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Theatre of Bolek Polívka

Johann Monter

alias Mrštík Brothers Theatre, Free Theatre, By Jacob Theatre, Municipal Regional Theatre, Satirical Theatre Evening Brno
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)10. 's 20. century | construction
The house N. 5 is located in a residential block of houses. From the exterior, the building seems to be 5-storeyed (including the original part), however, the interior contains one more mezzanine storey, where the theatre hall is located. The building was designed by Maxim Johann Monter, the construction was carried out in the first decade of the 20th century (probably between 1905–1908).
(detail)1947 | opening
A large repair could be expected after the end of the Second World War, during which the front part of the house was damaged. From 1947, the house served to the Free Theatre.
(detail)1954 | Alteration

(detail)1966 | alteration
From 10th July until 30th August of 1966, the renovation works were implemented.The venue was reopened on 1st September of 1966 to spectators.
(detail)17.9.1993 | opening
The first season of the Theatre of Bolek Polívkawas inaugurated by a play Castaway.. Polívka created one of the first completely private theatres, existing from its own earnings, respectively sponsor's donations, without help of municipal or regional subsidies.
(detail)90. 's 20. century | alteration

People

Johann Monter |main architect
(detail)Miloš Tomek |architect

Stage designer of high influence on the form of the contemporary Czech stage design appearance. Exceptionally he designed reconstruction of the buildings.

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History

The Theatre of Bolek Polívka has continued the  long tradition of theatre by placing its venue into the house N. 5 on  Jakubské Square. The space of the ground and first floor was used by several actors groups and companies already in the past.

From 1947, the house served to the Free Theatre that was renamed to the Municipal Regional Theatre shortly thereafter, subsequently the Mrštík Brothers Theatre. The last above mentioned company had to vacate the building in 1965 during one of the many reorganization campaigns and move to the Lidická Street. The released hall at Jakubské Square was given to the Satirical Theatre Evening Brno.

The Satirical Theatre deserves more detailed attention for its length of operation in the monitored building. In 1959, “the occasionalvariety show Evening Brno premiered – occasional because its main purpose was to entertain visitors of the Brno Expo. It perhaps was not so much about establishing a new theatre. However, a cabaret, acknowledging “communal satire” by its programme, captured attention. The company found  […]a permanent stage in the Juran’s house from the following season. And it inscribed the name of its first performance into its coat of arms.

The theatre played in the Puppet Theatre Joy in Bratislavská Street in the first year, afterwards it moved into the People’s House in Husovice. It moved into Jakubské Square in the middle of the 1960s. In 1988, the Evening Brno entered into union with hitherto independent venues – the Mrštík Brothers Theatre and Puppet Theatre Joy, thus an organization came into existence with the name Brno Theatres by an unwanted merger. The so called delimited venues jointly performed until 1st April of 1990. After their separation, the company did not return to the original name and assumed the new one, By Jacob Theatre. Not for very long: “ When the season 1991–1992 brought about very awkwardresults, the operator that was the  municipal government of Brno decided to terminate the activity of  the By Jacob Theatrewith consent of the Ministry of Culture on 21st August of 1992. The decision was a bit premature and the company complied with a feeling of injustice”. The main reason was especially financial difficulties.“Since September 1992, the theatre does not have any means for necessary operational costs, for salaries of employees and provision for a new theatre season”. The Theatre of Bolek Polívka became a successor of the defunct venue.    

We know little about the history of the building. Design documentation was destroyed during fire at the end of the Second World War. The building was designed by Maxim Johann Monter, the construction was carried out in the first decade of the 20th century (probably between 1905–1908). The house N. 5 is located in a residential block of houses. From the exterior, the building seems to be 5-storeyed (including the original part), however, the interior contains one more mezzanine storey, where the theatre hall is located.

The high ground floor with by banded rustication is broken by three large entrance openings with  semi-circular vaults. A massive lintel separates the actual entrance section from the top skylight that is covered by obscure  glass. The girder above the central two-leaf doors carries an inscription Theatre of Bolek Polívka, emphasized by a symbol of a stage with a characteristic attribute of an actor – a red clown nose. The central fanlight is topped by a distinctive keystone, decorated by an embossed mask and initials KD. The remaining area of the ground floor is filled by advertising and information panels and rectangular niches.  The first floor is delineated by a couple of moulded plat bands. The surface between them is articulated by six window openings, closed by a semicircle, mutually separated by low, embedded pilasters with a rectangular protecting panel and square base.

