The section of the Theatre World Brno programme devoted to ancient drama productions is also a tribute to two prominent figures of (not only) the Brno theatre scene who sadly passed away in 2019. The first of them is undoubtedly the most important expert on ancient theatre and drama in the Czech Republic – Prof. Eva Stehlíková. Knowing the dedication of this dramaturgical section is to “Lady Eva” (as she was nicknamed with love by us, her friends), our hands began trembling slightly – those who encountered “Lady Eva” and her opinions know very well that there were few things she was as allergic to as to “ancient productions as they were in ancient times”, and that to the question: “Which ancient play would you recommend?” she liked to answer: “None!” “Why perform something ¨from ancient times¨? Why do we perform something that was created more than two thousand years ago in a different part of the world for an audience that had different requirements for theatre and other experiences in life?” she wrote concisely in her excellent book on Czech productions of ancient works Co je nám po Hekubě. When Martin Čičvák solved the obsolescence of the Czech translations of Antigone for his staging at the Mahen drama theatre by transforming the Slovak translation by Feldek into Czech (something which would make the hair stand up on the necks of most classical philologists), Eva Stehlíková stated that it “is a somewhat non-standard procedure but it fulfilled its purpose perfectly.” For her, lively and communicative theatre was always more important than “philological anxiety”. Therefore, we hope that when viewing our selection of productions she would “forgive us” for this dedication.

The section of the Theatre World Brno programme devoted to ancient drama productions is also a tribute to two prominent figures of (not only) the Brno theatre scene who sadly passed away in 2019. The first of them is undoubtedly the most important expert on ancient theatre and drama in the Czech Republic – Prof. Eva Stehlíková. Knowing the dedication of this dramaturgical section is to “Lady Eva” (as she was nicknamed with love by us, her friends), our hands began trembling slightly – those who encountered “Lady Eva” and her opinions know very well that there were few things she was as allergic to as to “ancient productions as they were in ancient times”, and that to the question: “Which ancient play would you recommend?” she liked to answer: “None!” “Why perform something ¨from ancient times¨? Why do we perform something that was created more than two thousand years ago in a different part of the world for an audience that had different requirements for theatre and other experiences in life?” she wrote concisely in her excellent book on Czech productions of ancient works Co je nám po Hekubě. When Martin Čičvák solved the obsolescence of the Czech translations of Antigone for his staging at the Mahen drama theatre by transforming the Slovak translation by Feldek into Czech (something which would make the hair stand up on the necks of most classical philologists), Eva Stehlíková stated that it “is a somewhat non-standard procedure but it fulfilled its purpose perfectly.” For her, lively and communicative theatre was always more important than “philological anxiety”. Therefore, we hope that when viewing our selection of productions she would “forgive us” for this dedication.

 

Actually, the production of Antigone by director Ondrej Spišák and the Slovak National Theatre has been updated even more due to current circumstances than the creators originally intended – the already political production has been sharpened by the period context. When performed today, after the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, and after all the findings concerning the penetration of organized crime into the highest levels of Slovak politics, sentences from Feldek´s aforementioned translation like “When someone usurps the state, the state is gone” coming from the stage of the Slovak National Theatre do not sound quite the same as before. In the visually and semantically rich production of Oedipus Rex by the Prague National Theatre, Oedipus searches for his father’s murderer in Lieutenant Columbo´s raincoat without this and other pop-cultural references erasing, as Marie Reslová says, “the oppressive feeling that the world is slowly collapsing around Oedipus“. The Hungarian ensemble KV Társulat-Trafó has transferred the setting of the still frightening story of Euripides’ Medea to a centre for parents with young children, with all the collective therapy that’s going on there – the tale is perhaps even more chilling in this kind and understanding environment. The Prague-based independent ensemble Tygr v tísni has created its own free adaptation of Aristophanes´ comedies Peace and Plutus  Fertility! Peace! And Wealth! It’s interactive, immersive and performed in the open air, and in it “problems such as war, poverty, debts, injustice and a bad harvest are seen from the plebeian perspective of three not exactly respectable men”, as Alena Zemančíková writes. The section will also include an excursion – organized by Theatre World Brno – to an extraordinary production of Euripides´ The Bacchae at the Burgtheater in Vienna.

 

The other person to whom this section is dedicated is a man who departed this life almost at the same time as Eva Stehlíková: the excellent actor, former head of the Mahen Theatre and first and foremost the principal of the Theatre at the Table František Derfler. Whether it was Oedipus Rex or Oresteia, ancient drama founded primarily on words of poetry quite naturally had an assured place in his theatre’s programme. Symbolically, his last project for the Theatre at the Table was a staged sketch of Stehlíková´s translation of Seneca´s Thyestes. As a tribute to both personalities, the artistic director of the Slovácké Theatre Lukáš Kopecký (who has also directed for the Theatre at the Table) is working with a team of actors drawn from many of Brno’s theatres to prepare a staging in the form of a sketch of another so-far-unpublished translation by Eva Stehlíková – Seneca´s Oedipus.

 

 Jan Šotkovský, dramaturge at Brno City Theatre