ROMAN POLÁK (1957, Trenčín)

After the graduation from high school in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, where he did active work in amateur theatre, Polák started his studies at the Academy of Performing Arts where he majored in theatre direction in Miloš Pietor’s class. After the completion of his studies in 1982, Polák worked for the drama department at the State Theatre Košice and later, from 1984 for the Slovak National Uprising Theatre in Martin. In Martin, where he worked as a full-time director, he produced a great number of productions owing to which he was – in the 1980s – included in the list of the most important Slovak directors. With the Martin ensemble, Polák staged Touches and Connection (1988) and Baal (1989) which would later represent Czechoslovak theatre at European and international festivals (Wroclaw, Torun, Moscow, Belgrade). The pinnacle of success of both productions was a wave of positive reactions from European critics in Edinburgh. The Guardian daily even awarded Touches and Connections its prestigious Guardian’s Critic’s Choice prize.

Between 1990 and 1996 Polák had no permanent contract. In this period, however, he cooperated mostly with ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre, the Slovak National Theatre and Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra. In 1996–2000, Polák worked as a full-time director in ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre. In 2000, he became the artistic director at the State Theatre Košice where he remained until 2002, only to return to ASTORKA Korzo ’90 in 2005 to take the position of the artistic director and theatre director. As a well-established director, he started to collaborate with international theatres – in 1992, he produced Macbeth with the Shakespeare Repertory Theatre (Chicago, USA) and worked diligently for Czech theatres in Brno and Prague. In April 2006, he became the director of the Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre where he stayed until May 2008. In the period 2013–2017, he worked as the director the Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre again. In this position, he has initiated the establishment of an international theatre festival called Eurokontext.sk that presents the works of theatres from the Visegrad countries as well as work by selected partners from the European Theatre Convention (ETC).

In addition to theatre direction, Roman Polák also works as a film director. He contributed to several domestic and co-production film and television projects (Amina’s Memory, New Suffering of Anton, The Devil). He has won several nominations and awards for his direction of drama and opera productions in various surveys and at all kinds of festivals. Polák is also active as a pedagogue: in 1994–1996, he taught part-time at Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno, and in 2007 at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. He became a full-time teacher at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in 2011 and has since taught at its Department of Direction and Dramaturgy. 

 

Description of his work:

From the beginnings of his artistic career until today, Roman Polák has progressed from being a pronounced and provocative artist to a distinctive director who can stage both big classics and contemporary drama. His productions always offer meaningful themes which – either because of their content or by means of Polák’s poetics – always take a stand on today’s world, society and politics. At the same time, they never force any answers, but rather pose more questions. Polák’s subject matter usually contains several thematic areas which he systematically and purposefully explores. Critique of society, moral and psychological disintegration of the individual, carnality and human eroticism – these are the essential themes Polák works with, develops and specifically interprets.

As Miloš Pietor’s student, he continues the tradition of emphasized realism and strives to create a Shakespearian type of theatre. Such theatre should introduce characters who meet in a dramatic conflict at three basic levels – the instinctive, the psychological and the social.  As Polák says himself, a production or a theatre play works only if it contains all three levels. When preparing the directorial concept for a production, he looks for sufficiently artistic and mobilizing form for the mentioned instinctive and psychological motives of the characters that he discovers in the text. In many cases, he is bold enough even to add them to the script. In his work, Polák does not avoid the principles of Stanislawski’s model of truthfulness, or at least the likelihood and particularity of a dramatic situation and its conflict. In addition to modern and contemporary, international and Slovak playwrights, Polák likes to choose verified classical works by William Shakespeare, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Molière, Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, among others. A foremost position in Polák’s repertory is taken by Russian classics to which he keeps returning because he finds in them encoded problems and contradictions of human life, issues he is interested in and inspired by as an artist. Love, belief in god, cruelty, generational problems – all these are motifs that dominate his stagings of Russian titles.

