RASTISLAV BALLEK (1971, Banská Bystrica)

Studied philosophy and sociology at the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University in Bratislava. Later, he graduated in theatre direction and dramaturgy from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. Already the productions, dramatization of Slovak classics, that he directed as a student (Departure From BratislavaWeirdos) enjoyed great response both in Slovakia and abroad. In 1999–2001, he worked as full-time director at the Slovak National Uprising Theatre in Martin, in 2001–2005 as a director for the Alexander Duchnovič Theatre in Prešov, in 2002–2009 as full-time director for City Theatre Žilina where he was also artistic director between 2003 and 2008. In 2006 Ballek started his fruitful cooperation with the Aréna Theatre in Bratislava, where he created the iconic devised production Tiso (2005) and directed the productions Kukura (2011), Holocaust (2012), and Rosmersholm (2013). For the Opera of the Slovak National Theatre, he directed the world premiere of Martin Burlas’s chamber opera Coma (2007). He has also collaborated with many Slovak and Czech theatres (Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin, Alexander Duchnovič Theatre in Prešov, Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre, Rokoko Theatre in Prague, National Theatre in Brno). Rastislav Ballek’s productions and theatre projects regularly participate in domestic and international festivals (Theatre in Pilsen, Sterijino pozorje in Serbia, Nová dráma/New Drama, Divadelná Nitra, Eurokaz Festival in Zagreb, Expo 2000 in Hannover). He is the laureate of several of the prestigious Dosky Awards in different categories.

 

Description of his work:

While a student at the Academy of Performing Arts, Ballek worked as a director and author of dramatizations with dramaturge Martin Kubran. Their collaboration yielded a series of productions which captivated audiences and theatre critics alike and which were distinct for their original view of marginalized works of Slovak literature, for example Svetozár Hurban Vajanský’s The Flying Shadows (J. G. Tajovský Theatre in Zvolen, 1994) and Weirdos (Academy of Performing Arts, 1995), or Departure from Bratislava by Mikuláš Dohnány (Academy of Performing Arts, 1995). Ballek developed his interest in this kind of literary “medical history” at the Slovak National Uprising Theatre in Martin where he revived many Slovak literary texts that were almost forgotten. He produced Vajanský’s Wasteflower (1997), God’s Atoms by Gejza Vámoš (1998), and the cycle was closed by the production Without God in the World based on a short story by Kristína Royová (1999).  His interest in national themes and the Slovak society, as well as in controversial personalities of Slovak history was confirmed also in other productions (Krcheň the Immortal, Tiso, HOLLYROTH, Mojmír II or the Twilight of an Empire) in which he addressed the issues of national and social values, cultural heritage, capital, morality vs. immorality of a nation.

In addition to a strong tendency of producing plays addressing national themes, Ballek is also known for his focus on the classics of world drama (Don JuanOresteiaHamletOthelloMacbethEndgameNora) with an unconventional approach, yet using his typical and tried method of authorial deconstruction. Ballek’s distinctive artistic style is always original, with dominant and detailed multiple meanings that offer a broad range of timeless and broad contextual overlaps. The characteristic features of the majority of Ballek’s productions are a modern theatre language, suggestive images and an unforced, but still urgent moral appeal to the audience – to ask fundamental questions about the production’s theme that is socially relevant for people. As a director, Ballek achieves this by using typical, simultaneously appearing stage settings which, at first sight, make the impression of being a very intricate puzzle, but which, however, gradually unfold into a clear artistic message. This conceptually elaborate, craftful and precise work with parallel plot lines, as well as decentralized scenes help the director develop several thematic lines and present the characters from various points of view. Owing to this approach, Ballek can work with diverse associations, which often results in chilling punchlines. Rastislav Ballek makes suggestive and visually artful theatre, often based on aesthetics of the unpleasant and ugly, on rough even tasteless scenes that – as part of a whole – offer an image about the present that is aesthetically impressive and presents an ideologically clean picture of today.

Ballek is part of a minor category of Slovak directors whose productions manifest evident inspiration by modern European theatre, mostly as far as their form is concerned. Via his productions, he successfully starts meaningful artistic dialogue with different theatre cultures and receives adequate response from both the general public and theatre critics. This multi-layered flexibility is authenticated by Ballek’s collaboration with theatres in the Czech Republic and theatres performing in other languages in Slovakia (Alexander Duchnovič Theatre in Prešov – Ruthenian language, Jókai Theatre in Komárno – Hungarian language). When creating his productions, Ballek frequently cooperates with a proven team of collaborators – dramaturg Martin Kubran, musician Andrej Kalinka, stage designer and costume artist Katarína Holková. One of Ballek’s main objectives is to use theatre language to name and capture problematic issues from national history and present, and to use them to point out the fact that while history might change, humans remain the same.

