Modern Czech Drama

Charles University

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Modern Czech Drama

  • Host University

    Charles University

  • Location

    Prague, Czech Republic

  • Area of Study

    European Studies, Theater, Visual Arts

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course description & objectives

    The history of modern Czech theatre provides numerous examples of complex relations between art and society, stage and audience, which form a vital part of the living theatre. This course deals with the Czech theatre as such as well as its outstanding playwrights, actors, directors and designers, but also with the way the theatre has reflected so many social and cultural aspects of Czech history.

    It seems something of a miracle that by 1920, two years after the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia, its theatre found itself in the mainstream of modern European drama and that it moved, within the next twenty years, into the avant-garde of its contemporaries. The story of Czech theatre in the twentieth century involves generations of mesmerizing players and memorable productions. Beyond these artistic considerations, however, lies a larger story: a theatre that has resonated with the intense concerns of its audiences acquires a significance and a force beyond anything created by striking individual talents or random stage hits. The course intention is to give you a brief historical background. Once Czecho-Slovak independence was achieved in 1918, a repeated interplay of theatre with political realities became the norm, sometimes stifling the creative urge but often producing even greater artistry. When playwright Vaclav Havel became president in 1990, this was but the latest and most celebrated example of the vital engagement between stage and society that has been a repeated condition of Czech theatre for the past two hundred years. This course will introduce the leading creative figures in a richly innovative and dynamic period of Czech theatre. We examine theatre as a key role in Czech culture and politics. Meanwhile, it is an interdisciplinary investigation of the cultural and political phenomenon of dissent in East-Central Europe, primarily Czechoslovakia, in the 1970s and 80s, which culminated in the collapse of communism in the region. Using sources ranging from political essays to novels, music, film, and drama, students will explore the development of the region?s oppositional movement?s ideas and ideals. We will analyze a number of modern Czech plays from Karel ?apek to Václav Havel and Daniela Fischerová using, where appropriate, the concepts of the modern Czech theatre as represented by directors such as E.F. Burian, Jind?ich Honzl, O. Krej?a and A. Radok as well as the theories of the Prague School.


    1. Historical and social backround: Czech thetre culture
    2. From National Theatre to Munich: K. H. Hilar - E. F. Burian
    3. Czech Renown Plays: ?apek brothers
    4. Expressionism on the Czech Stage: avantgarde - experimental theatres
    5. The liberated theatre of Voskovec and Werich: intellectual clowning
    6. Grossman, Machacek, Schorm: three major Czech directors of the late twentieth century
    7. New dynamic situation of 1960s: J. Frejka and F. Troster
    8. Czech scenography since 1968: Laterna magica ? Alfréd Radok
    9. The Dilemmas of Dissidence: Václav Havel
    10. Studio Theatre: Key productions and outstanding directors
    11. Present Identity: Contemporary Czech Drama

    1. Burian, Jarka M. Leading Creators of Twentieth-century Czech Theatre. London: Routledge, 2002.
    2. Burian, Jarka M. Modern Czech Theatre : Reflector and Conscience of a Nation. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2000.
    3. Czech Theatre (journal). Prague: Theatre Institute.
    4. Day, Barbara - Musilová, Martina - ?erná, Petra. Let's play Czechs: Contemporary Czech Drama, 1989-2004. Praha: Divadelní ústav/Theatre Institute, 2004.
    5. Day, Barbara: Czech Plays: Modern Czech Drama. London: Nick Hern Books, 1994.
    6. Goetz-Stankiewicz, Marketa. The silenced theatre : Czech playwrights without a stage. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.
    7. The Van?k plays : four authors, one character. Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz ed. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987.
    8. Veltrusky, Jarmila F. A Sacred Farce from Medieval Bohemia: Masti?ká?. Michigan: University of Michigan, 1985.
    9. Destiny as Alibi: Milan Kundera, Václav Havel and the 'Czech Question' after 1968, TIM WEST, The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 87, No. 3 (July 2009).
    10. Václav Havel, Open Letters
    11. Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace
    12. Václav Havel, The Garden Party and Other Plays
    13. Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude
    14. Ludvík Vaculík, The Guinea Pigs
    15. Barbara Falk, The Dilemmas of Dissidence
    16. Derek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia

    • Helena Albertová: Josef Svoboda ? Scenographer
    • Pép: Goose on a String Theatre
    • V?c Makropulos: Karel ?apek
    • Leaving: Václav Havel

    Course evaluation
    • Participation 20%
    • Class discussions 20%
    • Midterm exam 20%
    • Presentation of the research/case 20%
    • Term paper and research 20%

    Each student is expected to write and present a topic/case which in turn is designed to help student gain experience in how to conduct research and analysis of a specific topic. Presentation of the topic/case should improve the communication skills of students. The topic/case will be decided and agreed in the 4th week (a list will be offered), each student will submit a one-page typed topic proposal by week 6 (brief description of the problem and target region, country or company, proposed method of investigation and resources of literature). The presentations are due on the 11th and 12th week. Presentations of the research/report should last about 15 minutes, will be graded and will be made and discussed during class. Final version of the paper should not exceed 10 double spaced pages of text, excluding tables and graphs and appendices and will be handed out in printed form and electronic version e-mailed December 11, 2012. Final paper (Title, author name, course name, date, acknowledgement, introduction, main body of the report, conclusions, bibliography)