The salient feature of the facade is composed of a triangular oriel window fastening the second and third floors. It lies on a flat corbel of a quatrefoil shape. Each of its walls is lightened by one window axis and its is topped by a small pyramidal roof with a two level “small pagoda” being attached by a “broken”  star. In both the floors on the sides, the architect inserted  oriel windows of two compound, rectangular windows on one axis and in the level of its roof then four couples of small window openings. The facade is topped by a gable that gradually tapers with a small, oblong window. Individual steps are covered by small hips roofs. Two dormer-windows project from the volume of the roof. The surface around the windows contain a moderately projected relief frame, broad bases and distinctive sills and hood mouldings.

The main entrance of the building leads into a long corridor with a barrel vault with a couple of opposite large mirrors, from where entrances are opened to all sections of the auditorium. There is a theatre club named the Last Hunt on the right, behind a short staircase that interconnects two altitude levels of the building, and administrative section on the left. A cash desk follows and the last doors on the left lead to a storage facility. The corridor is closed  by a couple of staircases – to the higher floors on the right and the direct one into the theatre hall. Black balusters on the side staircase makes a reference to the name, respectively to the logo of the theatre, being topped by a red compressed hemisphere – the clown nose of Bolek Polívka. The name of the theatre is also in the top lunette of a wrought grille above the access staircase. The foyer is entered through a short staircase. The large rectangular space is divided by two massive squared columns. From the foyer, there is an access to a cloak room that is inserted into one of two deep niches on the right side and to a buffet on the right side and to toilets. A single flight staircase leads from an entrance on the right to a balcony in the first floor. Almost the entire side of the foyer is occupied by four two-leaf doors to the hall. They are complemented by low doors to female, respectively male dressing rooms on both the sides.  

The passing in the auditorium is secured by a couple of side aisles that moderately slope towards the stage. The front side of the proscenium is covered by a wooden “impediment” that is bevelled in the upper section, visually separating the stage from the first row of seats. Short side staircases lead from the auditorium to the stage. The rectangular proscenium arch is not articulated. In a simple, even plainly arranged hall, attention is captured by a ceiling construction, covered with acoustic panels and shallow squared mirrors. The capacity of the hall is 314 seats in the present days.

The balcony with two rows of seats occupies the entire width of the hall. Adjacent broad corridors on the sides serve as the technical background, light were inserted in carved lunettes above the auditorium. The rear section of the balcony is occupied by a sound and lighting booth with three oblong windows. The rooms adjacent to it serve as a storage facility and workshop.

The building underwent some modifications in the course of the years. A large repair could be expected after the end of the Second World War, during which the front part of the house was damaged. We are informed in full detail of a reconstruction from the middle of the 1960s. However, the final result did not correspond at all to the initial designs and plans in this case. The intended general reconsttruction was related to the change of the stage user: the original company of the Mrštík Brothers Theatre was leaving the area and the new tenant should have been the Satirical Theatre Evening Brno. Renovation should have taken place at the end of 1965 and should have affected especially the interior.

Scenery director of the Evening Brno Miloš Tomek worked out a design in February of 1965; he was focused on innovation of the stage, floor and proscenium arch- „the project contained modifications of the floor with two turntables, modification of the sides of the hall with a possibility of a stable setting of an orchestra pit, with renewal of cloak rooms and a conversion of the balcony into a department for study rooms and reduction of the number of seats”. He subsequently consulted his concept with employees of the Institute of Stage Design (ScÚ) in Prague. After modifications and corrections, a design of so called Raumtheatr came into existence. It was a new, modern concept “that does not have an analogy in the present stage design” and that could help to “discover new stageexpressional means” Apart of Tomek, the design was made in cooperation with Miroslav Kouřil, Jaroslav Beneš and Vladimír Vladimírovič (the design of the engineering components), Vladimír Čáp (design of the stage lights), P. Lotz and Pošmourná. According to the main designer, the designed space enables “chamber drama experimenting. It is solved it the world by one building of a “double theatre” […]; we have been resolved it economically by a modification here in Brno”. The completion of basic documents was delayed and the reconstruction was in a standstill. The Satirical Theatre thus accepted its new seat in a completely critical condition on 1st November  of 1965. The original user excused this fact by stating that they were given the theatre of the Mahen Drama Theatre in Lidická Street also in a completely inconvenient state; because of this, they had dismantled  “everything in the theatre [ on Jakubské Square] apart of flooring and seats. So it happens that the theatre has been taken over in a completely dilapidated state, especially the auditorium, where only bare walls have remained after the upholstery had been removed.

