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Oskar Nedbal Theatre Tábor

František Buldra

alias Ivan Olbracht Theatre (1965–1990), Oskar Nedbal Theatre (since 1990), City Theatre (before 1965)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1841 | Construction of first theatre

Lower part of the building was converted into a theatre (grain was stored in a loft above the theatre hall) in 1840 -1841.


(detail)1886 | Closing of original theatre

The last performance by amateur actors took place in the old building on 26. April of 1886, it was a Fredr’s comedy “Virginal promises”. Last performance ever, comedy “Rabbi´s wisdom” was introduced by Zollner Theatre Company on 15. June 1886.


(detail)4.12.1887 | Opening

The city council decided on construction and inner equipment of the City Theatre in 1886. František Buldra worked out the designs. Construction works were carried out by František Klier. The building was ceremonially opened by a speech of local high school professor Hynka Mejsnar, the overture of The Kiss by Bedřich Smetana and by Šubrt´s drama „Jan Výrava“.


(detail)1937 | alteration

Alteartion of the theatre was carried out during 1937, when simultaneously the so called Tyl´s house was opened (a modern annexe adjoined to the south, rear side of the building), constructed for purposes of the then agile and numerous comunity theatre association. Two pillars, supporting a balcony above the theatre entrance, were removed in the same year.


(detail)60. 's 20. century | reconstruction

Essential reconstruction of the theatre was initiated in 1960. Its main architect was Václav Drozda, the design of the interior of a new theatre hall was prepared by Irma Antonovičová. After five years of reconstruction works, the theatre was ceremonially opened on 31th October of 1965 with Latern by Alois Jirásek.


People

History

The theatre in Tábor is located in Palackého Street, in an extension of a main street (Pražská) from the centre of Tábor to the east. The old theatre building is incorporated into one block with the so called Tyl’s House at the corner in the rear and with a house that was originally residential in Palackého Street, behind which a new auditorium from 1965 is concealed.


Old building

The first theatre in Tábor – if we do not take into account the halls that were occasionally adapted in inns or townsmen’s houses – was erected here between 1840–41 in the ground floor of a municipal granary, which stood from 1836 (other sources state 1838) in a bailey i.e. between two fortification walls by the Prague (sometimes New) gate. It was obviously used with intermissions in the first years – the theatre was alternately performed in a hall in Střelnice and the stage in the granary was even converted into a jury hall for a short period of time in 1849. Already in 1851, boxes in the auditorium were being reconstructed (Josef Kajetán Tyl performed here in the very same year). A new stimulus for the theatrical life was the establishment of an amateur theatre association in 1857 ( and of a committee for construction of a new theatre at the same time? ). The old theatre was reconstructed and newly furnished for this occasion and was provided for instance with a new curtain with a view of Tábor among other thanks to counselor František Fiala. New boxes were designed by school  director František Šanda in 1864–1865: the costs of this alteration were paid from the profit of annual balls that were organized here for several years.  Other modifications were carried out at the stage (trap doors) in 1869 and a need of reconstructing the theatre started being discussed. Seats in the auditorium were refurbished as well still in 1871.  

Counselor Fiala presented a project of reconstruction of the building that was designed by city builder František Klír (Klier) to the city council in 1874. A fund was established for reconstruction of the theatre and the house that was adjacent to the theatre was purchased for future enlargement. However, the project was then postponed for the time being and not before 1882, projects appeared either for radical reconstruction of the theatre in the existing location, or for a new structure on a more convenient location. An expert advice and reconstruction design was requested from František Buldra Sr. (1851–1926) who was a member of the committee for the renewal of the burnt National Theatre between 1881–83. A security committee that was summoned by this occasion for control ascertained that the old theatre, “ the former shed between two fortification walls”, was dangerous, unhealthy and unhygienic – and it was decided to erect a new theatre.

The first designs of reconstruction were presented by Buldra already in the same year, but the discussion about the new appearance  was altered by new regulation  directives and the necessity of determining a new street line; it turned out that it would be necessary to demolish the entire Prague Gate ( that was opposed by a part of public, which tried to thwart it with a reference to its  historic value, but it was not successful and the gate is reminded today only by a ground floor plan that is marked in the pavement.

