The XVIth Békéscsaba International Puppet Festival Békéscsaba, June 19-21, 2015 professional report
The XVIth International Puppet Festival
Békéscsaba, June 19-21, 2015.
In Békéscsaba since 1962 there were bigger puppet meetings with different names, National Country Conference or Puppeteers Days. From these early events, the International Puppet Festival emerged. From the beginning the city stood next to the organizers of the event, considering puppetry important, and thought that an international event would, in the long run, enhance the reputation of the city through the foreign and domestic groups who visit here. Especially they did it because the Napsugár Puppet Group, a puppet intellectual workshop, was operating in the city since 1949. This group had an international reputation and good relationships since 1964. Lenkefi Konrád then leader of the group initiated the meetings mentioned above. The Ministry of Culture and Public Education, considering the favourable circumstances and usefulness of the event, contributed (in 1967) that international festivals would be held regularly every two years in Békéscsaba, (every three years, then (according to the decision of the 1974 Arbitration Committee) every three years. The promotion of the events in Békéscsaba to an international level have been greatly facilitated by the UNIMA International Puppet Association’s commitment to the patronage.
The features which defined the nature and character of subsequent festivals appeared already at the 1st International Puppet Festival (June 1968). Different artists came from all over the world and all of the domestic puppet theatres appeared. Great performances, serious professional debates and complementary puppetry programmes have brought national and even international recognition, as well as support from UNIMA. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly the fact that the international festivals in Békéscsaba have inspired the domestic puppeteers from the beginning to the present.
The last puppet festival was in 2009, so 2012 should have been the next event. The change of our support organisation took place that year, our theatre was taken by the Békéscsaba City municipality. So we cancelled the event in consultation with the new supporter. The previous uncertainty was replaced by a planable, secure background. After the transition we just arrived here – beside some factors of uncertainty – we can undertake organising the International Puppet Festival.
Infrastructure, human resources, financial background
Békéscsaba Sunshine Puppet Theatre as a professional institution operates from January 2005. Its predecessor is the Napsugár Puppet Group founded in 1949 and led by Konrád Lenkefi. This – in a good sense – amateur team has been involved in domestic and international puppetry since 1964, and has gained a high professional rank with superior performances.
In May 2004, Békés county’s representative body decided to set up the Békés County Napsugár Puppet Theatre, that will carry out this serious and important work with state support.
The aim of the puppet theatre is to create a closer relationship between the audience and the actors, the audience can talk to the actors after the performances, touch the puppets – this can cut down the stress caused by the performance and an extraordinary experience for children.
We regard the theatrical education of deprived children and children with disabilities important, and we are taking great care to ensure that all of our performances would reach them.
All the members of our company will do their utmost for art education of children establishing a high-quality and entertaining theatre.
After about sixty years of waiting the Békéscsaba Napsugár Puppet Theatre moved to a suitable place, moving to Ibsen House in the autumn of 2010.
In recognition of our work the company received the County Prima Award in 2012.
For the uncertainty factors we took a kind of SWOT analysis considering our strengths and weaknesses.
Strength is the past and reputation of the festival. Of course, we cannot build merely on merits of the past, but the present and acceptance of our puppet theatre in both the people of Békéscsaba and the national professional circles can be classified as positive.
There was a circle of season ticket holders, spectators who regularly visit, know and love the Sunshine Puppet Theatre.
The community of staff (actors, technical staff) is also a very good performing, heavy-duty team – working at maximum efficiency.
In the implementation of the festival the puppet theatre had 16 people (actors, technicians, an organizer, doing the “everyone doing everything” principle), together with the staff of the Békéscsaba Jókai Theatre who assisted in the technical demands and ticket sales. This staff also organised the previous 15th International Puppet Festival, the UNIMA rewarded our job with a diploma of organising.
It is positive that the playgrounds provided by Ibsen House, the strong and mutually beneficial helpful relationship with the theatre, the renewed main square provided excellent venues for the three days, and the two theatres had sets of toolkits that were able to serve a multi-site array of events.
We wanted these three days in June make the celebration of puppetry and play for families with children in Békéscsaba, Békés County and even near over the neighboring state border.
