enczsksiplhudeitsvhrespt
/ enMain menu 
Navigation:  Theatre Database
EN | CS

Theatres and theatre projects by Joan Brehms

Joan Brehms

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1958 | Revolving stage
The most famous Brehm´s realization, revolving theatre in the garden of Český Krumlov Château is described in individual entry (see).
(detail)60. 's 20. century | designs of spatial arrangement of theatre hall
Brehms, a jury member in course of the competition for South Bohemia Theatre in České Budějovice, was helping to work out the winning design by Bohumil Kříž and Vladimír Syrovátko after its end (1960–1962).
(detail)60. 's 20. century | “An experiment with two auditoriums”
One of Brehms’ attempts to destroy the proscenium stage constellation occurred in historical building of South Bohemia Theatre. He built up podium with four rows of seats for 60 spectators directly onto stage for performance of Timing of the shrew by Shakespeare (1962–1963).
(detail)1963 | Circle theatre
In Masquerade hall of the Chateau in Český Krumlov, Brehms arranged the spectators on the steps, placed around staging area for the production of  Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard (premier on 29th June, direction J. Schmidt). Variable arrangement on the border of arena stage and circle theatre, where the auditorium surrounds the area with actors from all the sides, represents actually a spatial opposite of revolving stage.
(detail)1965 | circle theatre with rotating centre
Brehms arranged five differently large podiums with five rows of seats round the stage in the form of elongated hexagon, enriched by turntable, which was inserted in the centre, in the space of the Cloister of Dominican Order monastery in České Budějovice. Stage area, surrounded by spectators from all the sides, which can rotate at any desired speed, brought  new production possibilities.
(detail)1968 | Theatre with pendular auditorium
Brehms designed   two-part auditorium with one half being lifted hydraulically, in December 1967 afterwards being located at  the Karlštejn castle courtyard.New production of Night at Karlštejn  had a premier in it on 28th July 1968 here.
(detail)1969 | Theatre with revolving auditorium and stage
First variant of the project of Design of polydimensional theatre device is apparently dated back to 1969, however, Brehms  was working on it another several years. Walter Gropius and his design of the so called Total Theatre (Totaltheater, 1927) was the apparent source of Brehms´ inspiration here.
(detail)70. 's 20. century | Revolving auditorium in enclosed space (1977), variable circle theatre (1978)
So called Studio scene  in  South Bohemia Theatre  České Budějovice in was exoisting between 1977-1983, where Brehms created successively several spatial solutions for chamber productions.
(detail)80. 's 20. century | Design of polydimensional theatre in enclosed area
The texts about Brehms mention repeatedly the design of polydimensional theatre in enclosed area, in which he was engaged between 1980–1983 and finished it in 1985. More detailed description as reproduction of the design as well  is not available.

People

Jacques Polieri |architect
(detail)Bohumil Kříž |architect
His main creative period was in the 1960s, when he won numerous competitions. It was the first prize for an extension of the National Theatre (1959), the first prize for the South Bohemia Theatre in České Budějovice and again the first prize in the second stage of the same tendering. He realized numerous residential buildings in Prague districts of Pankrác, Podolí and Černošice.More theatres

Milan Fridrich |art director

History

The activity of  stage designer and theatre architect Joan Brehms is to that degree extraordinary that we dedicated an individual entry to his selected realizations. He himself did not design nor built any theatre building, however, in his projects he explored and surpassed borders of traditional theatre space and the relation between stage and auditorium  on the frontier of stage designing and theatre architecture.

Latvian native Brehms studied art history in Jena and sculpture in Erfurt. He worked as a stage designer in many European theatres since 1927 (Lübeck, Riga, Breslau, Brzeg, Brandenburg, Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk); he was impressed by the experiments of Russian avant-garde, German theatre between the wars and, first of all, the ideas of Bauhaus architects and artists.  He settled in Jihočeské divadlo (South Bohemia Theatre) in České Budějovice (hereafter JD, viz. related entry), where he was working since following season until 1979 as an art director. First post-war exterior performances of JD are indirectly related to its complicated situation: the old building had been destroyed and outdoor performances were meant to substitute the missing space.

JD made several performances on the staircase in front of České Budějovice Sokol hall in 1945 (variety show Revoluce (The Revolution), Lysistrata by Aristophanes). Other Brehm´s exterior projects came into existence within the first two seasons of Jihočeský divadelní festival (South Bohemia Theatre Festival) (hereafter JDF), of which concept he participated together with at that time director of JD Karel Konstantin. They realized series of productions in the garden of Český Krumlov Château (in front of the Bellarie folly or by the cascade fountain). These productions took place on traditional auditorium-stage ground plan; only in following years Brehms started to explore systematically both general possibilities of exterior stage  and above all, the limits of the relation between auditorium and stage and their linking.