 The Satirical Theatre initiated at least the most basic building interventions so the season could commenced. The first play of the new ensemble was the Magic Night. The makeshift persisted until the summer of 1966. The Satirical Theatre was struggling with attendance at that time apart of building complications. It is certainly possible to look for its cause in the conditions that prevailed in the theatre: “ The stage is without technical equipment for the most basic needs, wiring is provisional in the area of the entire state, social facilities partially reconstructed, backstage in provisional state, the auditorium and balcony in a state before completion

The view of the prepared and constantly delayed project was changed in such an atmosphere. According to the ensemble members, it “will not correspond to plans of stage direction and production”. The entire “chapter of the Raumtheatr” was definitely concluded by departure of Mr. Tomek from the employment relationship.

The persisting emergency conditions were solved in the end by a replacement of the director of the Satirical Theatre. The new one, Miroslav Zejda, enforced a reconstruction, which was carried out at a rapid rate in comparison with the previous period. From 10th July until 30th August of 1966, the works were implemented as “ erection of the iron structure of a lightning bridge and catwalks  […] with a track for suspension of a curtain with a possibility of a control form the side […] erection and suspension of a false, covering proscenium arch (the front of the hall), made out of wooden frames, covered by plywood and upholstered by grey-blue plush curtains […], suspension of a curtain with a control”. This continued on the stage with “ a repair of the original supports of the floor, raising the  whole floor by 20 cm and laying of the new material on the entire surface […], modification of the side forestages by bevelling so the area in front of the stage was enlarged and the orchestra pit reduced”. The central heating was repaired under the stage. Higher comfort on the balcony was brought by “ raising the rear row of seats by 30 cm”, installation “ of separating elements of boxes and numeration and its furnishing by upholstered seats” and “ upholstering the rear wall of the hall by a covering material, the same one as in the auditorium, which is of high importance for the acoustic environment of the entire hall”. It was concluded by “erection of separate side boxes each with 7 seats

The former props storage room was converted into dressing rooms for orchestra and technical personnel, a final modification of the director and dramaturge office was carried out, the sound booth was equipped etc. Air-ventilation and appearance of the ceiling (it did not correspond to acoustical requirements and it did not also match the room appearance) in the hall has remained unsolved. New seats were being considered as well.  Pešťál  and  Heisar cooperated on the project as the authors. The venue was reopened on 1st September of 1966 to spectators. In the 1970s, some considerations occurred concerning installation of new seats (1970), reconstruction of the ceiling in the hall and exchange of the stage lights (1971). The auditorium had a capacity of 357 seats at that time. Technical characteristics from 1973 clarified the inner structure of the Satirical Theatre and location of its services. Apart of the actual theatre on Jakubské Square N. 5,  technical background belonged to it in N. 4. The theatre management had a seat at Šiligr Square N. 2. Scenery storage was located in a barn in Bosonohy.

Another from many designs that attempted to improve the conditions and appearance of the stage came into existence in 1980. It was designed by Lubor Lacina under the name “Theatre Evening Brno. Reconstruction and interiors”. He attempted to simplify the work with set pieces (so far they were carried over the public area) and to modify the interior of the auditorium (reconstruction of the proscenium arch walls, ceiling, reduction of the number of seats, their modification), balcony ( he designed it as a box type, divided into nine small chamber compartments), foyer, vestibule, buffet, club room. He tried to relocate the direction from the Šilingrovo Square back to the Jakubské Square at the same time. He considered conversion of the first floor for administrative executives and the loft for workshops and ateliers. The architect submitted a concept of “ the art layout of interiors of the Satirical Theatre Evening Brno” in the same year, however, neither this has been implemented.

Only a record has remained from the reconstruction and modernization design of the engine plant and execution of necessary building modifications from 1989. It seemed necessary to replace the roof cladding (it was leaky),to improve the stage, auditorium, backstage and all the technical equipment.  

Despite an array of designs and plans, the theatre space gradually dilapidated and was technically backward. The level of neglect is documented by a prohibition on manipulation with fly bars, proscenium wall and rear catwalk from 1989. The entire stage equipment was evaluated as irreparable a year later. The venue, having the name Theatre by Jacob, was struggling with considerable financial difficulties since it became independent in 1990. Promised building interventions were constantly postponed. The first mention of possible demise of the theatre appeared in 1991. The actual liquidation of the theatre was accepted by representatives of the Ministry of Culture and the Brno municipal government in August of the following year.

