The Slovak National Theatre opened its doors in March 1920, so in 2020 we commemorate a unique jubilee: the 100th anniversary of its founding. An important milestone in the history of theatre, national culture and cultural identity, it can also be considered a milestone of national significance. The establishment of its first professional theatre ushered in a new era in the history of theatre in Slovakia.
Another key date for Slovak theatre is 22 August 1830, when Ján Chalupka’s comedy Kocúrkovo debuted in the town of Liptovský Mikuláš. At the centre of this event was its organiser, Gašpar Féjerpataky-Belopotocký – an enlightened innovator and national revivalist, who strongly advocated for the development of Slovak culture. Thus, 2020 also marks the 190th anniversary of the first amateur theatre production in Slovakia. Amateur theatre played a fundamental role in the founding of the Slovak nation and simultaneously laid the groundwork for the establishment of the country’s professional theatre.
These two significant anniversaries invite us to look back at the history of Slovak theatre and the individuals who shaped its evolution at the amateur and professional levels. Recognising this, at the impetus of the Ministry of Culture, the government of the Slovak Republic designated 2020 the Year of Slovak Theatre. Link: https://rokdivadla.sk/home
Three organising institutions, The Theatre Institute, the Slovak National Theatre and the National Culture Centre, planned activities to take place throughout the jubilee year.
2020 should have been a year of celebration, cultural experiences and new partnerships between institutions at home and abroad, a year of connecting the theatre with other art forms. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantine, the rich programming planned for this unique Year of Slovak Theatre was disrupted.
The cultural sector responded flexibly and creatively. All galleries, museums, cultural institutions and theatres adopted the necessary measures and closed their doors, moving many of their activities into the virtual space. Festivals and premieres planned for the Year of Theatre were postponed to the autumn, or to 2021, while artists proposed original ways of staying in contact with audiences and fans during quarantine.
Theatrical century: traces and attitudes is a significant, representative exhibition spread across 1500m2 at Bratislava Castle. It showcases the key developments, events and personalities of professional Slovak theatre, starting with its beginnings and continuing through to the present. The exhibition’s opening was celebrated on 27 February 2020 and, following the lifting of quarantine, has again been accessible to visitors from 12 May, during the regular opening hours of the SNM – Museum of History. The exhibition will remain open through 30 August 2021. Link: https://rokdivadla.sk/theatre-sk-2
theatre.sk – A documentary exhibition offering a complex treatment of the establishment and development of professional theatre culture, theatre.sk also offers information on the essential activities, personalities and facts associated with theatre in Slovakia. This touring exhibition was to have travelled to Slovak Institutes across Europe, alongside a national tour, but has thus far only opened in Warsaw. A presentation is planned in Prague and part of the exhibition is accessible on the homepage of the Year of Slovak Theatre 2020. Link: https://rokdivadla.sk/the-history-of-slovak-theatre
A Homage to Belopotocký at Liptovský Mikuláš – Eight exhibition banners with eye-catching graphics combine to create a portrait of Gašpar F. Belopotocký. He is represented in the full range of his activities, not only as the founder of amateur theatre in Slovakia, but also as a bookbinder, bookseller, founder of the country’s first public folk library, cultural advocate, national revivalist and enlightenment thinker. The exhibition is available to the general public on The Year of Slovak Theatre website. Link: https://rokdivadla.sk/vystava-online-pocta-belopotockemu-v-liptovskom-mikulasi
Find your theatre online encourages visits to the Year of Theatre homepage, where visitors are offered short overviews of events in Slovak theatres, including direct links to their activities. The selection is rich and includes staged readings, podcasts, talks and recordings of productions, all delivered online. For demanding viewers, ballet exercises and string concerts are also available. Viewers should bear in mind that the offer is always changing; some recordings are available only for a certain period of time, which keeps visitors on their toes and looking forward to new contributions. It is an excellent way to break up your quarantine routine. Link: https://rokdivadla.sk/online-predstavenia
As a result of the current circumstances, the unique anniversary of theatre arts and culture commemorated by the Year of Slovak Theatre 2020 is currently playing out in the virtual environment. We can only hope that it won’t be too long before it returns to theatres.
Photo: Jozef Gregor Tajovský: STATKY – ZMÄTKY, Nová scéna Bratislava, 22. 11. 1972, Photo Archive of Theatre Institue