 

Český Krumlov, Château garden: Revolving auditorium (1958)

The most famous Brehm´s realization, revolving theatre in the garden of Český Krumlov Château is described in the individual entry (viz.).

 

České Budějovice, Jihočeské divadlo (South Bohemia Theatre): designs of spatial arrangement of a theatre hall  (1960–1962)

The competition for the new building of JD was proceeding in two stages in 1959–1960. After its end, Brehms, a jury member in the course of the competition, was helping to work out the winning design by Bohumil Kříž and Vladimír Syrovátko. His sketches of spatial solution of the main hall have been preserved. Variable system of rising and lowering platforms or traps in the combination with closure or obscuring of hall segment should have enabled different spatial solution for different applications. There appears some versions of a drama stage (with the distinction whether it is a classical or modern production), two differently large versions of a circle stage surrounded by spectators, a variant for opera production, an arrangement for the utilization of the hall for a wide-screen cinema and even “a conference or congress”. It is not clear how much these designs represent Brehms’ own work or just further elaboration of original ideas; the versions of used spatial solution have appeared in other Brehms’ realizations. Designs of the building have remained only on the paper in the end.  Brehms returned to them once again in other designs in the second half of the 1980s, but even then the idea of a new theatre failed to be revived.

 

České Budějovice, Jihočeské divadlo (South Bohemia Theatre): “An experiment with two auditoriums” (1962–1963)

It was apparent already in 1962 that the new theatre building in České Budějovice would not be erected in the near future. Hence another Brehms’ attempt to destroy the proscenium-stage layout occurred in the historical building of JD. He built up a podium with four rows of seats for 60 spectators directly onto stage for the performance of the Taming of the shrew by Shakespeare (premiere on 20th January 1963, direction Milan Fridrich). The stage area between it and the auditorium was transformed from a proscenium stage, visible from only one side, into a chamber scene viewed from several sides.

According to the Brehms’ very own words, this was the first step in his way to „ surpass usual axial theatre expression, which is rooted in outer expression of Baroque theatre and is losing  validity in the theatre, in which the main concern is the inner expression. […]   Everything  tends towards this one goal: to find and to realize a closer contact, a more vivid relationship between the spectator and the actor[…] the entire scene was lighten from all the sides, auditorium and stage were artistically interconnected in one theatre space. Every illusiveness and descriptiveness of the space fell away and was surpassed, only theatre scene in theatre space remained in the place  where the actor was standing in the spotlights, was speaking, was acting.

The lesson is huge: we would need new theatre space, in which we could further develop and work out our new ideas. We must not stop moving, we must move onward now, because we all have experienced the rightness of taken way of searching for new theatre forms of the future.“

 

Český Krumlov, Masquerade hall of the Château: Circle theatre (1963)

With rising popularity of the revolving auditorium in the Český Krumlov Château garden, productions in it became a main part of JDF. The initial concept of the festival was, however, wider and productions were conceived  to be performed in other rooms of Château area as well.  Productions began to be performed in the unique Baroque Château theatre already in 1957 (Il Signor Brushino by Gioachino Rossini,  premier on 15th June 1958, direction Otto Haas) and two years later, even the original stage machinery for scenery exchange was set in motion (Molière, Tartuffe, premier on 17th  June 1961, direction  M. Fridrich).

Although brochure of JD states that the Château theatre was “retrieved to J. Brehms’ credit“; in fact, careless usage contributed considerably to accelerating deterioration of the theatre and its equipment. It was clear with increasing objections, pointing out the harmfulness of such productions for preservation of this unique monument, that it was going to be necessary to find another location for productions of JDF. Performances of JDF took place in the Château Masquerade Hall  for the first time in 1963. Brehms arranged the spectators on the steps, placed around stage area for the production of  Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard (premier on 29th June, direction J. Schmidt). Variable scheme on the border of arena stage and circle theatre, where the auditorium surrounds the area with actors from all the sides, represents actually a spatial opposition of the revolving stage.

Brehms developed similar solution in the exterior of České Budějovice Dominican monastery cloister of in 1965 and after another twelve years again in the interior of so called Divadlo za oponou (The Theatre Behind the Curtain) in Karlovy Vary and above all, in the studio scene in JD in České Budějovice (see onwards).