The new use of the released area was being decided by the Brno municipal council in January of 1993. They selected the concept of Petr Bílek and Boleslav Polívka, who proposed to establish the Theatre of Bolek Polívka, as the best from the submitted projects. A trial run was entered on 14th May of 1993, a play Castaway premiered at the beginning of the first season on 17th September of the same year. Polívka created one of the first completely private theatres, existing from its own earnings, respectively sponsor's donations, without help of municipal or regional subsidies.

Alarming shortcomings of the stage, as building as technical,  had to be removed. Large financial sums, which the reconstruction required, were mentioned in the period press in relation with unclear financial claims between the Brno city and Theatre of Bolek Polívka. Bolek Polívka remarks to this that:” it is not simple to be an owner of a theatre. Before it got renovated, it took a lot of my energy. We reconstructed the roof, water piping, toilets, wiring, together with Petr  Bílek, we dedicated so much endeavour to it that I had tics: Does not rain? Does water leak into the theatre? Is the spigot clogged up? While performing, I caught myself listening, if water was not leaking somewhere”.

Extensive building modifications were carried out still in the Summer of 2010, when dressing rooms and foyer were renovated and windows were exchanged.

The theatre today offers a wide variety of plays and productions. An indispensable component of the repertoire is productions of hosting ensembles, respectively actors.

A “sister” venue of the Theatre of Bolek Polívka in Prague- Uhříněves under the name „U 22“ was ceremonially opened on 15th September of 2011. The intended programme is relatively rich – theatre plays are going to be complemented by “concerts, forums”, work with children as well, “it is going to be a place for shows, exhibitions, balls and other cultural and social events. Exhibitions are going to take place in the foyer of the theatre.

 

Sources and literature:

–  Archiv města Brna, fond O 5, Divadlo u Jakuba

–  Národní památkový ústav, územní odborné pracoviště Brno, evidenční list nemovité kulturní památky č. 7331

–  L. Bařinková (red.), 10 let Satirického divadla Večerní Brno, Brno 1969

–  Pavel Harvánek - Rudolf Žák, Satirické divadlo Večerní Brno 30 let, Brno 1989

–  Marek Pivovarov, Divadlo Bolka Polívky: Čekání na renesanci, Divadelní noviny 3, 1994, č. 7 (5. 4.), s. 1 a 4

–  Lubor Mareček, Divadlo Bolka Polívky je i není domem s dobrou divadelní pověstí, Mladá fronta Dnes IX, 1998, č. 183 (7. 8.), s. 17

–  (mlk), Divadlo Bolka Polívky může v nové sezoně změnit nájemce, Mladá fronta Dnes IX, 1998, č. 183 (7. 8.), s. 16

–  (bí), Divadlo Bolka Polívky možná přijde o střechu, Slovo 90, 1998, č. 207 (4. 9.), s. 3

–  Zdeněk Smejkal – Vladimír Fux, Bylo nebylo. Satirické divadlo Večerní Brno 1959 – 1992, Brno 1999

–  Pavel Zatloukal, Příběhy z dlouhého století, Olomouc 2002

–  Pavel Zatloukal, Brněnská architektura 1815 – 1915. Průvodce, Brno 2006

–  Markéta Stulírová – Veronika Zabadalová, Smutek utek. Ze scény Provázku i Divadla Bolka, Brněnský deník, 2010, 15. 9., http://brnensky.denik.cz/kultura_region/smutek-utek-ze-sceny-provazku-i-divadla-bolka.html (vyhledáno 29. 12. 2011)

–  Dora Viceníková, Bolek Polívka na scénu! Představení začíná, Brněnský deník, 2009, 30. 7., http://brnensky.denik.cz/kultura_region/bolek-polivka-na-scenu-predstaveni-zacina20090730.html (vyhledáno 27. 12. 2011)

–  Markéta Stulírová, Krapek: Boleslav Polívka nahlédne do světa celebrit, Brněnský deník, 2010, 26. 8., http://brnensky.denik.cz/kultura_region/krapek-boleslav-polivka-nahledne-do-sveta-celebrit.html (vyhledáno 27. 12. 2011)

–  Divadlo Bolka Polívky od září 2011 už i v Praze. „divadlo v naději“. Tisková zpráva, Uhříněves, 31. srpna 2011

–  Divadlo Bolka Polívky má svoji pobočku v Praze-Uhříněvsi, České noviny, 2011, 31. 8., http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/kultura/divadlo/zpravy/divadlo-bolka-polivky-ma-svoji-pobocku-v-praze-uhrinevsi/681606 (vyhledáno 27. 12. 2011)

 

 

Tags: terraced house, theatre hall

 

Author: Kateřina Kohoutkova - Gabrhelíková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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