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70'S SEX SYMBOL, TELEVISION REGULAR, THEATER ACTOR, DIRECTOR, TEACHER = STAR

The many faces of Emil Horváth

One of the premier actors in the Slovak National Theatre is a man who has been in the Slovak entertainment business longer than almost anyone else. Emil Horváth is seen every day in television, films, and theater in Slovakia. People gawk and gander when he walks the streets, and some even stop him for praise or an autograph or two.
Horváth is currently concentrating his talent toward directing a new play, a dramatization of the Janko Jesenský novel, "The Democrats". The novel, which was written during the first Czechoslovak Republic in the 1920's and 30's, is in a prose style that satirically depicts the bloated bureaucracy that existed at that time. "The situation in the play is the same now," said Horváth. "It's unbelievable."



One of the premier actors in the Slovak National Theatre is a man who has been in the Slovak entertainment business longer than almost anyone else. Emil Horváth is seen every day in television, films, and theater in Slovakia. People gawk and gander when he walks the streets, and some even stop him for praise or an autograph or two.

Horváth is currently concentrating his talent toward directing a new play, a dramatization of the Janko Jesenský novel, "The Democrats". The novel, which was written during the first Czechoslovak Republic in the 1920's and 30's, is in a prose style that satirically depicts the bloated bureaucracy that existed at that time. "The situation in the play is the same now," said Horváth. "It's unbelievable."

"The Democrats" will premiere April 3 at Malá Scena. It should be quite a gathering as dramaturge Martin Porubjak ("The Return of Karate Billy" and "A Midsummer's Sex Comedy") will co-operate with director Viliam Klimáček (GUNAGU theatre) to bring together some of the biggest stars in Slovak theater: Stano Dančiak, Diana Mórová, Ján Gallovič and Marián Geišberg among others.

On a quiet wintry day, Horváth had some time to sit down and reflect on his roots, Slovak theater and teaching over an afternoon espresso.

"I went to the performing arts school in Bratislava like every other actor," said Horváth. "When I finished in 1968, I spent the next eight years at the theater in Martin, where my father was an actor. There I gained experience in many roles from Dostoyevsky to Becket." It was at this time that Horváth caught the eye of many young ladies in his dashing leading roles. This landed him parts in numerous film productions as well as an offer to become a member of the ensemble at the Nova Scena Theater and then the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava, where he has been a member for the last 12 years.



However, recently Horváth has been thrust unwillingly into the spotlight of controversy. Discontent by actors about how the Ministry of Culture determines the director of the drama department has caused them to initiate a competition whereupon the director would be chosen by a vote instead of being chosen directly by the Minister of Culture Ivan Hudec. "The actors are very agitated about this," Horváth said.

At the end of an all day examination, which consisted of an in-depth psychological test and lengthy interviews, Horváth came out the winner by a small margin. But the decision wasn't accepted by Slovak National Theater general director Miroslav Fischer or Ivan Hudec. "They (Fischer and Hudec) have to accept the result of the competition. I won the competition." Apparently 44 out of the 50 member ensemble are prepared to strike if Horváth isn't reinstated.

With the best in Europe

Despite such dissension, Horváth feels that Slovak theater is among the best in the world. "I definitely think that Slovak theater is much better than Austrian or German," he emphasized. "The best theater is in Poland," he said. "And also Russia, because they have such a long history - almost three centuries. But European theater is usually much more conservative that the rest of the world."

Over the last several years, Horváth has taken several trips to the United States to look around and study the specific approaches taken in performing American theater. Smiling he said, "I liked Chicago very much. It made a big impression on me, culturally and visually, even more than New York."

He feels that there is a distinct difference between American and Slovak theater. "I think that American theater is a mixture of several styles, including European style. The form and technique of American theater is better. They definitely have the best musicals, but their dramas need to develop more."



His trips to the United States have also fostered his approach to acting and teaching. Horváth currently teaches at the performing arts school in Bratislava, the one he once attended. "The first thing I try to do is develop certain natural elements in a student as well as creativity." While many actors and teachers prefer "the method", which is Stanislavsky's system for actors to create realistic performances, Horváth feels that this isn't the end all and be all on acting. "When teaching, I use a mixture of several theories like Constantine Stanislavsky, Bertolt Brecht and Peter Brook," he gestured in a Shakespearean fashion. "In many cases the students are my teachers, instead of the other way around."

At 59, it appears that there's no retirement in sight for Horváth. "It's my dream to travel around the world. I would like to visit the United States for a longer period of time and I would especially like to experience the Japanese culture." One thing for sure is that Slovak theater-goers aren't in a hurry to let him go just yet.

Emil Horváth can be seen performing in the Slovak National Theater in "A Midsummer's Sex Comedy", "A Flea in Her Ear", and others. He has directed "Day of Insanity", "Lost in Yonkers" and "Theatrical Comedy" among others.

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