Feel in the mood of the heart of our town that something special is going on, performances call the children, but also talk to adults, let there be a permanent opportunity for playing, a colorful, rich cavalcade where the child is in the limelight.
Our vision was a niche replacement, as there are many major events and festivals in Békéscsaba, but there is no such a strong call for children – apart from the municipal children’s day and its accompanying events.
An important change is that competition of the pieces and judging have been removed from the event. Instead of a professional jury, a five-member jury of children evaluated the performances, it seemed a bold venture when we were planning, but the result was incredibly good, jury members endured difficulties as they had to watch eight or nine performances each day. The success of their work is demonstrated by the fact that both the audience prize and their judgement were the performance of Dávid Fekete’s Törökvész Vitéz.
The programme that meant the presentation of “tried and tested” pieces was compiled based on professional recommendations, feedback, and knowledge, after a careful pre-selection. We brought the best performances – “cream” – of Hungary and abroad for the children of Békéscsaba, introducing the diversity of puppetry.
5,000 viewers watched the performances, of which 1,369 were paying spectators, and 10,000 children and adults attended the accompanying events.
The festival locations in Békéscsaba are the Ibsen House and the Jókai Theatre, the place outside the theatre St. Stephen’s Square outdoors.
The opening of the festival was also the beginning of the Town Hall evenings.
In Hungary, two puppet festivals – Pécs and Békéscsaba – are considered international festivals. We do trust that these which have been written above and their implementation will further strengthen our status and proves that our festival is an outstanding touristic event with great cultural tradition.
In Békéscsaba at the Napsugár Puppet Theatre Zoltán Lenkefi director and his team is a restless breed. They like to show themselves. One can learn from them, half a year ago they appeared with a novelty of a puppet playwright competition, and now they organised a traditional international puppet festival at the beginning of summer, where they managed to convene the performers for an exciting review. We could admire the flowering of the fairground puppet playing.
A summary in the SPIRITUS journal
Written by Takács Vera
The first international puppet festival in Békéscsaba was already organized in 1968 by the Napsugár Puppet Group under the leadership of Kondrád Lenkefi. 1968! How important it was in a locked country surrounded by wall that foreigners came and introduced themselves, even if mainly from the socialist countries. But among them, Czech, Polish Soviet excellent puppeteers! They gave us an insight, gave us an insight, new things to learn and an opportunity for the local groups to let themselves know.
It is a pleasure to continue this tradition after a long skip.
What did we see? Here too, two success stories of the last two years have been overwhelmingly successful: the play from Vojtina Puppet Theatre from Debrecen, LITTLE DECEMBER KING (Kis december király) with starring of the excellent Péter Hajdu, Ági Kuthy directed Cinderella (HAMUPIPŐKE) bringing a surprising world of forms, the fairy tale play of the Ciróka Puppet Theatre of Kecskemét with its his first class actors, directed by György Vidovszky. Vojtina won the most moving show award, while Ciróka won the most exciting music award.
Péter Hajdu is the protagonist of the Little December King.
The profile of the meeting was, however, given by the tradition preservation, “vitézlászló” knights, string puppets, puppet circus, medieval Sicilian play, live theatre in the style of fairground puppet show, … fire–breathing puppets and plate spinning puppets.
I was curious to look at the works of Kemény Henrik’s successors. I already knew some of them well, some were missing – there were no Dani Takács, Jankó Schneider, Fabók Mancsi, but after all it was not a VITÉZ LÁSZLÓ festival, it just happened that traditional puppet plays were in focus.
Who did we see? Let’s get to know them! Videos, short reports, with parts of performances have been made, but for those who do not have enough broadband or time, or patience to watch them, I summarize what was being told in the reports.
ARACS ESZTER: GURULÓ CIRKUSZ (ROLLING CIRCUS)
Eszter Aracs actor of the Ciróka Puppet Theatre has always been attracted to the fairground puppet show, creating a figure of Terka Gulyás – a female “vitézlászló” – who fights her funny daily fight the Mcdonalds devils and muesli soldiers, in a ramshackle Hungarian environment,
The GURULÓ CIRCUS presented here is a performance of Micropodium, a professional, elegant and outstanding performance. It should deserve much bigger ballyhoo. Aracs’s job is not easy. All the fellow professionals know she is good, very good. That’s whay we do not realize how much. Accidentally we had the opportunity to make an interesting comparison. We saw VICTOR ANTONOV – winner of the best foreign performance, a Russian puppeteer and a very entertaining personality, where small marionettes play – remember the similar figures of Dobronka Circus! World number – they spin plates and breathe fire … everyone looks amazing and then the next day comes Eszter Aracs and breathes fire and spins plates with puppets behind the screen and everyone thinks but it’s natural … I hope there will be a festival where Aracs enters and wins prizes one after the other.
NÉDER NORBI: AZ ÖRDÖG KILENC KÉRDÉSE (NINE QUESTIONS OF THE DEVIL)
We see a real fairground puppet play with live performers in the LÁDAFIA Puppet Theatre of Norbert Néder and Judit Szluka. The “Nédernorbis” are very good, says the puppeteer’s vernacular, in the voice of full acknowledgement. And with acting of Norbi Néder as a macho jerk, and Judith Szluka a humble though witty woman in cooperation of a few suitable puppets we can see a real fairground puppet show with live actors, fine and loud, elegant even in its vulgarity. I’ve been watching them in a real environment, in scorching heat, on a busy day, playing in front of a rare audience, and their production brought the same sophistication, accuracy and effectiveness, Néder handles the audience with perfect professionalism. Szluka protagonist-untermann’s facial expressions should be taught, she can show delicate gestures that they still impress viewers in the open-air fairground, and somehow magnifies the delicate gestures, facial expressions but they remain subtle.
BARTHA TÓNI’s PAPRIKA JANCSI BÁBSZÍNHÁZA (PAPRIKA JANCSI’s PUPPET THEATRE) and its slingshot range may fit into any 18th century fairground twirling without any changes. He plays Paprika Jancsi. Kemény Henrik did not allow him to play the VITÉZ LÁSZLÓ . That’s how there came Jancsi Paprika, in fact John, as he says, because he is already an adult and he founded a limited company. I cite Bartha Tóni from the report, he has a great sense of humor. It was a “good thing in the bad thing”, because it did him good not being allowed to play “vitézlászló” because with Paprika Jancsi he does something else than the others who vary Henrik Kemény’s textbook. Tibor Zalán writes texts for Paprika Jancsi, Ágnes Kiszely and László Rumi’s work as dramaturgs, directors, help the artist. I its rather difficult to understand what Tóni’s Paprika Jancsi says, but the whole fairground feeling is delightful, the stories keep the rules of the genre. True, in the report he complained that Tibor Zalán did not even accidentally think about while writing that the puppeteer has only two hands and wrote scenes which need at least four hands. Of course, this has its own advantage as it forces it into real creativity during the implementation.
The spectacle – Paprika Jancsi’s slingshot range – accompanying the performance is also a great idea, I have met them in festivals all over the country, there is always a crowd in front of it and everybody wants to try to hit the moving figures driven by the bicycle “staff”. In the slingshot range the son Bendegúz provides him help. He is like a ‘Spanish grand’ and hopefully he will carry on this family enterprise enriching with a bit of Mediterranean flavour.
JÁNOS PÁLYI: VITÉZ LÁSZLÓ (Leslie the brave)
János Pályi, the great “old man”, a fairground puppeteer since 1991, then a director and a great puppeteer started the march of the Vitéz Lászlós at the festival. The first day, just after the rainfall, he played in the square outdoor, involving an enthusiastic children public. Anyway, Pályi knows everything about this genre, the rhythm, the changes, winds the audience round his finger, tells the wellknown text of VITÉZ LÁSZLÓ, but it looks new with the small talks and with that, instead of the strong raised voice of Henrik Kemény, quietly, sometimes muttering, cogitating, with the same effect and power. He also began his career at the State Puppet Theatre in the 1980s, when he found his true self, when he turned his attention towards the fairground puppet playing getting encouragement from Ildikó Kovács. The genre is considered to be the great test piece for the puppeteer. To dominate 8 – 10 figures single-handed and the ever-changing audience is a big challenge. He sees in this why the number of fairground puppet-showmen have increased. Young people also want to try themselves in the genre.
