The production “Follow Me” directed by Radoslaw Rychcik was created as a part of the international and interdisciplinary project “Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police”. It premiered on 30 September 2013 at the Divadelná Nitra International Theatre Festival in Slovakia. Besides Rychcik’s production, there was a chance to see productions from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, fulfilling the promise of the event’s sub-title: “6 countries, 6 stories”.
The opera by the National Theatre commemorating the life of Fr. Josef Toufar tried an opera stage in New York. The Czech ensemble delivered a piece about a man tortured to death by communists in the 1950 for allegedly faking the “Číhošť miracle”. At the same time, the Czech Centre hosted a screening of a recorded opera performance about Milada Horáková. In both productions the main parts are played and sung by Soňa Červená.
Týždeň / Slovakia / Juraj Malíček / 27.10.2014
Popcorn juraja malíčka
The Czech and Slovak ŠtB, Romanian Securitate, Polish SB, Hungarian ÁVO, East-German Stasi. How fundamentally, ruthlessly, brutally, but in a way also gracefully and sophisticatedly did secret police forces of totalitarian systems intervene into private lives of people – that is the subject of six unique documentary theatre productions which study their different models. Since Saturday 11 October, the RTVS has aired them every week as part of a six-part documentary series Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police. The series is the final outcome of a project of the Divadelná Nitra Association.
It re-discovers stories we would most gladly forget. They are still terrifying, but actually also quite safe, meaning that we currently do not have to face similar problems, but we should definitely fear them all the more. Fear them and beware of them. And there are other impressions the stories may and do leave. They are bizzarely incredible and incredibly bizarre, like testimonies about something that as if could not even happen in a civilized world, between normal people. But it did happen and it happened on behalf of lofty ideas which, when put into practice, became their own worst caricatures. Manifestations of pure Evil, which eventually turned out to be nothing but destructive. People are willing to do horrible things to other people and they do not care, because they can claim it is not them, it is their job. And for me this is the strongest, and also the most painfully topical thing. The rotting socialism I lived, thank God, only for the first fifteen years of my life, was in a way morally comfortable. It was not hard to make substantially right decisions, such were only existential decisions and decisions of existence. Otherwise everything was fine, and this is something the cynics inside us may miss. The Stasi, ÁVO, Securitate, SB and ŠtB lurked, supervised, manipulated, bullied, tortured, did the dirty work on behalf of the governing doctrine. And they did it effectively, we were afraid. The only thing that makes me nervous is that the fear is not gone, it is just that it is no longer clear who does the dirty work today. Big brother’s henchmen should wear uniforms. Actually, wait a minute, no, did not secret agents wear civies?
After Nitra, Bratislava and Dresden, the display of documentary theatre entitled Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police arrives in Prague. The National Theatre joined the project which involves six theatre companies from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic with their premiere of Aleš Březina’s opera Toufar last autumn. (…) All the productions have a common concept. Artists from former socialist countries have created documentary theatre productions based on their study of materials in the archives of secret police forces operating in the territory of the former Soviet bloc. Authentic stories are complemented with interviews with witnesses to that time, agents, victims and other people affected by the activities of the secret police. During the display, those who would like to gain a better insight into the subject have an opportunity to buy the publication Parallel Lives – Reader, which on its almost one hundred pages presents texts by the key people of the project and contains materials found in the archives of secret police forces during the research part of the project.
“20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police” is the sub-title of Parallel Lives, a display of documentary theatre involving theatre companies from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Prague’s National Theatre is the fourth stage to host the event – from 5 to 9 October. Its own contribution will be an opera about priest Toufar, arrested and tortured to death because of the so-called Číhošť miracle. The opera starring Soňa Červená, Jan Mikušek and Vladimír Javorský was directed by Petr Zelenka based on a libretto written by Aleš Březina.
Parallel Lives were created by artists from former socialist countries based on materials they chose in archives of secret police forces. For example, Slovakia’s SkRAT theatre recalls the case of secretly ordained priest Přemysl Coufal who was probably driven to suicide by the State Security. The Romanian production Typography Majuscule re-discovers the tragic story of sixteen-year old Mugur Calinescu, who in the early 1980s wanted to galvanize the public to show signs freedom by writing slogans on walls. The Polish New Theatre brought together in a fictitious interview / interrogation a functionary of the secret police branch in Krakow Józef Schiller and actress and daughter of a Polish dissident Ada Grudziska, who plays herself in the production.
