Beauty in Simplicity: Independent Slovakian Theater Visits the Land of Ibsen

“Our main goal is to learn more about Norwegian cultural heritage, and most importantly, to learn as much as possible about the famous Norwegian dramatist, Henrik Ibsen,” says Michal Paulovsky, a young director with the company. “Right now, our group is preparing a production of The Wild Duck, which we will perform after our return, incorporating what we have learned during our trip.” 

Biele Divadlo was founded by Slovakian actress Nina Zemanova over 30 years ago. The group provides a platform for young artists to create theater, whether it be acting, dramaturgy, or directing. “Our name literally means the `white theater´,” explains Paulovsky. “White is the purest of all colors, but it is subtle: it also hides the whole spectrum of other colors. For us, it symbolizes that everything can be found at a certain depth. “Biele Divadlo doesn´t seek extravagence, or self­serving experiments,” he continues. 

“If anything, we find beauty in simplicity.” The group began planning their trip to Norway in January, after contacting Brendan McCall, an American theater artist living in Oslo, who also serves as Producer for Grusomhetens Teater. “Ibsen is truly international, and I was happy to help some fellow independent artists on their trip,” says McCall.  

“I think all of us were able to create a stimulating program together for their stay.  Hopefully this exchange will be the first of many collaborations between Biele Divadlo and Grusomhetens Teater.  They´re a great group. Biele Divadlo is attended a number of performances during Nationaltheatret´s International Ibsen Festival, as well as going to the Ibsen Museums in both Skien, as well as in Oslo. McCall helped organize meetings for Biele Divadlo with Erik Edvardsen (director of the Ibsen Museet in Oslo) and Jon Nygaard (Center for Ibsen Studies at the University of Oslo). 

In addition, McCall and Lars Øyno, Artistic Director of Grusomhetens Teater, gave members of Biele Divadlo a private workshop in movement and physical theater on Thursday, 15 September.  The following day, the group saw part of a rehearsal of Grusomhetens Teater´s world­premiere production of Svanhild. Winner of the 2014 Oslo Prize for Best Performance, Grusomhetens Teater´s staging of Ibsen´s 1860 manuscript will tour to Theater X in Tokyo for its Japanese premiere 22­26 September 2016. “It´s a rich program of activity,” says McCall. 

“They get to see productions, a rehearsal, take workshops, meet scholars. Plus, Norway got to see some of Biele Divadlo´s own work. It´s a great two­way exchange.” On Wednesday evening (14 September), Biele Divadlo gave a scenic reading of Kym kohut nezaspieva (“While the Cock Shall Not Crow”) at the Kunstantikvariat pama in Bygdøy. “It´s a dramatic piece which takes place in a small town in Slovakia, during World War II,” Paulovsky explains.  “A German soldier has been stabbed, but no one knows who did it. There are ten men and women who have been arrested as hostages, and locked in a cold, dark cellar. If the attacker cannot be found, the hostages will be forced to choose which one of them is to be executed, as a revenge for the soldier. 

“The play is about this choice, and the hostages´ fight for survival,” the director concludes. Biele Divadlo´s trip to Oslo is made possible through an EEA grant; Brendan McCall and Grusomhetens Teater; Frantisek Kasicky, Slovak Ambassador for Norway; and the Slovak Institute Fond na podporu umenia. For more information about Biele Divadlo, please visit their website:

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