January 31, 2006
Divadlo za branou / Theater beyond the Gate
One of the great things about the Winters Collection is its sampling of performing arts posters, three of which advertise productions at the well-known Divadlo za branou (Theater beyond the Gate) in Prague. This theater no longer exists, but it is still remembered as a venue for innovative stagings and top-notch dramaturgy and performances. The theater was started in 1965 by, among others, the director Otomar Krejča and the playwright Josef Topol; in 1972, however, the Ministry of Culture shut it down for vague "technical reasons." (It was revived in 1990 as Divadlo za branou II but had to close for lack of funding in 1995.) At the height of its popularity this theater company had the feel of a workshop, in the Chekhovian tradition, where original, creative ideas could be played out (literally) for experimentation purposes.
The originality and creativity of Divadlo za branou arguably is corroborated by the graphic design of its posters. Here is a poster from 1971 that endorses a double production of Sophocles' tragedies Oedipus and Antigone. [Note: This image is viewable only by UIUC-affiliated patrons who have a NetID and proxy password.] There is something viscerally terrifying about this stark black-and-white illustration of a ravaged head, with what appear to be hollowed-out eyes (recalling Oedipus blinding himself) and a mouth agape, showing mostly black (like the eyes)--as if to suggest a muteness or helplessness. These tragedies by Sophocles are about characters who arrive too late (Antigone has hung herself before Creon can get to her) or come upon realizations too late (Oedipus discovers he murdered his father and that Jocasta is his mother). In a sense, what is a more helpless feeling than comprehending, "What's done is done," and that there is no turning back?
I have been looking for information on "Brom/Kopřiva," the team that designed these posters for Divadlo za branou but, so far, nothing has turned up. If any readers know of possible sources to consult for information on artists with these names, I hope you'll post on the comment board.
Posted by at January 31, 2006 3:28 PM