 

České Budějovice, Cloister of Dominican Order monastery: circle theatre with rotating centre (1965)

The success of Český Krumlov productions led apparently to the idea of enlarging the supply of similar productions even in České Budějovice. The 700th anniversary of city privileges acquisition was considered to be a convenient opportunity for it and the cloister of Dominican Order monastery in the centre of the town was chosen as a convenient location. Brehms arranged five differently large podiums with five rows of seats round the stage in the form of an elongated hexagon, enriched by a turntable, which was inserted in the centre, in the intimate space of the cloister with projecting object of the chapel. Stage area, surrounded by spectators from all the sides, could rotate at any desired speed and brought new production possibilities; a comparison with movie camera appeared several times alike as it was in the commentaries to the revolving auditorium.

This location staged Fillipo by Vittorio Alfieri in 1965 (premiere on 3rd July, direction M. Fridrich) and dramatization of Božena Benešová’s  Don Pablo, don Pedro a Věra Lukášová (premier on 10th  July, direction Zdeněk Míka) and the actors returned to the same place in another two seasons. M. Friedrich commented the end of this scene later remarkably:„The Holy Church felt a lot of repulsion towards the worldly spirit of the theatre and put out the claws after January 1968 and ,within ,democracy‘ it did not allow ,the  desecration ‘ of monastery property.“

 

Karlštejn  castle courtyard: Theatre with a pendular auditorium (1968)

20 year tradition had been maintained by summer productions of the Night at Karlštejn by Jaroslav Vrchlický directly on the courtyard of Karlštejn Castle, when its organization and implementation was taken over by at that time Jaroslav Průcha Theatre in Kladno in 1965. Monumental scenery of the Castle in front of an ordinary pitched wooden auditorium was ideal for more populous exterior scenes, but it was disturbing in the more intimate parts of the play. Brehms designed new solution, two-part auditorium with one half being lifted hydraulically, in December 1967.

Roughly trapezoid ground plan of the castle courtyard in front of burgrave building was almost completely filled up with the auditorium construction sloping down to stage area with the castle in the background. A horizontal platform interrupted the rows of seats, widening downwards, roughly in the middle. With lifting of the lower part, there emerged two auditoriums, lying against each other and a second, more intimate stage area between them. A component of the first  Brehms´ designs was also the unrealized, small turntable in the middle of central area. Almost one thousand spectators could take a seat in the auditorium, from which more than half (540) on the lifting front part. The construction was being lifted along with spectators, who only turn themselves on the benches  in the course of the play. The construction was constructed by Josef Zeman according to the Brehms´ design, it was realized by firm from Chomutov, Kladno and Slaný. Dual hydraulic cylinders with lifting capacity of 45 tons moved up the front part of auditorium within four minutes into the height of 4,5 metres. Period press evaluated positively the velocity, with which the auditorium was manufactured and set into operation. A new production of the Night at Karlštejn, direction Gerik Císař, had a premier in it on 28th July 1968.

Tested possibilities were only disintegrated by another learn and original Karlštejn romance by Antonín Dvořák (apparently inspired by Krumlov Romance by Kožík for Český Krumlov scene) on the very same auditorium. How long was the construction used  has failed to be traced.

 

Design of polydimensional theatre device: Theatre with revolving auditorium and stage (1969?)

Unrealized design of so called poly dimensional theatre device represents synthesis of former Brehms´ attempts for the most possibly variable theatre space. Data about it are incongruent in various sources: first version of the project is apparently dated back to 1969, however, Brehms was working on it for another several years. Brehms had  the design patented in 1974 (according to another source not until 1979). 

The project arose from the principle of an open-air revolving auditorium. The construction of the turntable is divided into two parts. The lower part, where a segmental, horizontal area is in front of the lowest row, can even rotate independently. A chamber stage area emerges by the turn and the lifting of this part between both the sides of the auditorium.

Walter Gropius and his design of so called Total Theatre (Totaltheater, 1927) was the apparent source of Brehms´ inspiration here. Bipartite auditorium, which Brehms placed into the open-air, was designed originally by Gropius inside the building, which elaborated concept was enabling, apart similarly solved rotation of the lower part of auditorium, even  the projections on the wall around the auditorium. Brehms was close to  Gropius and the ideas of Bauhaus throughout his entire life, he acknowledged them openly and he systematically verified the techniques, merged into one building in Totaltheater, in his former realizations. Gropius´ design had high influence and the thoughts, formulated in it, appeared for several decades in various forms in many theatre projects all over Europe; however it is symptomatic that they have remained only on the paper. In Czech Republic, the principle of Gropius´ Totaltheater is present for instance in competing designs for theatre in Pardubice (Vlastibor Klimeš a Eva Růžičková, 1960).

The principle of Bremhs´ polydimensinonal device is almost a literal quotation of Gropius´ project. Brehms´ credit lies in the translation of Gropius´ scheme into outdoor variant and in its combination with the tested revolving auditorium – the rear part of Gropius´ auditorium was fixed and only the lower part could rotate.

