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Prague Crossroads The New Stage

The National Theatre as a laboratory, forum, or (just) theatre?


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Debate participants: Daniel Špinar, Miroslav Krobot, Kamila Polívková, Jiří Havelka
Guided by: Martin Bernátek

Let us perceive a nation as a battlefield, on which various groups strive to assert their respective versions of the past and future of the country. The attribute national and the related mythology is today largely being made use of by those on the right of the political spectrum for mobilisation against the European Union, non-European cultures and for enforcing conservative values. They have, however, been joined by left-wing parties, initially founded with the aim to promote boundless solidarity. Consequently, citizens have been divided between those who are part of the “nation” and those who are not. Given this situation, should the “National” epithet in the theatre’s very name be rejected or cultivated? How can a national theatre afford a platform to those who do not participate in the societal discourse?
The National Theatre – just like the Czech, or Czechoslovak, nation – was founded as a medium serving the political and cultural emancipation against the German, or Austrian hegemony. According to T. G. Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak President, national revival was an offensive against superficial nationalism. How are national theatres supposed to advance human dignity and freedom, and from what must they emancipate? The debate will also raise other pertinent questions: What purpose and what objectives do national theatres strive to attain as cultural centres in the early 21st century? What base do they form for the contemporary arts and culture itself? What traditions should be evolved and what traditions should be unmade? And what stories should (national) theatres create today?

Martin Bernátek is a theatre researcher and lecturer at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies of the Faculty of Arts of Palacký University in Olomouc, an employee of the Department of Theatre Studies of the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University in Brno and a member of the Board of the Theatre Research Society.

90 minutes + Q&A
In Czech, no interpreting.

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