As an author he co-wrote the play The Centaurs (ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre), created or co-created several theatre adaptations (The Bride of the RidgeAnna KareninaThe Brothers Karamazov) or strong dramatic variations (Play Gorky or Summer Guests). At present, Polák frequently collaborates with dramaturgs Daniel Majling, Peter Kováč and Darina Abrahámová, stage designer Pavel Borák and costume designer Peter Čanecký. As a director of many important productions, he worked in tandem with dramaturg Martin Porubjak with whom he staged several emblematic productions (Touches and ConnectionsBaalThe Trial). The music Polák uses in his productions is usually based on the main theme. In the past, he liked to invite Slovak popular musicians to work on his shows (Richard Müller, Andrej Šeban, Anton Popovič, Marián Greksa), but at present musician Lucia Chuťková is responsible for the music in his productions (ArcadiaThe Shepherd’s WifeThe Brothers KaramazovThe RatsBuddenbrooks). Roman Polák’s broad scope of genres and themes, as well as his remarkable and unmistakable directorial method have attracted and pleased both professional critics and the general public. Some of his productions stir up all kinds of discussions and are often equivocally received. Despite artistic polemics, Polák is one of the most prolific and pronounced theatre directors in Slovakia.

 

List of directed productions:

1977 / Almost Poetic Theatre at the Roland Theatre / Vladimir Mayakovski: Maria, Closer!

1978 / Almost Poetic Theatre at the Roland Theatre / Roman Polák: Aremora, or These Weird People

1979 / Plastic Theatre Bratislava / Branimir Šćepanović: What Then? (Mouth Full of Soil)

1980 / State Theatre Košice / Aleksander Fredro: Man and Woman

1981 / State Theatre Košice / Stanislav Stratiev: The Bus

1981 / Studio of the Academy of Performing Arts / Roman Polák: Theatre and Life

1981 / Studio of the Academy of Performing Arts / Fráňa Šrámek: Moon Over the River

1982 / State Theatre Košice / Fernand Crommelynck: The Magnificent Cuckold

1982 / Ján Chalupka’s Theatre Ensemble, Brezno / Samo Tomášik: A Wedding Under the Rooster, or May the Cost Be As Low As Possible

1983 / State Theatre Košice / Henrik Ibsen: Peer Gynt

1984 / Poetic Ensemble of the New Stage, Bratislava / Robinson Jeffers: The Loving Shepherdess

1984 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Ján Palárik: The Tinker

1984 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Karol Horák: The Man Between the Wars

1984 / Ján Chalupka Theatre, Brezno / Viliam Paulíny Tóth: The Human Comedy

1985 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Ivan Radoev: Cannibal

1985 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

1985 / Plastic Theatre Bratislava / Vojtech Mihálik: Running Away After Orpheus

1986 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Grigory Gorin: Thyl Ulenspiegel

1986 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / František Švantner, Roman Polák: The Bride of the Ridge

1986 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Tadeusz Różewicz: The Trap

1987 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Mikuláš Kočan: Hey, Ďurko, Ďurko (Jánošík)

1987 / Theatre for Children and Youth, Trnava / Fernand Crommelynck: Passionate As Ice

1987 / State Puppet Theatre, Bratislava / Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Roman Polák: The Overcoat

1988 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Pierre de Marivaux: Touches and Connections (The Dispute)

1988 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Peter Karvaš: Zero Hour

1988 / E. F. Burian Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic / Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The Visit of the Old Lady

1989 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Bertolt Brecht: Baal

1989 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The Visit of the Old Lady

1989 / Vene Teater, Tallinn, Estonia / Pierre de Marivaux: Touches and Connections (The Dispute)

1990 / Jonáš Záborský Theatre, Prešov / Karol Horák: The Decline of Football in the City of K

1990 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Franz Kafka, Roman Polák, Martin Porubjak: The Trial

1990 / Academy of Performing Arts / Max Frisch: Don Juan or the Love of Geometry

1990 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Alan Ayckbourn: Absurd Person Singular

1991 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Georg Tabori: Mein Kampf

1991 / Andrej Bagar Theatre, Nitra / Pierre de Marivaux: The Triumph of Love

1992 / Shakespeare Repertory Theatre, Chicago, USA / William Shakespeare: Macbeth

