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Színházi Olimpia

Zsolt Szász: New Dramaturgy on the Stage of History

In the Workshop of Director Attila Vidnyánszky

I have been following the development of Attila Vidnyánszky’s stage language since 2002,[1] when I first entered into a closer working relationship with him as the dramaturg of his first Bánk bán (The Viceroy Bánk) production[2]. At that time I noticed only the simultaneous technique of staging scenes and the capaciousness of space-time on stage which had been unusual in Hungary, but now – after the audience could see another three of his Bánk bán renderings[3] – I can safely say that the nature of “fragment dramaturgy” often mentioned in connection with his directing as well as the term “poetic theatre”, so difficult to interpret, become truly tangible only in the light of the particular view of history he professes.

Eszter Ács as Éva and Sándor Berettyán as Ádám in the Garden of Eden, Scene 2
in Imre Madách: Az ember tragédiája (The Tragedy of Man),
National Theatre, Budapest, 2018, d: Attila Vidnyánszky (photo: Zsolt Eöri Szabó)

It is worth noting about József Katona’s piece, published in 1820, that it played as a festive performance at the Hungarian National Theatre, which had already opened twelve years before, on the evening of 15th March, the day of the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution of 1848. From that moment on, this historical drama has been part of Hungarian theatre history and later compulsory reading at secondary schools as a pivotal work embracing the idea of national independence. However, the evaluation of the piece has been contradictory from the very beginning. While it has been billed by the prevailing National Theatre time and time again in order to represent the stature of the institution, its topicality and aesthetic quality have been challenged either by dictatorships seeking to destroy national identity or cosmopolitan opinion leaders of the Hungarian intelligentsia[4]. The division in Hungarian public opinion is illustrated by the fact that spectators brought themselves to the brink of a battle in the auditorium of the National Theatre, newly opened on 15th March 2002, after a Bánk bán performance. The opposition of conservative right-wing and liberal left-wing intelligentsia is still typical of our intellectual life, the critical responses to Attila Vidnyánszky’s activity as a director included. And however incredible it may be, productions carrying his name are considered, even though from different perspectives, but with reservation by both camps. Although the chamber theatre version of Bánk bán presented in 2017 was welcomed by critics with unanimous enthusiasm[5], I still do not feel that it has made a real breakthrough.

It is obvious from studies and reviews appraising the oeuvre that while the poetic tools of this directing are relatively professionally captured by the authors through the concepts of postdramatic aesthetics[6], they fail to ask the question what view of history and sense of mission there may be behind the radical transformation and innovation of dramaturgy and theatricality. Yet the chamber theatre version of Bánk bán, in the repertoire since 2017 and also presented at MITEM 2018, is about nothing but how we can return the closest possible way to the original work, to the dramatic core which – as Attila Vidnyánszky has stressed several times – has the conflict between man’s historical commitment and personal happiness compressed in it by Shakespearean standards.

Dorottya Udvaros as Gertrudis with her royal household, played by drama students at Kaposvár university, in József Katona: Bánk bán (The Viceroy Bánk),
National Theatre, Budapest, 2017, d: Attila Vidnyánszky (photo: Zsolt Eöri Szabó)

The success of this staging is, in my view, due to the fact that the anonymous actors – drama students of Kaposvár University – arriving at the dramatic space from the outside, are able to express the distance that separates and alienates them as well as the spectators from the work, from the age of József Katona and even from the age in which the plot takes place[7]. However, the manner in which they make their appearance on the stage, with gestures radiating the irresponsibility of youth – nearly as laypersons but, at the same time, as actors intent on stepping into their roles already – launches two simultaneous processes at the level of dramatic fiction. The “now” they represent gains a historical dimension (as they become members of Gertrudis’s “multicultural” court), whereas their relationship to historical events becomes ever more personal and direct. Though reversely, this turn has been demonstrated at the beginning of the performance already by the singing together of the sentimental hit, reminiscent of the 1960s, which, in its profane manner, is also about patriotism. The simultaneous presence of the two planes of time underlies and justifies the director’s solution that the murdered actors, surviving their deaths as it were, resurrect on stage at the end of the performance, making the relationship between the evoked past and the play’s present even tighter. I find that the production has, since its premiere, begun to function more and more as a kind of ritual; a (self-)initiating theatre with an effect on spectators of exceptional intensity – which, we must admit, is a rarity today.

