Slovak Theatre in Quarantine
The global pandemic has coincided with a time of significant change in Slovakia. During this critical situation, Peter Pelligrini’s government was replaced by a government headed by Igor Matovič. The new government was appointed by Zuzana Čaputová, President of the Slovak Republic, on Saturday, 21 March. Slovakia’s artistic community is now eagerly awaiting the first actions by Natálie Milanová, the new Minister of Culture, and believes that she will extend a helping hand in this difficult period. Slovak theatre artists hope that the new government’s support measures will also take into account the difficult situation of artists.
One of the extraordinary measures adopted by the outgoing Slovak government was the complete cancellation of cultural, sport and social events to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which came into effect on 9 March and is now pending appeal.
The crisis regime has had a devastating effect on local artists in both the independent and public sectors. However, the difficult situation has not inhibited their creativity and they are responding to this challenging time by establishing alternative stages in virtual space.
The online space is filling up with virtual broadcasts from premieres to readings for children and recordings of theatre productions. Several independent and public theatres have made recordings of their productions accessible to the public as compensation for the absence of live culture. Slovak artists haven’t neglected young viewers and the internet is full of readings of fairytales and “homemade” puppet productions in the form of staged readings – another kind of storytelling. There has even been an online black theatre premiere, as well as rehearsals over Skype to prevent the stagnation of productions already in the process of creation at the time of the outbreak.
Artists, along with theatres and their employees, are also showing cohesion through various support activities. Several theatres’ costume workshops are offering online advice on the sewing of protective masks to thousands of residents, who do not have access to these basic means of protecting themselves from the virus.
Slovakia is also mobilising to prevent grave consequences as a result of the unplanned shutdown of cultural activities, which will have a devastating impact on creatives in all industries. One example is the initiative Stojíme pro divadle (We Stand for Theatre), which calls on spectators to support cultural organisations with 2% of their taxes and encourages them not to ask for refunds on tickets to cancelled events in order to minimise financial losses.
The Slovak Arts Council, the grant-making system of Slovak Republic’s Ministry of Culture, has extended the deadlines for submitting to individual calls, or sub-programmes of various grants, and has revised the conditions and deadlines for reporting on the outputs of funded activities.
The Ministry of Culture informs visitors to its website that it is working in a limited, crisis capacity and will process all applications in electronic form only. It also announced that the normal timeframes for administrative processing have been suspended indefinitely.
Theatre festivals planned for April through June (Nová dráma/New Drama, Nu Dance Fest, Dotyky a spojenia Martin) are tentatively postponed until the autumn, but there is currently no means of guaranteeing that they will take place. The 30th International Congress of Theatre Critics AICT/IATC, which should have taken place in Bratislava at the same time as the Nová dráma/New Drama festival has also been postponed.