Director's Window

Egon Kulhánek

At the beginning of my activity as the Director of Karlin Musical Theatre, my colleagues and I prepared a column called Director's Window so that we could comment upon events that the media at that time 'predicted' differently than how they actually ended up happening. Said in another way, we tried to disclaim certain rumors that were being spread. After a time we no longer needed to assert our opinions about anything. Now the necessity of this window is returning, so that you can expect from this window, at irregular intervals, opinions and information that we wish to tell you, our audience.

For a while we would like to focus on how and what some editors, also called critics, who are given space in cultural columns in newspapers and magazines, write about us. But their opinion is very often motivated by their personal bias, or, even worse, animosity towards particular theatres, playwrights, or stage designers. I'm pointing out that most of these people have never created anything themselves. I was inspired to re-open this window by an article of Jan Werich from 1958. I was amazed at how timeless his words are. Or is it because the same type of people are always drawn into criticism? See for yourself.

Jan Werich – On Criticism

I suppose that the time has come for someone to start a discussion about theatre criticism. Today's situation of criticism and theatre critics is bad. Theatre visitors notice that one can have no reliance on critics, that one cannot trust them, and so we've got into a weird situation in the world of theatre. In the shelter of their soul, theatre operators almost wish their plays to get bad criticism, because bad critiques attract visitors, while good ones discourage them.

Spoken of in terms of journalism, criticism has disconnected from the masses. My opinion is that this is the fault of those who write critiques. Infallibility, a taste for didactics, for cliché and jargon, a lack of proficiency and an abundance of cowardliness and cultural irresponsibility turn most of the criticism into bad works of penmanship. There are exceptions. Švejk would have the right to say that also here the wheat is to be disburdened of the chaff. However for our culture it is too little. We need the wheat. If artists should, and most of them do, approach their work with the biggest possible sincerity, then it should be the same for art critics. Art criticism should not be written merely for the readers of a newspaper on any given day. Art criticism should primarily serve the artists. It should be a mirror which the artist can go to in order to get to know something about his own work. That is why criticism must be honest and proficient and its source must be the love of art, not the practical need of disparagement, nor the failure of the artistic activity of the writer.

Even criticism that is sincere and based on proficient knowledge can be wrong, because people are wrong sometimes. But even in such cases it can instruct and serve. As well, art criticism should be written for people who are interested in art, even if they're not creating it themselves. The number of such people, thank God, is increasing. For those people, artistic criticism can be a guide and should help them to deepen their taste and knowledge. And finally, art criticism should be here to be gauged and measured by someone in the future... from their complex totality one might be able to make an image of the spiritual life of our nation. And that is why criticism must be even more heartfelt, even more proficient and even more informed.

(Divadlo, April 1958)