However, this new approach to history is typical not only of Attila Vidnyánszky’s directing of national topics. It was back in 2010, during his directorship in Debrecen[8], that as I was once stepping down the auditorium installed on the rotating stage after the production Mesés férfiak szárnyakkal (Fabulous Men with Wings)[9], I realised to my delight that the language suitable for relating all the horrors that had happened also to us, Hungarians in the twentieth century, had at last been born. By then I had long been having the question in the back of my mind as to – where there was so much suffering and life drama piled on one another unworded – why a truly great and epoch-making dramatic work would not come into existence, one which all of us have – either explicitly or inexplicitly – been waiting for.

Posing this question thus may of course seem naïve or anachronistic in the eyes of those who, “inspired” by Adorno’s now famous sentence[10], have denied for a few decades that art is not only able to pronounce, but also resolve terror – as one of the most important Hungarian poets of the 20th century, Gyula Illyés (1902–1983) wrote in his well-known Bartók poem[11]. That is music, poetry and art in general continue to reserve the right to intervene in shaping history in their own particular way. It is so even in the sense in which the Catholic poet, János Pilinszky (1921–1981) was doing when he suggested in his existentialist philosophical thesis[12] that the “scandal” of Auschwitz was to be judged by us, citizens of Christian Europe, from the broader perspective of the story of our salvation.

The reception at home of this production, now safely be called of theatre historical significance, is most edifying from this point of view. When the play about the glory days of space travel, Mesés férfiak szárnyakkal (Fabulous Men with Wings) was included in the competition programme of POSzT (Pécs National Theatre Festival) representing the best pieces of the 2010/11 season, a professional debate[13] followed the performance where those dilemmas surfaced to which the practitioners of the divided domestic theatre profession have been giving sharply divergent answers ever since. The production, which opened on the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s space flight, has been in the repertoire of the National Theatre in Budapest since then and also featured at MITEM 2014. In my view, it may rightly be paralleled with Pilinszky’s above-quoted thesis because the director also approaches events from an apocalyptic perspective, ruthlessly revealing and yet consecrating the series of cataclysms in 20th century history.

Scene from Mesés férfiak szárnyakkal (Fabulous Men with Wings), d: Attila Vidnyánszky (photo: Zsolt Eöri Szabó)

The almost mystic ecstasy of the scientist Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935), the ancient desire to unite with the cosmos, and the physical concreteness of the passion story of missile constructors exiled to the Gulag forced labour camp are rendered simultaneously; and the director does not hesitate to juxtapose the triumph of the first man stepping out into space with Christ’s life sacrifice and the apocryphal story of the latecoming fourth prince. The stage demonstration of the unity of these seemingly disparate elements reveals the life experience, familiar to all of us, which makes the simultaneity of the beginning and the end as well as the interpermeability between humanity-scale universal time and the lifespan of the individual ever more apparent at the level of everyday experience[14].

However, the consequences of this development shaking Hungarian theatre world are obviously not easy to see. Because it is not just that Attila Vidnyánszky is able to integrate such sundry texts into his productions of “non-traditional dramaturgy”[15]. No matter how bold a statement it might seem, this “non-traditional dramaturgy” breaks down the “objective” view of history which, during the 18th century, was promoted by the contending European superpowers in the spirit of enlightened absolutism.

In fact, this is the time when the study of history was becoming a discipline in its own right, and, in the service of the state, it got torn from its roots, philosophy and arts, for good by the mid-19th century. First and foremost, it marked itself off from such former literary genres of writing history as myths of origin, heroic poetry or chronicles. At the same time, the novel became the leading genre, which, by telling the story of the individual, offered an authentic summary of the age as well. However, this history is, contrary to Napoleon’s famous saying, usually not written by the victors but by the ambitious and determined personalities who are just as familiar from the inside with the deep layers of the particular society, the world of the “humiliated and insulted”, as they are with the “world-changing” ideas of their time.