 

List of directed productions:

1994 / Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre, Zvolen / Svetozár Hurban Vajanský, Rastislav Ballek: The Flying Shadows

1995 / Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava / Mikuláš Dohnány: Departure from Bratislava

1995 / Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava / Svetozár Hurban Vajanský, Martin Kubran, Rastislav Ballek: Weirdos

1997 / Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava / Svetozár Hurban Vajanský, Martin Kubran, Rastislav Ballek: Wasteflower

1998 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Gejza Vámoš, Martin Kubran, Rastislav Ballek: God’s Atoms

1999 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Kristína Royová, Martin Kubran, Rastislav Ballek: Without God in the World

2000 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Róbert Mankovecký, Tomáš Ciller, Rastislav Ballek: Three Little Pigs

2001 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Pavol Dobšinský, Róbert Mankovecký, Rastislav Ballek: Popolvar, the Greatest in the World

2001 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / Friedrich Schiller: The Parasite

2001 / City Theatre Žilina / Róbert Mankovecký, Rastislav Ballek: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

2001 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / Karol Horák: La Musica

2002 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / John Steinbeck, Vasil Turok: Tortilla Flat

2002 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / Karol Horák: Arbitration

2002 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Eva Maliti-Fraňová: Krcheň the Immortal

2002 / City Theatre Žilina / Tomáš Rosický, Rastislav Ballek: Long, Broad and Quickeye

2003 / Polárka Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Jonathan Swift, Martin Kubran: Gulliver’s Travels

2003 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / Jana Bodnárová: Saturday Night

2003 / City Theatre Žilina / Viktor Dyk: Don Quijote Growing Wise

2004 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / William Shakespeare: Hamlet

2005 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Rastislav Ballek: Tiso

2005 / City Theatre Žilina / Carlo Goldoni: The Servant of Two Masters

2005 / Rokoko Theatre Prague, Czech Republic / Iva Volánková: 3sisters2005.cz

2006 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / Jan Drda: Playing With the Devil

2006 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

2007 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Gejza Dusík, Celo Radványi, Oto Kaušitz: Under a Foreign Flag

2007 / Opera of the Slovak National Theatre / Martin Burlas: Coma

2008 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / Sƚawomir Mrożek: Tango

2008 / Alexander Duchnovič Theatre, Prešov / Eugène Ionesco: Rhinoceros

2008 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / Ladislav Nádaši Jégé, Peter Pavlac, Rastislav Ballek: A Way Through Life

2009 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Rastislav Ballek: HOLLYROTH, or Robert Roth Sings Jan Hollý’s Uglies and Observations

2011 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Samuel Beckett: Endgame

2011 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Martin Čičvák: Kukura

2011 / Jókai Theatre Komárno / Ondrej Šulaj, Rastislav Ballek: The Helper

2012 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Aeschylus: Oresteia

2012 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Viliam Klimáček: Holocaust

2013 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Henrik Ibsen: Nora

2013 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / David Drábek: Aquabelles

2013 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Henrik Ibsen: Rosmersholm

2014 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / William Shakespeare: Othello

2014 / Moravian-Silesian National Theatre, Ostrava, Czech Republic / William Shakespeare: Macbeth

2015 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Viliam Klimáček: Mojmír II or The Fall of the Empire

2015 / Theatre on the Balustrade, Prague, Czech Republic / Viktor Bodó, Júlia Róbert: Anamnesis

2016 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Joe Orton: What the Butler Saw

2016 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Molière: Don Juan

2016 / Studio 12, Bratislava / George Orwell: The Principles of Newspeak

2017 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Rastislav Ballek: Tiso (renewed premiere)

2017 / Stúdio L+S, Bratislava / Tomáš Sedláček, Rastislav Ballek: Economics of Good and Evil

2017 / Andrej Bagar Theatre, Nitra / Mária Rázusová - Martáková: Jánošík

 

Awards:

2005 / Dosky Award for Tiso, in four categories: Best Production of the Season, Best Stage Music of the Season, Best Male Performance of the Season, and Discovery of the Season (for the team of artists who created the production)

2010 / Dosky Award in the Best Production of the Season category for HOLLYROTH, or Robert Roth Sings Jan Hollý’s Uglies and Observations and in the Best Male Performance category for actor Robert Roth

2010 / Student Jury Prize at the 2010 Nová dráma/New Drama festival for HOLLYROTH, or Robert Roth Sings Jan Hollý’s Uglies and Observations

2012 / Tatrabanka Foundation Prize for Art in the Theatre category for the direction of Kukura

2015 / Dosky Award for the production Mojmír II. or The Fall of the Empire, in five categories: Best Production of the Season, Best Direction of the Season, Best Female Performance of the Season, Best Stage Design of the Season, and Best Stage Music of the Season

2017 / Počin (Poučn) Award at the 2017 KioSK Festival for lighting design in the production The Principles of Newspeak

2017 / Stano Radič Award for discovery of the year category at the Kremnica Gags festival festival for the production Economics of Good and Evil

 

Videos from productions:

 

HOLLYROTH, or Robert Roth Sings Jan Hollý’s Uglies and Observations, 2009

video: archive SND

Oresteia, 2012 

video: archive SND

 

Mojmír II or The Fall of the Empire, 2015

video: archive SND

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