The Theatre Institute in Bratislava

The Theatre Institute is the only statewide institution focusing on theatric culture in Slovakia. It was founded as an autonomous state organization by the Ministry of Culture of the then Slovak Socialist Republic in 1969, after the Czechoslovak Federation was declared. Its history, however, traces back into the 50´s and is connected with the figure of the influential theatre director Magda Lokvencová-Husáková, who, after her forced departure from the New Scene Theatre, worked in the Slovak National Museum and initiated the foundation of the Department for Theatre Documentation. In 1961 the Bratislava branch of the Prague Theatre Institute launched its activities, creating a solid foundation and structure of an institution, which has, since the 1960´s, become an indelible part of Slovak theatric culture. The Theatre Institute has set the course of systematic mapping of Slovak professional theatre.

Like many other research institutions, the Theater Institute has, in the course of its more than 40-years-long existance, undergone many transformations and re-organizations, often “copying“ more or less auspicious social trends. In the beginnings the working conditions at the Theatre Institute were only provisionary. In 1984 two institutions (one of which was the Theatre Institute) merged into the Institute for Artistic Criticism and Theatre Documentation, with extended mission statement including music, literature and other forms of art. In 1991, after the National Theatre Center was founded, theater professionals had again gained an institution focusing exclusively on theatre. The last transformation of 1999 brought a return to the original name of the Theatre Institute and to its original mission: to act as an archive and as a research and information center for theatre culture in Slovakia. In 2002 the archive of the Theatre Institute gained a special status within the network of State Archives of the Slovak Republic and became an accredited research center.

The largest department of the Institute, the Department of Theatre Documentation and Information Studies collects and systematically processes documentary, archive, library and scenographic material, connected with Slovak professional theatre, dated from 1920 (the foundation of the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava) up till today. It maps the activities of Slovak theatre professionals in all genres: from drama to music theatre, from puppet theatre to dance performances and pantomime. It also studies theatres of various nationalities active in Slovakia after 1945 – Hungarian, Ukraine-Ruthenian and Roma. The focus on Slovak professional theatre notwithstanding, this department also follows the most important activities of amateur theater groups and archives documents on German and Hungarian theatres of 18th and 19th century. The archives of the Theatre Institute include systematic databases (theatre performances, outstanding personalities and thematic guidewords). An integral part of the archive is an extensive library (books, audio-visual recordings).

The Theatre Institute has, in the last decades, focused on collection of archive material on outstanding personalities shaping the face of Slovak professional theatre. Archives include personal papers, correspondence, manuscripts and other historic documents, photographs, director’s books, dramatic texts and other papers, mapping not only the activities of theatre professionals but also of theaters themselves and of theatre-related institutions. The archives include unique collections. To name just a few there is the collection of the founder of Slovak professional scenography Ladislav Vychodil, as well as the posthumous papers of one of the founders of the Slovak National Theatre, the director Janko Borodáč, of the influential director Ján Jamnický, or of the playwright Peter Karvaš. Extensive scenographic collections include more than ten thousand theatre posters, more than a hundred historical models, hundreds of negatives, slides, costume and scene designs by artists of all generations – from the founders of Slovak scenography up to the younger artists. There are also 3D models, scene models, costumes, and puppets... Collections and archive material are regularly entered into the computer information system THEISA and the librarian system WIN/ISIS. These extensive archives serve scientific as well as promotional aims.

The collections of the Theatre Institute are presented to the public in numerous exhibitions, both in Slovakia and abroad. One of the most successful ones is the world exhibition of scenography and theatre architecture Prague Quadriennale. In 1999 the Theatre Institute was awarded a Honorary Prize for its exposition in the section of Theater Architecture; in 2003 the exhibition devoted to the work of Aleš Votava (section National Exposition) was awarded a special Silver medal.

     The main focus of the Department of Research and Publication is to publish texts in Slovak and international theatre studies, theatre theory and history of theatre. There are four editions: Slovak Theatre, Slovak Drama, World Theatre and World Drama. The Theatre Institute publishes annually a basic guide to each theatre season, entitled Theaters in Slovakia. A series of thematic theatre guides reflects the most interesting trends and phenomena in Slovak theater. Promotional booklet Slovak Theatre (published in English) is intended for readers abroad. The series Contemporary Slovak Drama brings English translations of Slovak plays in order to promote their staging abroad.

For the first time a CD ROM database on contemporary Slovak theatre (The Slovak Theatre) was published in English. Internal monthly Theatre News brings basic information on the activities of the Theatre Institute and on latest events in Slovakia and abroad. From 1999 till 2002 the Institute published 29 book-length publications, 5 catalogues and 3 calendars. Most memorable were: Martin Slivka: Slovak Folk Theatre, Ladislav Lajcha: Documents of the Slovak National Theatre 1920 – 1945, Július Barč-Ivan: Collected Dramatic Works, Peter Scherhaufer: Reader in the History of Theater Directing (4 volumes), and translations of plays by S. Witkiewicz, S. Shepard, A. Strinberg.

                 Systematic support of contemporary Slovak drama is also part of the Institute’s activities. In 2000, together with the Theatre of the Slovak National Uprising in Martin (since 2003 the Slovak Chamber Theater) a competition of original Slovak dramatic texts DRAMA was launched, aiming to support both playwrights and the staging of their plays. The most coveted prize for the winner is a guaranteed staging of the play at the Chamber Theater in Martin. Shortlisted plays have been staged in several Slovak theaters –not only in Martin, but also in the Slovak National Theatre, theatre of A. Duchnovič in Prešov, GUnaGU as well as in Studio 12 in Bratislava and were published in the DRAMA miscellany.

The Department of External Relations focuses on contacts with Slovak and foreign theatre milieu, fosters cooperation with theaters, theatre institutes and NGO´s in Slovakia and abroad. Most intense cooperation is between the partner countries of the Visegrad Four - Divadelní ústav Praha (The Theatre Institute Prague), Országos Színháztörténeti Múzeum és Intézet Budapest, (The Hungarian Theatre Museum and Institute Budapest), Muzeum Teatralne Warszawa (The Warsaw Theatre Museum Warsaw). The Visegrad Four cooperation gave rise to a four-year publishing project Visegrad Drama; in 2002 the first miscellany of dramatic text of VF authors was published under the title Svadby (Weddings). This year the VF institutions were joined by Österreichisches Theatermuseum Wien (The Austrian Theatre Museum, Vienna) and the newly founded Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego Warsava (The Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute Warsaw).

In 2001, the former experimental radio studio on Jakubovo Square in Bratislava, was transformed into a small theatre space called Studio12, to host presentations of book publications, theatre projects of contemporary Slovak and international drama, multimedia presentations and lectures and colloquia of Slovak and foreign theatre makers. A new project of the Theatre Institute is the information center PROSPERO, which will provide high quality service to the expert public starting December 2003 – including bookshop, library, video library and Internet. To learn more about the projects of the Theatre Institute, please follow this web link, or the following e-mail address: