DOROTA SADOVSKÁ PHOTOGRAPHS ACTORS AS SAINTS FOR A THEATRE'S CALENDAR

Actors bare to attract

THE IDEA to portray nude actors as saints may seem like a controversial gimmick in the art world. But for the Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra this unorthodox form of revelation is seen as the perfect showcase to promote the opening of its 55th season.
Far from being sinful in intent the motives of its chief dramatuge, Svetozár Sprušanský, is to raise awareness of its forthcoming drama programme, and draw the public's attention to fledgling actors, who would otherwise remain unnoticed outside the holy medium of film and television.


SEPTEMBER posing as St Hieronymus, alias Juraj Hrčka.
photo: Dorota Sadovská

THE IDEA to portray nude actors as saints may seem like a controversial gimmick in the art world. But for the Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra this unorthodox form of revelation is seen as the perfect showcase to promote the opening of its 55th season.

Far from being sinful in intent the motives of its chief dramatuge, Svetozár Sprušanský, is to raise awareness of its forthcoming drama programme, and draw the public's attention to fledgling actors, who would otherwise remain unnoticed outside the holy medium of film and television.

This unashamedly naked promotion might have itself remained solely in the flesh but for the suggestion, by artist Dorota Sadovská, to turn the idea into a photographic study of biblical proportions, for a Slovak version of Calendar Girls, with a supporting cast of male members.


ST DOROTHY, Ľudmila Trenklerová, on the calendar's cover.
photo: Dorota Sadovská

For two weeks during the summer the chosen cast bared all on the roof of their theatre, posing for a retelling of the roles played by 12 venerated saints, with each character representing a month of the year. Alongside the unknown actors were more famous names, such as Eva Pavlíková who posed as St Helene, the empress who went in search of Christ's cross in the 3rd century. In her contemporary image, for the month of August, she holds a piece of rotting wood.

"It's the cross after the centuries," Sadovská told The Slovak Spectator, while giving a convincing explanation for the idea of narrating the saints' legends into visual, tactile subjects. Likewise, St Joseph the patron saint of March is seen carrying a baby, with lilies strewn nearby, and November's St Catherine is depicted with the more austere motifs of a wheel and sword.

While the launch of the calendar took place on a boat trip on the Danube the management of the Andrej Bagar Theatre were more pragmatic about the exercise.

"It's a decent unveiling of the actors' bodies, and for the young actors we searched for ways to make them more visible to the public, which would attract more people to the theatre," reasoned the theatre's director Ján Greššo in the daily SME.

"It's a question of marketing,"


SPRUŠANSKÝ with one of the "Calendar Girls".
photo: Martin Janoško

Over five decades the theatre has presented an extensive repertoire, ranging from traditional and new plays as well as musicals, regularly attracting substantial audiences. And the forthcoming season will be no different, with film adaptations planned, such as a stage version of the famous Sydney Pollack movie, They Shoot Horses Don't They?, which starred Jane Fonda.

Sprušanský was also quick to point out that his theatre hires the largest number of school graduates in the country to work alongside the theatre's experienced performers, evident in the composition of the saintly calendar.


SADOVSKÁ watches Premier Dzurinda confront the media.
photo: Martin Janoško

The pictures for the study were taken by Sadovská atop a ladder, using a Sony digital camera, from where she instructed the actors about their specific religious roles, while assimilating some of their own ideas. The end result is a collection of sensitive pictures, where angle and symbols avoid over exposure of the body, in an artistic way.

For Sadovská, who has been working with nude figures throughout her artistic career, the theme of saints is not new. In 1995 she painted the ceiling of the Jesuit Chapel on Panská Street in Bratislava, by personifying seven saints in yellow overtones.

"It's not about vulgar nakedness," she said. "By taking these photographs from above, in a Baroque-like style, it shows nakedness as pure and natural. This is unlike contemporary thinking, which talks about nakedness as a commodity for sale."

Five hundred calendars in A2 format are on sale in selected bookstores (Sk250) and at the Andrej Bagar Theatre, Svätoplukovo námestie 4, Nitra. Tel: 037/6524-875.

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