The construction that was prepared for a long period of time was commenced in 1886. During the entire year, lively correspondence continued with the architect who reworked his designs several times. Competition was announced in August for implementation of the already authorized designs, which was won by city builder Klier.

The old theatre and gate were started being demolished at the beginning of September and the construction  of a new theatre, located roughly in the same location, was already roofed at the Christmas. It was worked on the interior furnishing during the following year of 1887, and the theatre was opened on 4th December with Jan Výrava by František Adolf Schubert after ceremonial speeches and overture. The city covered the majority of costs of 38 447 Guldens.

Scenery for the new theatre was painted by Roman Skála from Royal Vineyards (Královské Vinohrady) who made a little cheaper offer than Robert Holzer and  Kautsky from Vienna in competitive tendering,  announced by the city. Skála also painted an act drop with drapery, which is known from photographs.  Several artists were interested in creating the main, figural curtain. Viktor Oliva, who offered a subject Motherland Listening to Muses, later abandoned his project. Emanuel Boháč, a native from Tábor and disciple of Hans Makart, had in mind the subject Victorious Return of Taborits into  Tábor and obviously worked it out  in details – his sketch was published being named Apotheosis of Jan Žižka. His intent to donate a new curtain to the theatre was announced in the press by another native from Tábor, landowner Nachlninger. None of these curtains has been probably painted.

The theatre in Tábor was electrified in 1904. Large alteration was carried out after 25 years of operation, in 1912, allegedly under supervision of the original designer and builder and after thorough project preparation. The main entrance was modified, cash desk was enlarged and a project for steam heating came into existence among other. In 1922, the theatre was adapted for movie projection, but that moved into a newly built city cinema already two years later. Dressing rooms and chandelier in the auditorium were modified in 1924, two years later, some works were carried out in the props room, on new proscenium arch or adjustment of lighting .

The year 1937 brought large changes to the theatre. Václav Drozda, an architect from Tábor (1914–1996), designed refurbishment of the auditorium: seats were added to the stalls in the location of the existing standing rooms, a central entrance into the auditorium disappeared and side boxes were removed from the balcony. The painting on the auditorium ceiling is at latest from this period. Concurrently, the only modification of the exterior was carried out: because of traffic on a busy road, the portico at  the front of the main entrance was divested of columns and the balcony was shorten in the first floor.  

Drozda designed an extension of the so called Tyl’s House in the location of an older, one-storey house that was adjacent to the rear wall of the theatre. A two-storey house of simple forms contained rooms that were being requested by amateur actors for a long time as dressing rooms, offices, rehearsal room and other background, which could not be accommodated in the old theatre. Even a theatre museum was established here shortly in 1939.

In the wartime years of 1942–1945, a permanent company of actors worked in Tábor for the first and last time when the South Bohemian Theatre performed here as its activity was temporarily banned in  České Budějovice (at least, the theatre building in Tábor served as a side venue of the South Bohemia Theatre still in the season 1949–1950).

 

Addition of a new hall

The need of reconstruction of the old theatre started being discussed at last in 1956. A year later, it was considered to rather build a new house of culture (then only petty maintenance would have been done in the theatre). However, preparation works for large reconstruction continued already in 1958 and with a reference to it, the theatre was closed on 1st April of 1958.

The intent was to enlarge the theatre to the capacity of 500 seats. So many spectators, including standing ones, could fit into the theatre even before, but it was not available anymore within the increased demand for comfort. Architect Drozd, who modified the theatre already before the war, was requested to create a study of possibilities of enlarging the theatre.  He came to the conclusion that it was not possible to enlarge it without large reconstruction and proposed to erect a new hall in the area of the garden of the adjacent house. This determined the concept that was realized later.

The reconstruction connected the adjacent house in the Empire style that was originally residential and another smaller house in the rear part of the internal block of buildings to the theatre. A new spacious auditorium was inbuilt into the area between them being connected in the right angle to the existing enlarged stage (therefore to the original side wall of the stage of the old theatre). The house in the street was converted  into a generous spectators' area (a foyer with a cloakroom, a bar and exhibition rooms  in the first floor), the house on the other side of the hall into dressing rooms and other background areas.

