The History of Slovak Theatre – 5. Dramatic Theatre

The Pillars of World Drama

During the first years of existence of professional Slovak theatre the Slovak language was featured on the stages very gradually and randomly. The dramatic theatre usually spoke to its audiences in Czech. The first dramatic premiere in the Slovak National Theatre (2 March 1920) was a Czech play – tragedy Maryša by Alois and Vilém Mrštík, directed by a Czech director Václav Jiřikovský. However, without the help of Czech theatre professionals the Slovak Thalia would have had an even more difficult birth.

Slovak theatre was catching up quickly and regularly reached for international plays. As the Slovak dramatic theatre was becoming more European, modern and cultivated, French and Russian drama played a significant role. The creators successfully penetrated the inner world of the story, adopted the demanding poestry as well as melodic ease of the conversational style of French plays, and on the other hand, captured the psychologically complicated inner processes of the characters in Russian dramas.

The Mount Parnassus of the world drama, works of William Shakespeare and the dramatic heritage of the classical culture, became the true test of progress of the Slovak dramatic art. Slovak theatre was embracing this heritage very late because of the lack of contemporary translations. Only from the time of World War II deliberate efforts were made to generate interest in Shakespeare and classical dramas.

The monumental philosophical work of Johann Wolfgang Goethe Faust met with a similar fate. Demanding philosophical and staging requirements evoked awe and respect from the creators. The first part of Goethe’s version premiered in the Slovak National Theatre in 1931, directed by Viktor Šulc in Czech, but the complete Slovak staging of both parts of Goethe’s poetic drama had to wait until 2010. In the meantime, we encountered other Faustian plays, and in all cases there were bold and ofter time also successful dramatic and directorial efforts that proved the refinement and preparedness of the Slovak theatre professionals for this immportal topic of reason and temptation.

The Pillars of Slovak Classics (1830 – 1930)

The work of Gašpar Féjerpataky-Belopotocký and staging of Ján Chalupka’s Kocúrkovo in Liptovský Mikuláš in 1830 is considered the official birthday of the Slovak theatre.

Slovak drama had a difficult birth, and a pretty late one too, compared to the rest of the world, not fully developing until the late 19th century. Despite that, the wide variety of titles is comparable in quality to international works. At the same time dramas were created in our environment that made concrete contributions to the following time periods. Each new staging confirmed their timeliness and theatrical potential.

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