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The Drama Club

Milada Pavlíková-Petříková

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1932 | construction

The Drama Club is located in the house that was designed for the first feminist association, the Czech Women´s Club. First Czech architect-woman Milada Petříková-Pavlíková designed the building with furniture in 1929 and the construction was carried out in 1931–1932 by the firm of Václav Nekvasil. It was authorized for use by a building control officer already in January of 1932. The building, which served as a women dormitory, contained a lecture hall and meeting rooms in the basement.


(detail)1965 | Drama club

The theatre itself is located in the basement, in the location of the former lecture hall. The amateur studio Čin moved into this space as the first one during the war (1941–1942) from the Civic Club. Still during the war, the Větrník Theatre performed here in 1944. The Semafor Theatre commenced its activity on the stage of the Ve Smečkách Theatre in 1959. The theatre became a seat of the Drama Club in 1965.


(detail)80. 's 20. century | reconstruction

The first major reconstruction of the hall, which was not very convenient for theatre including modification of the ground floor vestibule, was carried out during 1983–1986 according to the design by architect Petr Fuchs. The architect did not violate the original architectural concept of the hall by Milada Pavlíková-Petříková that is clearly visible up to the present day.


(detail)90. 's 20. century | reconstruction

The reconstruction of the theatre is related to the acquisition of a structure in the yard of the house in 1990. In 1990–1999, the Drama Club gradually enlarged the space, which interconnected the theatre with the acquired building (the modifications were designed by Jan Gruber). The gradual reconstruction was completed in 2002 by architect Karel Doubner.


People

(detail)Milada Pavlíková-Petříková |main architect
Czech architect. She graduated in 1921 as the first female architect in Czechoslovakia. She designed, among others, what is today called the The Drama Club in Prague, which was before WWII the seat of a women's organization.

Karel Doubner |architect
Jan Gruber |architect
Petr Fuchs |architect
Josef Mezera |architect

History

The Drama Club is located in the house that was designed for the first feminist association, the Czech Women´s Club. The founders of the association were among other the wife of T. G. Masaryk,  Charlotta Masaryková. The Czech Women´s Club came into existence on 10th  September of 1902 and united eleven female associations at the beginning. In 1928, the Building Society of the Czech Women´s Club was founded with the task to build a house for society usage. Initiators were senator Františka Plamínková ( executed in the first years of the Nazi occupation), Alice Masaryková and first Czech architect-woman Milada Petříková-Pavlíková (1895–1985), who designed the building with furniture.

The construction was financed by donations, member dues and loan from the Accident Insurance Company. The construction was designed in 1929 and carried out in 1931–1932 by the firm of Václav Nekvasil. It was authorized for use by a building control officer already in January of 1932. The building, which served as a women dormitory, contained a lecture hall and meeting rooms in the basement. A library and restaurant were a part of the house as well.

The house of the Women´s Club served as a centre for several female organizations as for instance the Female League for Peace and Freedom, Committee for Women's Suffrage or Women's National Council. The last organization was a place of work for  Milada Horáková, who was a member of the committee for many years until the violent termination of the activity of the Czech Women´s Club on 27th September of 1949.  

The property was transferred to the communist Council of Women in 1949 and later to the volunteer organization called the Czechoslovakian Union of Women. The Ministry of Interior abolished  the Building Society of the Czech Women´s Club on 28th  September according to the law  N. 110/1950 and government ordinance N. 195/1950, the national administration was imposed on the building in September of 1952 and the property was handed over to the Prague Housing Company. The house was nationalized in 1955. The property was transferred to the main city of Prague – the Prague District 1 in 1994 by a decision of the Ministry of Finance.

The theatre itself is located in the basement, in the location of the former lecture hall. The amateur studio Čin moved into this space as the first one during the war (1941–1942) from the Civic Club. Still during the war, the Větrník Theatre performed here in 1944. The Semafor Theatre commenced its activity on the stage of the Ve Smečkách Theatre in 1959. The hall was already not in a good condition by that time. This became a convenient pretext to hinder the Semafor’s activity– an alleged quick reconstruction of the theatre, which should have been completed during summer months of  1961, was prolonged to the following years and the Semafor was not permitted to return to the theatre. The basement space was considered to be inconvenient for theatre and it seemed that no more plays would be performed here. Only minor modifications had remained from the planned reconstruction and the theatre was again opened after a break. The cabaret theatre Paravan played here without any complications from the season 1962/63 until the end of the season 1964/65. The theatre became a seat of the recently founded Drama Club in 1965.

The first major reconstruction of the hall that was not very convenient for theatre including modification of the ground floor vestibule was carried out during 1983–1986 according to the design by architect Petr Fuchs (born 1948), an absolvent of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague by Josef  Svoboda. The architect did not violate the original architectural concept of the hall by Milada Pavlíková-Petříková that is clearly visible up to the present day. The auditorium is composed of a small hall encircled by a balcony and shallow stage. Darker shades here replaced the playful colours of the lecture hall. According to the architect’s own words : “the entire art concept was based on use of cheap, however practical materials – hard-burned bricks, blackemery – acoustic, flavoursome colours in the vestibule etc. Actually, nothing else was available here at that time.

Architect Fuchs furnished the theatre with new lightning, supplemented the shallow stage with fly bars and restored the original system of air conditioning. It was necessary to enlarge dressing rooms, social facilities for actors, office and bar due to confined conditions.  

The second reconstruction of the theatre is related to the acquisition of a structure in the yard of the house in 1990. In 1990–1999, the Drama Club gradually enlarged the space, which interconnected the theatre with the acquired building (the modifications were designed by Jan Gruber). Two new rear entrances were added to the original side entrances and a new storage facility for set pieces came into existence.  In 1999, the acquired building in Ve Smečkách 28 became an administrative building and rehearsal room of the Drama Club. The gradual reconstruction was completed in 2002 by architect Karel Doubner. The backstage and foyer were enlarged. The stage and auditorium were not affected by any essential modification with exception of seat exchange, creation of a new ninth row and rear access to the stage.

The Drama Club came into existence in 1965 as a part of the State Theatre Studio. It was promoted by director Ladislav Smoček and dramaturge Jaroslav Vostrý, who also became the first art director of the theatre. The first production of the Drama Club was the Picnic by Ladislav Smoček under his direction. The Drama Club became one of the most popular Prague venues during the single season. The popularity of its actors grew with every new production and in a while, several became protagonists of famous movies of the so called “new wave” of the end of the 1960s. The Drama Club was and still is “a theatre of directed actors” – the theatre’s directors never applied effective direction method except for actors’ means.

The hall of the Drama Club played an important part in the events of 1989: the Civic Forum was founded here on 19th November.

Sources and Literature:

–  Úřad Městské části Praha 1, archiv odboru výstavby, spis domu čp. 594/II

–  Činoherní klub 1965–2005, Praha 2006

–  Mirek Vodrážka, Církve versus Náhrobní kámen Ženského klubu českého, Britské listy 24. 1. 2008, online: blisty.cz/art/38544.html

–  Česká divadla. Encyklopedie divadelních souborů, Praha 2000, s. 386, 426, 426

 

Tags: basement theatre, Functionalism, Interwar period, terraced house

 

Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Jan Purkert

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