József Katona (1791–1830)

As the notable Russian-Estonian semiotician, Yuri Lotman[16] put it, the past of culture is its present, and the same applies to history itself, which is repeatedly rewritten by people of culture to renew the sense of identity in national communities. One of the elementary experiences of the past three decades in Hungary is exactly this rewriting compulsion. If we only take the two remarkable anniversaries, in 2006 and 2016, of the 1956 Revolution and War of Independence, we can see that this epoch-making historical event is still caught, primarily on an ideological basis, in the crossfire of interpretations.

As is commonly known, the distinctive genre for retrial has always been drama, especially historical drama. The first Hungarian classic of the genre, József Katona, wrote this about it in his poetic treatise: “Dramaturgy, which, like the Curule Seat of the Dead of Egypt, has the Deceased stand in front of the Living in order to judge their actions, used to belong with Religions. The Priesthood made Living Persons act out what had happened to their Gods bestriding the earth (for each bestrode the earth first).”[17] It is as if Andor Szilágyi, the author of the drama on Ilonka Tóth presented at the National Theatre in Budapest on 25 October 2016, had placed the act of retrial into the frame of a heavenly court for the very same reason. By this, he not only acquitted the young medical student[18] of the murder charge, but also meant to glorify her with the intention of elevating her into the pantheon of our national heroes. However, the director, Attila Vidnyánszky, did not accept this version. Taking as a starting point the former four-hundred-page screenplay based on documents, he asked the author for a complete rewrite of the drama (with the participation of dramaturg Ernő Verebes). He presumably did so because this “heavenly scene” would have made the final outcome of the drama a foregone conclusion the same way as, ten years earlier, János Mohácsi might have been encouraged by the very genre he had chosen, that of the “historical wax museum”, to present Ilonka Tóth as a murderer[19].

Andor Szilágyi: Tóth Ilonka, National Theatre, Budapest, 2016, d: Attila Vidnyánszky (photo: Zsolt Eöri Szabó)

The medium of the eventual version staged at the National Theatre is the all too earthly court of hanging judges in the Kádár regime[20], just as the contemporary documents used are also from the world of realia. This way an expectation builds up in spectators to clearly see the ominous scene which is the subject of both the one-time and the current trials. And although we are perceiving that this may really be the scene taking place in the middle of the stage, it is impossible to tell what it actually is that is happening here and now, or was happening then and there. It is at this very point that the key words of Luke’s gospel are uttered for the first time by the actor in the role of a young historian: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open”. It has a dual function of confirming the Last Judgement on the one hand, and, on the other, implying that what we have just seen could be seen only “through a glass darkly” yet. In this dramaturgy of simultaneous spacetime dimensions, the apocalyptic view of history is again revealed.

For the time being, however, we have to find that neither spectator nor critic can read this language fluently because our sense of history is still held captive by the kind of linear causality that bequeathes us Enlightenment’s myth of progress and ultimately identifies man’s “salvation” with the creation of earthly prosperity[21]. In my view, the much-condemned naturalism of Hungarian theatrical language and dramaturgy, as well as the attitude of the majority of contemporary directors to debase “grand narratives” to the level of everyday life, stem from this. Unremitting references to social sensitivity have distracted our attention from the centuries-old experience that art is able to shape the thought and feelings of the man of today really effectively by simultaneously opening up greater historical perspectives and the dimension of the story of salvation.

Perhaps the most direct benefit of organizing MITEM on an annual basis is that there have always been productions to appear in which this kind of broadness of perspective is created by a radical renewal of dramaturgy. Two of the productions featured at the last five festivals are worth highlighting as examples: The Raven, staged by Nikolai Roshchin at Alexandrinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, and Borisz Davidovics síremléke (A Tomb for Boris Davidovich) by Danilo Kiš, transcribed by Ernő Verebes and directed by Aleksandar Popovski at the Hungarian language Novi Sad Theatre.