The idea of unrealized Brehms´ design was revived in the contemporary discussion about the revolving auditorium in Český Krumlov: JD considers the realization of polydimensional device, when the existing construction in the Château garden will have expired.

 

České Budějovice, Studio Scene of South Bohemia Theatre: Revolving auditorium in enclosed space (1977), variable circle theatre (1978)

Due to technical causes, it was necessary to close up the building of JD in 1972. Theatre administration of the remained here, stage was used as a rehearsal room, auditorium as a costume storeroom. The stage was functioning at least as so called Studio scene between 1977–1983, where Brehms created successively several spatial solutions for chamber productions.

Small revolving auditorium appeared at the stage at first. The inspiration by Český Krumlov revolving auditorium was manifested in dramaturgy as well: the first performance over here was – alike as it was in Krumlov – the new production of Lost face by Weisenborn (premier 27th March 1977, direction M. Fridrich). The solution, which was tried for the first time in Paris by Jacques Polieri in 1959, was in all probability the first realized attempt of this type in Czech Republic. It appeared before for instance in the competing design by Bohumil Böhm for JD building, inspired unquestionably by Brehms’ Český Krumlov revolving auditorium. However, it had not lasted long within the conditions of JD: after the turntable had been installed on the stage, the ensemble was lacking rehearsal room, which was not possible to replace it by the small side stage, and the small capacity of auditorium, which could accommodate only 68 spectators, was another disadvantage. Another variant of stage utilization was the easily removable mobile platform vehicles for 180-200 spectators, which were set out by Brehms in the circle around a small stage area similarly as before in České Budějovice cloister. He tested the similar solution on the stage of Vítězslav Nezval Theatre in Karlovy Vary as well (A. V. Sukhovo-Kobylin, Krechinsky‘s Wedding, premier 9th. April  1977, direction K. Skladan). It appeared in the production The Mandrake by Machiavelli for the first time (premier on 11th May 1978, direction Kristýna Taberyová) and it was used for other several years in another spatial variations. The advantage was the possibility of pushing aside the platforms and rehearsing on the stage during the day.

Brehms was developing the possibilities of circle theatre with five platforms even in designs from 1982. The operation of the studio scene was terminated in December 1983 due to security reasons.

 

Design of polydimensional theatre in enclosed area (1980–1985?)

The texts about Brehms mention repeatedly the design of polydimensional theatre in enclosed area, in which he was engaged between 1980 and 1983 and finished it in 1985. More detailed description as reproduction of the design is not available, therefore we can only assume that Brehms was developing his previous projects here, because of setting in the interior in all probability in the more closer relation to Gropius’ Totaltheater.

Although Brehms’ solution only usually modifies the older thoughts, his work is extraordinary in the regard, how systematically he was engaged in verification of innovative procedures and, first of all, that he succeeded in their implementation – perhaps more daring or more original thoughts of other authors had been remaining only on the paper during the 20th century. He has succeeded in realizing his experiments without any huge investments in relentless work for a regional theatre, where actually no one had expected them. The more detailed research would require concurrently other answers to other questions, which are emerging by the overview of his work: how and whether Brehms’ spatial innovation was projected into his “everyday” sceneries for proscenium stage, how his projects reflect his – probably even period conditioned – effort for maximal “popularity” of the theatre ( in this regard, the connexion of experimental space with rather popular repertoire is interesting) or if his experiments would have had the same durability, if he would not have set them into the attractive environment of historical monuments. Legacy of his work is still inspirational even today.

 

Literature:

– Joan Brehms, Experiment se dvěma hledišti anebo jeviště hledištěm obklopené…, Acta Scaenographica IV, 1963–1964, č. 3, passim. (back cover)

– Eva Kacetlová, Otevřený prostor studiové scény Jihočeského divadla (Taberyová, Fridrich), in: O současné české režii 2 (Několik konkrétních příkladů) (= České divadlo 8), Praha 1983, pp. 159–168

– Milan Fridrich, 30 kapitol JDF, České Budějovice 1985

– Ladislav Lajcha, Priestorové opusy Joana Brehmsa, Slovenské divadlo XXXIV, 1986, č. 1, pp. 17–68

– Jan Dvořák, Joan Brehms, Praha 1987

– Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, pp. 158–159

 (The majority of Brehms’ realizations were at that time commented by other articles, which are  dispersed in Czech or foreign magazines and newspapers: these text have not yet been – as far as we know – collected.)

 

Tags: Avant-garde

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

Additional information

No information has yet been entered

Add information

Name: The name will be published

Email: The email will not be published

Information: Please enter information about this theatre, at least 10 characters

fiveplusfive=