About the Project

Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police

is a project of the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra connecting artists, co-producers and cooperating institutions from six countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Artists from former socialist countries create six documentary theatre productions based on the study of materials preserved in the archives of secret police organizations operating in former Soviet bloc countries. Authentic stories intersperse with interviews with the witnesses to that era, agents, victims and other people whose lives had been affected by the activities of the secret police.

By working with documentary material, the project aims to draw attention to various aspects of the past and present social and political life:

  • to public and individual confrontation with the past;
  • to the practices of secret police organizations, Communist governments, and how they were reflected in people’s private lives;
  • to ways in which the societies in individual countries approached the understanding of their recent history and political practices in the era of Communism;
  • to ways in which the individual countries, following the fall of Communism, declassified their archives and what new political strategies may be deduced from the manner of such
    declassification / unwillingness to declassify and overall dealing with the memory
  • to the differences between perception and record of one single piece of reality, i.e. between how the past is remembered by someone who has experienced certain event and how that very same event is recorded in the archives;
  • to the different interpretations of events in various contexts (historical, sociological, political, personal etc.);
  • to both deliberate and non-deliberate manipulation with personal and social memory;
  • to how political power in the past influenced people’s private lives and what parallels can be
    drawn in this sense with the present;
  • to how the manner of dealing with memory material (both personal and social) determines and influences the creation of personal and social identity, in other words, identity of an individual and identity of a country / nation.
The project is:
  • intertwining artistic methods with methods of historical, political-science and sociological
  • connecting various theatre ensembles and performance venues with memory institutions; authors with art theoreticians and experts in various social science fields;
  • cooperation between theatre institutions from the participating countries leads to the creation of new networks which can help ensure future cooperation;
  • the project engages memory institutions from different countries and encourages exchange of information and experience between them;
  • an international platform is created where artistic teams present their methods and the results
    of their work, which will enable discussion between the participating artists and offer a more complex view and reflection of the methods of working with documentary material in the countries
    of Central and Eastern Europe.
Project Outcomes:
  • 6 productions from 6 countries - their world premieres were hosted at the Divadelná Nitra International Theatre Festival (27 September – 2 October 2013) and they were further individually regularly presented in their countries of origin;
  • Parallel Lives minifestivals - guest performances of the project productions in various cities and countries accompanied with discussions, lectures, exhibitions and meetings with experts;
  • Reader – a publication containing stories which have not been staged, but which the artists came across while studying archival materials or interviewing the witnesses to the past. It allows us to know the diversity of both human destinies and the methods of secret police forces in different countries;
  • Parallel Lives for schools – international format - theatre performances accompanied with discussions with experts from memory institutes. A special dossier has been created for schools, including extracts from the project publication, the Reader, complemented by educational texts intended for pupils, students and teachers;
  • 6 Parallel Lives documentaries - the individual films follow the project origins and progress in
    six countries;
  • Publication - theoretical articles related to the given theme written from politological,
    historical, and theatrological perspective. The publication contains a theoretical commentary on the project, as well as interviews with directors from which we can learn about their creative methods.
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