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Semafor

alias Divadlo Semafor prozatímní s. r. o. (September 2004-October 2005)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1929 | New dwelling-house with a dance hall

(detail)2005 | Adaptation for theatre
Reconstruction project for Semafor Theatre was prepared by Miroslav Melena in 2003. Reconstruction was carried out in 2004-2005.
(detail)1. 10. 2005 | Opening theatre performance

The first opening night took place on the  25th of October with the comedy Jako když tiskne (When it Prints) focused on the tabloid press.


People

(detail)Miroslav Melena |architect

A stage designer, an architect and a teacher died on August 8, 2008. He studied at the College of Pedagogy in Cyril Bouda’s and Karel Lidický’s studios and later at Theatre Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under František Tröster. In 1967 he started working as a stage designer in Ostrava Theatre of Petr Bezruč, from 1969 he worked in Liberec Naive Theatre and later on he cooperated mainly with Prague Theatre Y. In the years 1980 to 1981 he was a head of stage design in Maribor. In 1972, at Serbian Novy Sad Triennale he was awarded a winning price for a setting designed for a play The Earl Monte Christo. Among the outstanding features of Melena’s stage designs belongs blending of scene and costumes in their almost provocative variability calling up reminiscence to surrealistic performances of the 20’s. However, next to scenography Melena gradually expressed himself more and more as a theatre designer – mostly as a head of multi-member team. Thus he gave a new resemblance to auditoriums and scenes of Brno Municipal Theatre, Prague Theatre Fidlovačka, Horácké Theatre in Jihlava, Municipal Theatre in Sokolov, Brno Reduta and lastly to Semafor Theatre. All of his stages distinguish themselves by ingenious stage design, and by dispositionally functional and smart to sight, sometimes also lively colourful appearance of the auditorium. The most salient among his projects was a solution of Prague Theatre Archa where a system of movable tables which fill the whole space enables a free open arrangement of the stage and the auditorium according to individual stage designer’s needs. As an exhibition designer Melena gave a very rich inventional shape to an exhibition of his teacher František Tröster’s life-work in 1991. Melena worked as a Head of Architecture Department at Faculty of Architecture and Arts, Technical University in Liberec. His creed of a theatre architect was expressed in an article he published in a cultural weekly magazine A2 (2007, issue 24). Here he confessed his love to Classical Theatre for its perfect solution of an audience and actor relationship, but also mutual relationship among spectators and their art experience. Melena did not agree with Baroque theatre’s introduction of stage portal which he called “absorber of theatricality”. However he did not hesitate to take over from the Baroque heritage a system of boxes or side slips. He believed their implication lead to a desired contact among the audience during the performance and to reach such goal a consistent arched tract of rows were to be used. Death caught Melena by surprise in the middle of his work on plans of a new Ostrava Theatre of Petr Bezruč, New Scene of Prague National Theatre and Brno Janacek Opera. (Jiří Hilmera)

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History

The present day theatre hall is one of a number of homes to the troupe which under the name Semafor and under the leadership of Jiří Suchý had its first performance in the year 1959 in the spaces used as of the year 1965 by the Činoherní klub (Theatre Club) on VSmečkách street. Semafor played at that locale for two years and after repeated moves settled into the basement of the western wing of a building on Wenceslas Square 28 (land plot 785) the former Nové veseloherní divadlo (New Comedy Theatre) where from the year 1925  Jindřich Honzl functioned as director and over the years 1935–1948 Oldřich Nový led his company. Semafor, however, had to leave this locale in the year 1993 and after several provisional locales acquired in the year 1995 a new permanent possibility in the basement spaces of the Hudební divadlo Karlín (Music Theatre Karlín) 'permanent', however, only up until the fatal floods in the year 2002. Consequently, the opportunity arose to make use of the theatre hall in the former dance hall Globus in the basement spaces of an apartment building from the year 1929 (empty from the 1950s) on Dejvická street 27 (land plot 688). The project design was prepared starting in the year 2003 with the reconstruction actually getting under way in April 2004 according to a project by the experienced theatre man Miroslav Melena. Apart from various temporary opportunities, the troupe therefore worked from September 2004 for the next year out of the provisional hall in the Nostický palác (Nostitz Palace) in Malá Strana (under the ironic name Divadlo Semafor prozatímní s. r. o.). By the summer of 2005 the work had progressed so rapidly that on the 4th of September the mayor of the city area Prague 6 Tomáš Chalupa could hand over ceremonially the keys to the completed theatre to the director Jiří Suchý. The first performance began on the 1st of October with the show Koncert s. r. o.. The first opening night took place on the  25th of October with the comedy Jako když tiskne (When it Prints) focused on the tabloid press.

This former dance hall with a surface area of approximately 25×17.5 metres occupies two underground floors. Its parterre has a flat floor divided up by two rows of ten reinforced concrete pillars holding up the front and two wing balconies. The auditorium is 10.5 metres wide and 17 metres long with a number of the construction elements being moveable. The lower storey contains the eight slightly curved rows of the parterre rising steeply upward while the front balcony contains another two and the side balconies one row each of transversely oriented seats. Behind the second row of the front balcony on the right is the glazed technical cabin. The inserted ceiling of a girder steel construction contains a number of small lights and the main chandelier in the middle in the shape of an eight-sided pyramid from matten glass with internal lighting, all of this loosely united by the gridiron. The stage juts with a segmented layout into the auditorium while the segmented arch also serves to deepen the back wall of the stage. The orchestra pit, descending to the third basement floor, is hidden near the runway and enclosed in the trapezoidal plates of the floor of the stage. Above the lintel of the stage portal hangs a cross-roller for winding up the painted curtains. The solid theatre portal with inserted walls has a span of 9 metres and a height of 7.5 metres, while the maximum depth of the theatre is 7.2 metres

The entrance from the street into the theatre is through a double right-angled portal under a marquee with a glazed ceiling and the name of the theatre on the front horizontal belt. The front wall of the theatre contains the shop window of “Obchod Klokočí neboli Opchod Žofie Melicharové” offering books, recordings and video cassettes/dvds of Semafor Theatre, with the entrance to the vestibule on the left. Here on the right is the theatre box office with a staircase leading to the lower tiers behind it, winding around the oval shaft of the lift. The first lobby of the first underground floor contains the cloak room while a bar is located on the second. Apart from the main staircase, the two underground floors are connected by a smaller winding staircase in the back corner of the  lobby.

All of the interior has a unified artistic décor, colourfully inventive as well as elegantly balanced. White, dark blue and light grey-blue colours alternate in the paint work of the walls and ceilings. The floor tiling consists of grey marmoleum with light wood and ceramic paving. Light wood with slight silvery chromium plating is made use of on the technical elements, apparent in particular in the construction of the lift. The black design of the auditorium seats is complemented by white grey-blue upholstering. The side walls of the auditorium are decorated with figural paintings by Jiří Suchý, while the sides of the pillars as well as the internal ceilings contain quotes from the texts of popular Semafor songs. Jiří Suchý created a witty paraphrase of the classic Hynais National Theatre design for the painted curtain.

 

Sources:

- Construction archive of the city area Prague 6

- www.semafor.cz

 

 

Tags: basement theatre, terraced house, theatre hall

 

Author: Jiří Hilmera

Translator: David Livingstone

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