Danilo Kiš – Ernő Verebes: Borisz Davidovics síremléke (A Tomb for Boris Davidovich), Novi Sad Theatre, 2017, d: Aleksandar Popovski (photo: Srdan Doroški, source: uvszinhaz.com)

The Raven, based on Carlo Gozzi’s ’fiaba’ of the same title creates, similarly to Attila Vidnyánszky’s production on Gagarin’s space flight (Mesés férfiak szárnyakkal [Fabulous Men with Wings]) the passage between the mythical worldview of tales inherited from antiquity and the rationalism of technical civilization resituating the story. And it is impossible to decide which of them will eventually override the other. We feel that both are true at the same time: authoritarian power will continue to be able to survive itself and, although there is no fairy tale happy ending, the rebirth of human quality will always be possible through sacrifice.[22]

But what kind of human quality is it and who is the hero of our time? In his recommendations to A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, Ernő Verebes, dramaturg at the National Theatre, is asking himself, the director, and, above all, the title character of the story:

“Who are you, Boris Davidovich Novsky? A killer clown, who keeps throwing about walnut-sized bombs like pebbles? Who’s Boris Davidovich? A hooded revolutionary, without a face or voice, running around and playing hide and seek? What are you? A false prophet? A materialistic executor? A patriot? Jewish, Serbian, Hungarian, a refugee, an intellectual, a democrat or a terrorist? A freedom fighter killing others in the name of his own truth? You, who no longer detect the enemy only outside but also within you, yet you don’t think that it is you. You believe the enemy is outside while you have also become one, and now it doesn’t at all matter whose enemy you are. It’s someone you have to destroy in the name of something that no longer exists because it’s been replaced by another idea. Another deadly enemy who’s moved inside you. It gets you to work because you have no other work to do. You’ve become your own employer and employee. You give yourself a command and what you are to execute can only be something one never does of their own accord. We can’t sing and make love on a mere command, but we do them because it is right these things that we don’t die of. But that’s not enough for you. You need to snuff it of what you call freedom because this word, hammered into your head some time ago, never reached your heart but got stuck in a corner of your brain and has been desperately yelling out of there for help, get me out of here! Don’t you see? I’m the freedom of Boris Davidovich!”[23]

The cult novel by Danilo Kiš, published in 1976, is a summary of historical experience, having been suffered on multiple occasions, of the natural history of dictatorship. However, as a stage play four decades later, it informs of the absurd experience of 21st-century man that although dictatorial systems have – at least in Central Europe – ceased to exist, we are still captives of the psychosis that had made them possible[24]. Yet the terrorists of our time, clearly recognizable by their costumes in the performance, are apparently no longer propelled by “world-bettering” ideologies, but by the kind of automatisms that the superheroes of today’s American action films have. However, the ineradicable heroic surplus and dynamism of human nature is present – even if in a distorted form – in this production, too. It is shown by Danilo Kiš’s commentary on his own work, which may remind Hungarian readers and spectators of the philosophy of history in Madách’s humanity drama mostly: “The world is destroyed time to time by the fire of which it had been taken but it will be born again to live the same history”.[25]

In 2018, Attila Vidnyánszky directed The Tragedy of Man for the fifth time[26]. The current issue includes several papers on the work itself and its present as well as former stagings. Therefore, we would just like to draw attention here to the fact that it is the same loss which the director is sensitive to as Ernő Verebes reflected on above, apropos to A Tomb for Boris Davidovich. Namely that something of the man of our time seems to have been lost forever. We are in vain looking for the “wholeness” that once characterized the paradisiacal state of natural peoples and distinguished, even a few decades ago, those acting giants who were playing the main roles of The Tragedy at that time. “Hová lesz énem zárt egyénisége?” (“… what becomes Of me, of my self-image, of that body…?”) – it is no coincidence that this question, asked by Adam in the third scene before he steps onto the stage of history, was selected by the director as the motto of the production. However, as far as the fallen archangel, Lucifer is concerned, the demonic surplus of “the genius of Negation” can hardly be discovered in his young alter egos multiplied on Vidnyánszky’s stage. It must be due to the same directorial concept that the taintless and elemental energies of the young group of actors in the performance are released and become visible, also carrying the promise of a new beginning. To see them is as if one could see Miklós Hubay’s comment on Eva’s wonderful escape in the London scene justified: “There is nothing wrong with mankind as to its biological essence. Its élan vital (’vital impetus’) would still shoot it in the air as a well-strung bended bow would an arrow”[27].

