering a wide international overview of theatre during the dictatorship, and an online, performance-based analytical project of the Theatrology Department of the Gáspár Károli University in Budapest, attempting to convey a more inductive approach.

15:30 Coffee Break
15:45 – 17:00 Behind the Record (discussion)

The attempt of writing and rewriting the theatre history of the communist era. How to read and interpret the official records of the communist past? Indirect sources – records, reviews, witness’ testimonies etc. The ontological status of past theatre, not materially existing in the present as a source. The challenges and possibilities of comparative approaches in Visegrad and East-European cooperation.

October 5th 9:30
, Gallery of Contemporary Art Bunkier Sztuki

Statements 9:30-11:00, Chair: Attila Szabó

  • Danuta Kuznicka: “Theatre and Drama as Historical Source”- In my presentation I want to revisit Polish theatre director Jerzy Grzegorzewski's so called "avantgarde" or "controversial" performances and to present how their reception highlighted the conflicting views on history. I will take under consideration some of the reviews of his theatre work.
  • Jan Jiřik: ”Personal History”- In 2009, in the year of the 20th anniversary of Velvet Revolution, many performances which thematized history before 1989 were put on. I will concentrate on the performance “Personal History, In 1989 I Was Five” (“Osobní anamnéza, v roce 1989 mi bylo pět let”), directed by Petra Tejnorová (born 1984). The performance was based on the direct personal testimonies of seven actors. These testimonies were composed of fragments of text drawn from interviews conducted with actors and recorded by a team of experts from the Oral History Department at the Academy of Sciences. In my speech Tejnorová´s performance will be compared with the other performances that were put on during the anniversary year and which were rather concentrated on common stories and persons in general (e.g. Prague Spring, Alexander Dubček).
  • Noémi Herczog: “Genesis-myths: Auschwitz and Gulag in the Mohácsi-performances” - Kovács Márton-Mohácsi István-Mohácsi János: “Just a Nail” (2003), “We Only Have One Time to Live or the Sea Disappears in the Nothingness or Thereafter” (2011). Is history important for theatre? Performances should discuss the present. In Hungary we are happy when theatre finally deals with current issues, so why to turn back? The Mohácsi brothers have been putting a great deal of effort to theatrically argue these claims. By a comparative case study of two performances we can get a glimpse of how they contested the traditional and fossilized ways of remembering.
  • Iulia Popovici: “Public Opinion” - In my case study I would like to analyze “The Public Opinion”, a comedy from the '60s, written by a friend of the regime, a road companion, about (communist) morals, ethics and equity, that was staged in 2010 in Sibiu – the only case of a play written before 1980 staged after the fall, and the production has met the strong opposition among a whole range of theatre people.

11:00 Coffee Break
Statement 11:30-12.00

  • Joanna Krakowska: “Theatre as Archive of Narrations” - Presentation of main trends in the historical discourse of contemporary Polish theatre. What are the subjects of the past that are re-discovered, revised and re-written in theatre? How historical narrations constitute and undermine national identity.

12.00 – 13.30 Contemporary Theatre and its Past Inspirations (discussion)
Can we consider theatre and drama to be historical sources, and if so, to what extent? How do the historical subjects taken up by contemporary theatre contribute to contemporary political discourse? What means do performing arts have in the process of coming to terms with the past? What elements in past theatrical traditions are interesting and inspiring for contemporary theatre?
15:00 Joining EEPAP meeting. Venue: The Palace under the Rams, Main Market Square, Krakow.

October 6th 15:45-16:45
THEATRE AFTER THE CHANGE (book presentation) and a short summary of the symposium results. Presentation of the new collection of papers in two volumes issued by the Contemporary Drama Festival Budapest, edited by Joanna Krakowska and Attila Szabó.