It is said that fairground puppetry is not a genre but a form of livelihood. This is true, but it is still a genre because it has a character set, its characteristic playing culture, stories, stories of topics, if one moves this world that has been polished through centuries, it will work the same way, even if the performer is not so good. Because it is good to know, to go with this little figure, who is actually a cartoon of a man sometimes a little child, sometimes an adult blessed with witty thoughts. – I quote all this from Pályi, agreeably.
TATAY THEATRE: VITÉZ LÁSZLÓ (Leslie the brave)
Zsolt Tatay is among the youngest players of Vitéz László, he started playing Vitéz László as a member of the Budapest Puppet Theatre, with the approval of Mr. Meczner director. He said in the report that maybe the number of “vitézlászlós” might grow in the puppet performances because they want to fill the gap which existed with the regrettable death of Henrik Kemény, as Luca Ronga Pulcinella player had already predicted during his visit here, referring to his Italian experience. Tatay wants to do it like Kemény did. He makes the puppets, builds the screen.
DÁVID FEKETE: TURKISH DISASTER VITÉZ, or VITÉZ LÁSZLÓ AND THE TURKS
The most successful contemporary Vitéz László player at this festival was Dávid Fekete, who had achieved outstanding success at the puppet festival in the autumnal Kecskemét last year, and here he played with success. There was a junior jury here, there were neither viewpoints, nor considerations, the girls and boys voted for the best they liked, and of course that this cool, energetic young guy took the palm, he received three awards among these one from the audience. He is ready, very professional, loud, cheerful yet elegant, Let him take wings!
The resurgence of the genre started in the mid-nineties, including János Pályi, László Rumi, and Géza Kovács. With stimulation from Ildikó Kovács they revitalized and spread the traditions of popular-fairground puppetry, In their present performances, as actors, directors or executives, they continue to vitalize it, and now another renaissance has started, with many ambitious and characterful young people.
ANDRÁS LÉNÁRT STOP
András Lénárt: Mikropodium. Stop! This is the title of this compilation of études that refers only to the fact that here, in the square, on the pavement, beside the fountain, stand anywhere and wonder what miracles are brought on by a small micro-podium artist. András Lénárt’s own puppets give a strange blend of marionette and vajang, almost invisible strings and wires are in his hands and can produce heart-warming movements. It is not a coincidental that this unique technique is made for Hungaricum. According to Lénárt, he is much more known abroad than at home, although he has been playing for a long time. He was the first director of the Bóbita Puppet Theatre in Pécs, now a scenist at the Budapest Puppet Theatre. I became his fan.
There should be much more to know about this.
HORVÁTH MÁRTA – HAYDN: HOLDHINTA (MOONSWING)
POPPEN OPERA PODIUM: L’ABBRACCIO DELLA LUNA / HOLDHINTA / – NETHERLANDS –
Márta Horváth had to go to Holland to create the Holdhinta puppet opera.
An invitation from Eger gave the basic idea. / Life on the Moon / She had to design Haydn’s contemporary puppets, wooden, eight-kilogram puppets. He began to wonder how exciting that world was. Eszterháza, marionette theatre, Haydn’s numerous operas. He composed a story, inserted an aria from each of various Haydn operas, made puppets – no wooden marionettes, because the practice required to make handy, easily movable puppets. And the opera was completed. Special in every detail. The stories are told by silently moving by puppets and arias from Haydn’s operas. Opera singers play on the stage with the puppets while they are moved by Márta Horváth, living over the turns of the story with them. And the whole thing has a strong impact on the audience, they sit quietly, do not shake, not even the children come and go. Marta regards her figures as her personal friends as a real puppeteer, talks to them, forms them, beautifies them, not to let them go. All of them “Marta-puppets” – big eyed, fragile. Beautiful.
Among the many special, strange or traditional performances, the nice performance of the host puppet theatre, designed for the youngest faded, the PARADICSOMLEVES BETŰTÉSZTÁVAL (Tomato Soup With Pasta Letters) composed to János Lackfi’s poems. In the adult medium, its effect cannot be measured.
If we are talking about the hosts, I must note that here in Békéscsaba great actors are hidden. I just want enough to mention how much humour, how much imagination are there in etudes leading up performances. How much excellent talent flashed up.
Thanks to the Honourable Board of Trustees that with their support this great festival could be implemented.
Békéscsaba, 5th August 2015