Prior to the premiere of The Tragedy, 10 March 2017 saw the opening of, in my view, the most significant enterprise in Attila Vidnyánszky’s first five-year cycle, Csíksomlyói passió (Passion Play of Csíksomlyó), to which I was the dramaturg. It is worth knowing that the typical medieval theatrical genre of Christian Europe flourished longest in Csíksomlyó in Székelyföld (Székely Land) – there are 41 passion plays remaining from the period between 1721 and 1788, written and acted out for students at the grammar school run by Franciscan monks. It was not only these school dramas to contribute to the script of the production, but also contemporary Transylvanian poet Géza Szőcs’s volume titled Passió (Passion), published in 1999, which, considered by its individual texts and as a whole, is a project postmodern to the core. The way the production is capable of bringing these two “divergent” text corpora into equilibrium and making them organically united at several points, too, is an impressive demonstration to me that truly high-calibre contemporary creators are not interested in bringing down the foundation of Christian cult community by replacing the philosophical surplus in the passion story of Jesus Christ.

Csíksomlyói passió (Passion Play of Csíksomlyó), adapted from 18th century Franciscan school dramas and Géza Szőcs’s Passió (Passion),
National Theatre, Budapest, d: Attila Vidnyánszky (photo: Zsolt Eöri Szabó)

Not incidentally, this enterprise is a creator of language in such a respect, too, that the Hungarian National Dance Ensemble, led by Zoltán Zsuráfszky, is present on the drama stage as co-creator on an equal footing. Dancers do not only perform choreographed movements and sing in this production, but also have a thorough knowledge of how to say the lines of the school dramas, confirming Zoltán Kodály’s claim that the Hungarians’ musical and dramatic mother tongues, crystallised in the 18th century, derive from the same root, therefore we must be familiar with both of them in order to communicate credibly. The even deeper archaic layers of the soul of the Hungarian people are represented by singer – storyteller András Berecz in the production, who is connecting his tales reaching back to the story of creation, and the sacred songs, still alive, of the Székelys on pilgrimages, with the Stations of the Cross in Jesus’s passion story.

The burden test of this project took place on 18 August 2018, when the production, originally created for a stone theatre auditorium with a seating capacity of 190 and now with one hundred odd Székely dancers and a children’s choir of fifty added, could be seen by 25,000 spectators in Csíksomlyó, Transylvania, a shrine to the Virgin Mary operating for more than five hundred years. The significance of this event can be felt in its entirety by those only who are aware that as a result of the 1920 Trianon peace treaty two-thirds of the territory of Hungary came under the jurisdiction of foreign nation states. It was not before the last three decades that Hungarians in their home country and abroad have had the opportunity to experience their sense of togetherness and national identity freely. A prominent venue for this is the Csíksomlyó col, where 500,000 Hungarians gather annually at Pentecost to recognise the power of the Holy Spirit. It could therefore rightly be called an event of theatre history that Csíksomlyói passió from our home country was received by the local community as their own. This success also proves to me that, even today, theatre stands a chance to be tested on the stage of history.

English translation by Mrs. Durkó, Nóra Varga

Published in Hungarian: Szcenárium, March 2019


[1]     The present paper is an extended and edited version of the essay with the same title published in Magyar Művészet, 2018/2, prepared for the MITEM English special issue of Szcenárium for festival guests. My thanks go to my co-editor, Ágnes Pálfi for her share in rewriting.

[2]     It premiered at the National Theatre, Budapest, on 14 December 2002.

[3]     The opera version, with its music by Ferenc Erkel, opened at Erkel Theatre in Budapest on 9th September 2017. The chamber theatre version of József Katona’s drama premiered at the National Theatre in Budapest on 21 September 2017 (dramaturg: Zsolt Szász). Also, a “classroom production” titled Bánk-misszió (Bánk Mission), transcribed by Ernő Verebes, was prepared as a drama exam production at the Drama Institute of Kaposvár University, to be performed at the Third Student Festival of the University of Arts, Târgu Mures, Marosvásárhely, Romania, in November 2017, too.