An extension above the south section of the Tyl’s house was a part of reconstruction works as well where a new rehearsal room was inserted (an extension above the adjacent garage, which is not at the designs, is probably of later origin and perhaps has even no relation to the theatre).

The project, commissioned already in October of 1958, was processed for the investor, Municipal National Committee in Tábor, by Stavoprojekt from České Budějovice, department in Sezimovo Ústí. The  main designer remained Drozda, the interior of the new hall was designed by Irma Antonovičová (* 1923). The house N. 353 was purchased in 1959. The project was not expected to reach the costs over 6 million Crowns and  completion of construction works after 1963. The final version of the project is dated back to November of 1960, but the beginning of construction works was delayed several times after that. The process of construction was affected after the commencement by delays that were not uncommon due to a lack of scarce materials and even workforce, even interrupted in 1963 for a time being. The construction works were carried out by OSP Tábor. It was completed with a two years delay: the approval of the building was issued on 25th October of 1965, yet for instance the air heating was being finished in November. The new theatre was ceremonially opened with Jan Hus by J. K. Tyl, performed by local amateur actors, already on 3rd and 4th October of 1965 and once again on 31st of October when the ensemble from the National Theatre performed the Lantern by Alois Jirásek.  

 The enlarged theatre was proposed to be given the name of J. K. Tyl ( a native from Tábor Nedbal was accepted into the name in 1990) apart of the name the Theatre of Ivan Olbracht. The theatre was dedicated for semi-professional operation –  the local amateur actors who were incorporated into the company of the Theatre of Ivan Olbracht performed here apart of touring performance. Still in June of 1965, it was not completely clear who would run the theatre after the enlargement; eventually, it newly became a part of the Municipal Cultural Centre. When it became independent on 1978, the amateur actors were moved somewhere else and they returned here not before 1990.  

An extension was erected above the dressing rooms section with a new residential unit in 1967. This finished the modification of the theatre in Tábor for a long period of time.

Another phase of rather petty repairs and renovation, which has remained until the present days, started in 1990. Already in 1991, reconstruction affected the ceiling and truss where a new steal structure was inserted. The new hall had to be insulated and air conditioned. During the further works, a unique painting with muses was unveiled again on the ceiling of the small hall that was concealed from view by square acoustic panels for a long time.

 

Present state

The theatre in Tábor is today composed of several houses that were originally independent. The oldest part is the old theatre (originally N. 352) on the corner of Divadelní and Palackého streets that is oriented northwards by its front elevation. The rear section of the old theatre is adjacent to the so called Tyl’s House with the front elevation facing the Divadelní Street and with a staff entrance into the theatre (N. 218). The originally residential house (N. 353) is located to the left from the front elevation of the old building with the spectators' area within. A new auditorium was inbuilt between it and the present day section with dressing rooms (originally a detached house from 1876).   

According to Jiří  Hilmera, the exterior of the theatre in Tábor, “a building that is rather representative than functionally efficient”, belongs to the most richest application of the Renaissance Revival Architecture at the theatre buildings in the Czech Republic and one can be attracted by its arrangement of fine art in it in the auditorium ( the proscenium arch, curved layout of the balcony). “However, as much as the basic spatial layout concerns, it is rather very surprising how experienced theatre builder Buldra remained oblivious of the progressive theatre design of his period of time and how small lesson he took from the objections that were raised against the shortcomings in the arrangement of the National Theatre” ( which he had to know very well as a member of the Building Committee by renewal of the National Theatre). The access area is very confined and the auditorium  with a  balcony and gallery is of very exceeded proportions – however, both could have been influenced by a combination of demand for the capacity of the auditorium and lack of space on the given plot.

It was written several times that the auditorium of the theatre is “a reduced copy of the National Theatre”, at least the proscenium arch is in fact inspired by the Provisional Theatre. However, the inscription „TÁBOR SOBĚ!“ (Tábor to itself) above the proscenium arch makes reference to the National Theatre.