The display of documentary theatre Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police, discussion on the subject of the State Security, exhibition of photographs Top Secret, screenings of State Security guidance films, premiere of Jiří Adámek’s After the Velvet and the exhibition November 89 are projects which the National Theatre in Prague is preparing to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. “After Nitra, Bratislava and Dresden, the Parallel Lives display will arrive in Prague. The National Theatre joined the project involving six theatre companies from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic with their premiere of Aleš Březina’s chamber opera Toufar. From 5 to 9 October, Prague’s audiences will have a chance to see the other five productions and attend the accompanying programme including discussions with the creators,” Opera spokesman Juraj Gerbery said yesterday.
According to Darina Kárová, director of the Divadelná Nitra International Theatre Festival, which was the initiator of the whole project, all of the productions share one common concept. Artists from former socialist countries have created documentary theatre productions based on their study of materials in archives of secret police forces operating in the territory of the former Soviet bloc. Authentic stories are complemented with interviews with agents, victims and other people affected by the activities of the secret police. Parallel Lives also have their own publication which offers materials discovered in the archives of secret police forces.
Documentary theatre is not a new thing, yet currently it is one of the vivid and hot theatre forms in Berlin. The Parallel Lives publication allows us to see this trend from an international perspective. At the invitation of the Divadelná Nitra Festival, six theatres from post-Soviet countries approached documentarily the theme of terror exerted by secret police forces between 1945 and 1989. Their projects are presented in six interviews and two essays – one historical and one theatrological.
The personage of priest Josef Toufar is the subject of the recently presented documentary chamber opera Toufar. The impressive musical production was written by composer and librettist Aleš Březina based on communist investigation of the case of the so-called Číhošť Miracle which resulted in the tragic death by torture of Catholic priest Josef Toufar.
Secret police files through the eyes of theatres is the Pro-thesis festival menu. A week full of quality drama – that is the promise of Pro-thesis, a festival that will take place from 8 through 13 April at the A4 – Space for Contemporary Culture in Bratislava. Over the course of six days, the festival will present performances that were created as part of the European project Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police. You can look forward to strong stories performed by the National Theatre Opera Prague, the brilliant Budapest-based Sputnik Shipping Company, the New Theatre in Krakow, SkRAT Theatre from Bratislava, and the Romanian Odeon Theatre or Dresden State Theatre.
It is evident that Ján Šimko, curator of the project, quite consciously divided the selection into diverse theatre institutions and invited not only experimental and alternative theatres, but also representative national stages (!). Each theatre approached the theme differently, chose different means of expression, different stories and methods. But they have one thing in common – they are provocative. There is no other project like this – as far as its extent, theme and especially audaciousness are concerned.
Parallel Lives – that is the title of the main theme selected by curators – started two years ago at the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra (which along with Dialog-Wroclaw is the most important festival east of Wiener Festwochen) with a discussion: In Eastern Europe, “20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police” should actually be a topic for historians, they, however, surprisingly, have not got too far.
And so the Festival found theatre partners in six countries, who under the same formal conditions would deal with the theme and premiere their results this year at the Festival in Nitra.
In the framework of the Divadelná Nitra festival – which the SME has regularly informed about – six European theatre companies have prepared productions dealing with the theme of Parallel Lives: about the practices of communist state security forces. In order to outline their activities to the spectators, the festival organisers spread in Nitra a “Glossary of terms of the State Security operating in the period 1948-1989 in the territory of Czechoslovakia”.
The first, weekend part of the Divadelná Nitra festival was sunny, pleasant, but above all, disturbing. One could not stop thinking about two similar names: Toufar and Coufal.
What you mainly learned in Nitra were stories you would not have come across, had there not been this theatrical project. The project was supported by international theatres and was very well received by Nitra citizens. Almost every performance is delivered to a full auditorium, many of them are even sold-out. You get the impression that the plays live off an urgent need to retell their stories.
Peter Wachs collaborated with the secret police in East Germany. Today he is standing on the stage along with people whose lives the Stasi destroyed.
The question of truth is always problematic. Art can show it from a clear standpoint, says theatre professional Ján Šimko. His idea to draw theatrical inspiration from documents of the communist secret police reached its climax at this year’s festival Divadelná Nitra. Six productions from six countries will go on to tour Europe.
Nineteen performances, thirteen productions of theatres from nine countries – that was the visiting card of the 22nd edition of the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra, which reached its end on Wednesday. This year its dominant feature was the project Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police. Six plays produced by theatres based in post-communist countries brought stories about the practices of communist regimes’ secret services.
