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THE MINISTER'S CRITICS-SHAME ON THEM!

Who is the villain in the Culture Ministry/National Theater row?

hen Ľubomír Paulovič resigned as director of the National Theater's drama ensemble, I predicted that the situation would settle down. After all, the whole affair started with his nomination to the post and many actors had cited his directorship as the reason for their departure from the stage. They wanted his head, and they got it. But once an appetite has been whetted, it must be satisfied. Now the next dish is being prepared, and it's to feature the head of the minister of culture. This particular item of tableware has been lurking in the background during the whole affair, but it was Paulovič's action that forced someone to come out and say what was, and is, the real problem here.

hen Ľubomír Paulovič resigned as director of the National Theater's drama ensemble, I predicted that the situation would settle down. After all, the whole affair started with his nomination to the post and many actors had cited his directorship as the reason for their departure from the stage.

They wanted his head, and they got it. But once an appetite has been whetted, it must be satisfied. Now the next dish is being prepared, and it's to feature the head of the minister of culture. This particular item of tableware has been lurking in the background during the whole affair, but it was Paulovič's action that forced someone to come out and say what was, and is, the real problem here. The argument over the leadership of the drama company was just a "tear gas grenade" to agitate the public - perhaps they wouldn't be able to see their beloved players on the stage...

From the very beginning the argument has been about the politics under the direction of the former vice-premier and official of the Civic Democratic Forum of Public Against Violence, which did not make it into parliament in 1992. Martin Porubjak's claims that he and those faithful to him have not politicized the events in the theater are shameful.

All the more shameful since these claims were passionately advanced at a press conference held by the Democratic Party for a Slovak National Theater dramatist/producer and a member of the party's board of consultants. Of course, he didn't forget to thank the media for their support. But most shameful of all is the fact that the journalists turned a blind eye to this transgression/misdemeanor. I can imagine what a racket they would have made if Mr. Paulovič had appeared at a press conference called by a certain other political entity!

But this didn't escape the notice of Dušan Jamrich, general director of the Slovak National Theater, who called Mr. Porubjak's pirouettes on the political stage his own private opinions. But even so, the image of this important cultural institution as an independent and apolitical operation has taken a knock.

And it continues to take knocks; we have witnessed a barrage of strong words indicating that the situation in the Slovak National Theater is an act of revenge against the actors for the revolution and that many of them are starting to fear a return to totalitarianism and the loss of creative freedom. That's why they are sounding the alarm. And signing petitions.

Oh, you democratic and tolerant people in the SND, where were you when my play "Diabol" was abandoned by your theater three weeks before its premiere? Communist electoral agitprop, a sneer at the revolution, those were the criticisms levelled against it. If it was really a bad play, this simply proves that those who accepted it and incorporated it into the season's program (i.e., head dramatist Porubjak, artistic director Mikulík and theater director Jamrich) were incompetent, does it not?

These days I can smile about this experience of three years ago, and I would not dredge it up, were it not for the fact that every time we turn on the washing machine or coffee maker, we hear impassioned pleas for the protection of creative rights to opinions on artistic matters and society. And were I not intimately familiar with the voices of those who, with similar passion, showed me the door. Out! You're not wanted here!

One last shameful issue hangs over the affair. Some of the most vocal critics of the current minister of culture are people who have already occupied the same ministerial chair. And they didn't vacate it with much glory!

Mikuláš Kočan is a contributor to the weekly Literárný Týždenník.
Paul Kaye translated this piece from Slovak.

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