The ceiling of the auditorium of the old proscenium arch is embellished by a remarkable painting, probably from the modification of 1937 (the author is not determined). There is eight muses from a group of nine depicted in a frame of Art deco style. There is missing perhaps the most important one, Thalia – it is not possible that she was depicted somewhere else in the auditorium (perhaps on the curtain that was destroyed later?)?

The spectators’ area in the reconstructed house N. 353 was connected to a new large auditorium, inbuilt in the existing inner block. Apart of the indispensable administrative and technical background (cash desk etc.), the majority of the house ground floor is occupied by a spacious foyer with a cloakroom, there is a bar and exhibition rooms in the first floor. A low staircase on the right can lead us from the foyer to another cloakroom along the rear wall of the auditorium. The auditorium is entered from here through a couple of doors along the side of the rear wall and we can climb from here through another staircase into the first floor, to an entrance into the balcony.

In the hall that is attached to the enlarged and appropriately adapted background of the old theatre, the designer did not set for the overall arrangement “ any more ambitious goal than to create a standard, traditional stage with proscenium,  only modernised in the marginal features- and that was completely realistic approach with a respect to the supposed character of the theatre.  However, the stage was provided with the currently demanded possibility of enlarging the forestage over the orchestra pit […] by narrow side protrusions […].“ The auditorium has “steeply raked stalls, seats of  an elongated layout of an irregular hexagon in the oblong hall, frontally oriented balcony of similarly  steep profile. The formation of the ceiling with a wide horizontal opening up to above the fifth row of seats produced favourable conditions for frontal lighting of the stage and forestage …“ (J. Hilmera).

The enlargement of the theatre in Tábor was very generous precisely with a regard to its character (a theatre without a regular professional troupe) – it becomes apparent for instance in comparison with years-long, unsuccessful effort to enlarge the South Bohemia Theatre in České Budějovice, which has not acquired the space comparable with the one in  Tábor until the present days.

Already Hilmera wrote about the fact that “ the connection of a historical theatre with a new building of a modern venue and a spacious auditorium is unique in the local surroundings.” The layout of two halls with a single stage appeared only in unrealized designs in the Czech Republic: perhaps for the first time in the competition for a house of culture of the Regional Union Board in Pardubice ( collective A. Zikmund, M. Řepa, F. Rozhon and V. Kučava, 1959). A similar arrangement was designed by Karel Hubáček already after completion of the theatre in Tábor for the considered enlargement of the Naive Theatre in Liberec (final version from 1973), even with a possibility of opening the stage simultaneously into both the halls. The second genuine realization of two hall by one stage is going to be the New Theatre in Pilsen ( planned opening in 2014, final appearance on the basis of an older project by Vladimír Kružík).

Both the stages are equipped with standard technology. Especially the minor hall is a demanded location for the shooting of TV programmes (Možná přijde i kouzelník) or films, often historical ones ("The Illusionist"). The minor hall of the theatre in Tábor can contain 350 spectators, the large one 650.  

 

Sources and literature:

-   Městský úřad Tábor, archiv stavebního úřadu, spisy domů čp. 352, 353 a 218

-   Jan Port, Tábor, rukopisná stať o dějinách a stavbě táborského divadla (Národní muzeum, Historické muzeum – Divadelní oddělení, fond Pozůstalost Jana Porta, karton 15, inv. č. 118)

-   Alfred Javorin, Divadla a divadelní sály v českých zemích: I. Divadla, Praha 1949, s. 284–285

-   120 let ochotnického divadla v Táboře 1857–1977 / 90 let divadelní budovy v Táboře 1887–1977, Tábor 1977

-   Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 48–49, 159–160, obr. 61–63 a 243

-   150 let ochotnického divadla v Táboře 1857–2007, Tábor 2007

-   Divadlo Oskara Nedbala Tábor (propagační brožura), Tábor 2009 (a další propagační materiály divadla)

-   Jiří Valenta (ed.), Malované opony divadel českých zemí, Praha 2010, s. 120 (nerealizovaný Boháčův návrh opony)

-   Some old photographs are available from the archive of the atelier  Šechtl and Voseček in Tábor: http://sechtl-vosecek.ucw.cz/cml/dir/theatre.html

 

Tags: Neo-Renaissance, prestige building, terraced house

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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