University at Albany Professor Emeritus Jarka Burian, author of a landmark new study of Czech theatre, was a guest of the Writers Institute on October 4, 2000, and discussed the singularly vital relationship between theatre and politics in Czech society. The ascendance of playwright Vaclav Havel to the presidency of the Czech Republic is but one instance of the status and influence of plays and playwriting in that country during the past two centuries.
Burian was "Well established as the leading Czech theatre authority in the English-speaking world," according to theatre scholar Don B. Wilmeth of Brown University. Wilmeth calls Modern Czech Theatre: Reflector and Conscience of a Nation (2000, Univ Iowa Press, ISBN 0-87745-722-0), "the definitive historical and critical study of Czech theatre of the last century."
Jarka (pronounced "Yarka") Burian taught at the University at Albany for almost four decades. He authored two books on Josef Svoboda, one of the 20th century's most influential set-designers.
Czech theatre in the twentieth century involves generations of mesmerizing players and memorable productions, but beyond these artistic considerations it is a theatre that resonates with the intense concerns of its audience, thus acquiring a significance beyond striking individual talents or random stage hits. When playwright Václev 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. In Jarka Burian's skillful hands, Modern Czech Theatre becomes an extremely important touchstone for understanding the history of modern theatre within western culture.
Burian Lecture Series