[4]     See: Zoltán Imre: “(Nemzeti) kánon és (Nemzeti) Színház. Bánk bán, 1928–1930” [“(National) Canon and (National) Theatre. The Viceroy Bánk, 1928–1930”] In: id: A nemzet színpadra állításai. A magyar nemzetiszínház-elképzelés változásának fő momentumai 1837-től napjainkig (Staging the Nation. The Major Changes in the Concept of the Hungarian National Theatre from 1837 till Today), Ráció Kiadó, Budapest, 2013, pp. 91–110

[5]     At the same time, this production did not feature at the most significant professional forum in Hungarian theatre life, POSzT (Pécs National Theatre Festival) in 2018. However, Isten ostora (The Scurge of God), which involves the life and death of the central figure of Hungarians’ mythic history, Attila, king of Huns and is based on the drama by Miklós Bánffy, was awarded the grand prize at POSzT in 2015 (director: Attila Vidnyánszky; dramaturg: Zsófia Rideg). See: Katalin Keserű: “POSzT 2015”, Szcenárium, October 2015, pp. 96–98

[6]     Probably the most significant attempt at this has to date been István Bessenyei Gedő’s thesis (Faculty of Arts, Hungarian Dept., University of Târgu Mureș, Marosvásárhely, Romania, supervisor: Dr. Ildikó Ungvári Zrínyi), which concludes with an analysis of the production Mesés férfiak szárnyakkal (Fabulous Men with Wings), presented in 2010. See István Bessenyei Gedő: “Halál! Hol a te fullánkod?” Dedramatizáló törekvések Vidnyánszky Attila rendezéseiben (“Oh, death, where is your sting?” Endeavours of De-Dramatization in Attila Vidnyánszky’s Stagings, Parts 1 – 2), Szcenárium, October, November 2013

[7]     The drama involves the murder of the Queen during the reign of Endre II in 1213 and the conspiracy of Hungarian rebels against Gertrudis of Merania.

[8]     Attila Vidnyánszky was artistic, then managing director of Csokonai Theatre in Debrecen from 2006 to 2013.

[9]     Mesés férfiak szárnyakkal (Fabulous Men with Wings), Csokonai Theatre, Debrecen, 26 November 2010 (opening night). For an analysis of the piece see: Ágnes Pálfi – Zsolt Szász: “Költői és/vagy epikus színház?” (“Poetic and / or Epic Theatre?”) In: Magyar Művészet, 2016/3, pp. 61–70

[10]   “…nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch…” (Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.)

[11]   “Thank you, thank you for this, / thank you for strength that can resist / even the darkest, worst. / Here at last at rock-bottom, man can stand firm. / Here, the exemplar of the few who seem / burdened for all mankind, gives utterance / to anguish, owes an intolerable duty / to say the intolerable, and thus resolve it / in beauty. / This is the true response of the great soul, / art’s answer to existence, making us whole / though it cost the torment of hell.” Adapted into English by Margaret Avison from the literal translation by Ilonn Duczynska, in https://canlit.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/CL120-Full-Issue.pdf, p. 48

[12]   “All that happened here is a scandal insofar as it could happen, and sacred without exception insofar as it did happen.” Cf. Ars poetica helyett (Instead of an Ars Poetrica), In: Pilinszky János összes versei, Budapest, Osiris, 1999, English translation by Richard Chess in “János Pilinszky” in Lillian Kremer (Ed.) Holocaust Literature, 2002, p. 946

[13]   Moderated by Nóra Winkler, opponents: Tibor Pethő and Zsolt Anger. Here is an extract from Tibor Pethő’s speech: “Sometime in the ’80s, I heard Soviet astronauts on the radio and German Titov say […] there was no God. There was no God. He had been up in space, seeking and not finding it. This statement of Titov’s is memorable. I am mentioning this in advance of my thoughts on the piece because there are two key words here: no and God. It seems as if “no” and “God” were the two poles in Attila Vidnyánszky’s present production … [then, responding to the other opponent, Zsolt Anger] I do not agree that the performance would be a collection of clichés. I think this is a huge exaggeration. I see atmospheric theatre and poetry in it. Poetry, which you do not necessarily have to understand or fully understand. However, what I do find problematic is that the Hungarian, the domestic Hungarian audience has very little intellectual connection to this performance …”. (For full dispute, see POSZT archives.)