Three years of preparations, a great many discussions and concept-centred cooperation between theatres from six Central and Eastern European countries, and artists conducting research in state archives – all that was needed in order for the ambitious documentary theatre project “Parallel Lives” to offer in Nitra, Slovakia, a beyond-the-ordinary varied menu of a festival circus. Generally speaking, the “Parallel Lives” project has brought a great amount of information and stimuli: it is dreadful to know how many open questions still remain in some Eastern European countries. And the spectrum of presentation forms this festival has shown within documentary theatre is simply astonishing.
The language of Březina’s operas builds on colourful combinations within a chamber instrumental grouping (bass clarinet, violin, keyboard, drums), helping create both the atmosphere and the plot, which in dramatic passages and scenes related to the ecclesiastical environment is dominated by the sound of an organ. The music is comprehensible, tonal and modal, attractive to listeners, yet at the same time not plain or illustrative. Březina’s compositional dimension represents a real blessing for opera works.
Aleš Březina, however, does not rediscover the story of Josef Toufar in order to make judgments. “Today we all naturally know that we would have acted differently. But how can we be so sure? I would be happier if we realised that even today we come face to face with injustice, and that if we do not oppose it, we might easily slide into another totalitarian system,” says the composer.
It is meant to be some kind of a follow-up to the project Tomorrow There Will Be based on the process of Milada Horáková. Its author is again composer Aleš Březina. “The initiative came from the Divadelná Nitra festival which is preparing the Parallel Lives series examining various aspects of the relations between secret services and citizens. They suggested cooperation to me and to theatre professionals from other post-totalitarian countries,” Březina explained.
“On 13 December 1981 General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared a state of war in Poland. On the same day Mieczysław Grudziński, dissident and member of the Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR) and the Solidarity movement, was interned. On 13 December 1981 Colonel Jozef Shiller holds the office of Deputy Regional Commander of the Public Security for matters of the State Security in the town of Nowy Sacz.” These are the first lines of “Follow Me”, a production being directed by Radosław Rychcik at the New Theatre in Krakow. It will present the history of the People’s Republic of Poland, as viewed through the prism of the archives of the Institute of National Remembrance. It is all happening in the framework of a project of the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra entitled “Parallel Lives”.
The SkRAT Theatre joined the international project Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police which will dominate this year’s programme at the Divadelná Nitra Festival.
Stories of tyranny of power from six post-communist countries and by six creative teams will celebrate their world premieres at the stages of the 22nd edition of the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra, which will be held from 27 September to 2 October 2013.
Even though each protagonist remains himself/herself, thus reducing the degree of abstractness, “My Files and I” ranks among the most overwhelming productions in the 4 years of existence of Dresden’s Bürgerbühne – what we get to see is a play that has more life’s wisdom and warnings to it than real dramas.
Clemens Bechtel’s production is part of the Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police project, which arose thanks to an initiative of the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra. In the play, which actually is not a play, the protagonists – nine former GDR citizens – do not play any parts. They remain themselves, with their names and surnames, and each of them tells his or her story.
In the latest call addressed to smaller organisations only one Slovak organisation succeeded in the role of the main project partner – the Divadelná Nitra Association. Their international “Parallel Lives” project in its six documentary stage productions is to take a closer look at the materials of secret police forces operating in the former Soviet Bloc.
The productions will be presented in form of festivals in all participating countries. The project will also give birth to a documentary film and a publication. The total multi-year project budget is over 168.000 EUR.
The evaluation of Slovak applicants for EU grants from the Culture Programme 2007-2013 took place today in the European Information Centre in Bratislava. This activity lies within the scope of the national office of the Cultural Contact Point (CCP) Slovakia which has issued a more than 70-page brochure about the supported projects. The Divadelná Nitra Association (ADN) ranks among the most successful applicants.
On 28 April, Peter Wach and several other performers accompanied by music will step out on the stage of the Dresden State Theatre’s Small House which will be covered with paper scraps of shredded files. They will read from their files and talk about their lives: their dreadful life stories, their truths. Director Clemens Bechtel (1964) arranged the stories so as to create a theatrical play – documentary theatre.
The Festival already announced the international project last year; this year, theatre professionals from Romania, Hungary, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia have presented the first contours of their theatrical productions. And also revealed the sources they had drawn from. For instance from the materials of the Romanian Securitate, German Stasi or the Slovak Nation’s Memory Institute, but also from the memories of people who have gone through persecutions by secret police services or from the accounts given by those who kept them under surveillance and persecuted them.