[14]   For a detailed analysis of the production see Ágnes Pálfi – Zsolt Szász: Poetic and / or Epic Theatre? In: Magyar Művészet, 2016/3, pp. 61–70

[15]   See Balázs Urbán: “Líra és epika Vidnyánszky Attila színházában” (“Lyricism and Narrative in Attila Vidnyánszky’s Theatre”). In: Színház, April 2018, pp. 19–22

[16]   “And if history is culture’s memory then this means that it is not only a relic of the past, but also an active mechanism of the present.” p 272 In: Lotman_Yuri_M_Universe_of_the_Mind_A_Semiotic_Theory_of_Culture_1990.pdf

[17]   Cf. József Katona: “Mi az oka, hogy Magyarországban a játékszíni mesterség lábra nem tud kapni?” (“What is the Reason Why the Craft of Acting Can Gain No Foothold in Hungary?”) In: Tudományos gyűjtemény, 1821

[18]   In the days of the 1956 revolution, Ilonka Tóth was tending to the wounded in a hospital in the capital. During the retaliations she was sentenced to death on accusation of killing a person connected with the army.

[19]   “56 06/Őrült lélek, vert hadak” (56/06 Mad Soul, Defeated Forces), Gergely Csíky Theatre, Kaposvár, 29 December 2006, d.: János Mohácsi

[20]   János Kádár (1912–1989) was a leading politician of the 1956–1988 period during the Soviet-type system following 1945.

[21]   See László Koppány Csáji: “A posztkolonialista fejlődésmítosz” (“Postcolonial Development Myth”), Szcenárium, March 2018, pp. 39–52; and: “Nincsen egyedül üdvözítő válasz a világ változó kihívásaira”. (“There is No Single Answer to the Ever-Changing Challenges of the World”. Anthropologist László Koppány Csáji is Interviewed by Szcenárium Editors), Szcenárium, December 2017, pp. 53–65

[22]   Cf: Ágnes Pálfi – Zsolt Szász: “Ez egy valóságos színházavató volt! Gyorsjelentés a harmadik MITEM-ről.” (“It Has Been a Real Inauguration of Theatre. Flash Report on ’MITEM 2016’”) Szcenárium, May 2016, pp. 49–51, for full essay in English see Szcenárium, April 2018, pp. 29 – 47); Ágnes Kereszty: “Morbid történet – 21. századi köntösben. Carlo Gozzi A holló című darabja Nyikolaj Roscsin rendezésében.” (“A Morbid Story – in 21st Century Clothing. Carlo Gozzi’s The Raven, directed by Nickolay Roshchin” Szcenárium, May 2016, pp. 81–89)

[23]   Cf. Ernő Verebes: “Forradalmi megsemmisülések nagy kérdései. Danilo Kiš: Borisz Davidovics síremléke” (“The Big Questions of Revolutionary Wreck. Danilo Kiš: A Tomb for Boris Davidovich”), Szcenárium, May 2018, pp. 73–81

[24]   See the closing lines of the poem by Gyula Illyés, written in 1950 but first published during the days of the revolution in 1956 only, Egy mondat a zsarnokságról (A Sentence on Tyranny): “Because it is standing / From the first at your grave, / Your own biography branding, / And even your ashes are its slave.” (Translated by Vernon Watkins, in: Hundred Hungarian Poems, Albion Editions, Manchester, 1976)

[25]   Ibid., p. 77

[26]   He first staged it in 1998 with the company of Gyula Illyés Hungarian National Theatre in Beregszász, Ukraine. Its open-air version opened by the same company in Zsámbék, Hungary, in 2008. In 2011 he created a gigantic production as a gala performance for the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Szegedi Szabadtéri Játékok (Szeged Open-Air Festival); as a joint venture between Csokonai Theatre in Debrecen and the Beregszász Company, another interpretation of The Tragedy was born in 2012. The present rendering by Attila Vidnyánszky premiered on 19 October 2018 (dramaturg: Ernő Verebes).

[27]   Miklós Hubay: “Aztán mivégre az egész teremtés?” (“And as for This Creation – What’s the Purpose?” Notes on the Margin of the Works of the Lord and Imre Madách) Napkút Kiadó, Budapest, 2010

(18 March 2023)