1992 / Andrej Bagar Theatre, Nitra / Fernand Crommelynck: The Magnificent Cuckold

1992 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

1993 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Edmond Rostand: Cyrano

1993 / National Theatre Prague, Czech Republic / Paul Claudel: The Satin Slipper

1993 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Frank Wedekind: Lulu

1994 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

1994 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / William Shakespeare: King Lear

1994 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Karol Horák: Strange Johnny (Apocalypse According to Janko Kráľ)

1994 / National Theatre Prague, Czech Republic / Pierre de Marivaux: The Double Inconstancy

1994 / Janáček Academy of Performing Arts Brno, Czech Republic / William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure

1995 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Karol Horák: Heaven, Hell, Gotham

1995 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / William Shakespeare: The Tempest

1995 / Student Theatre of the Faculty of Arts, Pavol Jozef Šafárik University, Prešov / Karol Horák: New Temptation of Anton

1996 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Uncle Vanya

1996 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / Karol Horák: … Thy Kingdom Come…“

1996 / West Theatre, Bratislava / Jean Genet: The Maids

1997 / Slovak National Uprising Theatre, Martin / William Shakespeare: Coriolanus

1997 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky: The Forest

1997 / West Theatre, Bratislava / Bernard Slade: Same Time, Next Year

1997/ Trnava Theatre / Roman Polák: Robinson Looking For a Ship That Will Be Wrecked

1998 / Theatre on the Balustrade, Prague, Czech Republic / Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: The Seagull

1998 / the ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Maxim Gorky: Scenes From the Bessemenov Household / Smug Citizens

1998 / the ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Paul Claudel: The Exchange

1999 / Trnava Theatre / Henrik Ibsen: John Gabriel Borkman

1999 / New Stage, Bratislava / William Shakespeare, Roman Polák: Shockspeare

1999 / Théâtre Molière – Maison de la poésie, Paris, France / Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin: The Stone Guest

2000 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, Jan Novak: The Axe Murder in St. Petersburg

2000 / Brno City Theatre, Czech Republic / Henrik Ibsen: Peer Gynt

2000 / Drama Club, Prague, Czech Republic/ Bernard Marie Koltès: Return to the Desert

2001 / State Theatre Košice / Bernard-Marie Koltés: Roberto Zucco

2001/ Slovak Chamber Theatre, Martin / Molière, Roman Polák: Don(a) Juan(a)

2001 / State Theatre Košice and civic association Metamorphoses / Bernard-Marie Koltès: Black Battles With Dogs

2002 / Slovak Chamber Theatre, Martin / Molière, Roman Polák, Roman Císař: Tartuffe Striptease

2002 / State Theatre Košice / Gejza Dusík, Pavol Braxatoris: Blue Rose

2002 / State Theatre Košice / William Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

2002 / State Theatre Košice / Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

2003 / New Stage, Bratislava / Robert Thomas: Eight Women

2003 / Slovak Chamber Theatre, Martin / Molière, Roman Polák: The Poor Miser

2003 / Drama Club, Prague, Czech Republic / Fiodor Sologub, Roman Polák: The Devil’s Swing

2003 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Eva Maliti-Fraňová: Krcheň the Immortal

2004 / City Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Tom Stoppard: Arcadia

2004 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Maxim Gorky, Roman Polák: Play Gorky or Summer Guests

2004 / New Stage, Bratislava / John Chapman: Nil By Mouth

2005 / Studio L+S, Bratislava / Ronald Harwood: The Dresser

2005 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Viliam Klimáček: Hypermarket

2006 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Roman Polák: The Centaurs

2006 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Christopher Hampton: Embers

2006 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Ivanov

2006 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Pavol Weiss: Girlfriends

2007 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Táňa Kusá: With Mother

2007 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Pavol Weiss: Bajmann Brothers

2007 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Victor Hugo, Roman Polák: The King Amuses Himself

2008 / Andrej Bagar Theatre, Nitra / Roman Polák: Piargy

2008 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Three Sisters

2008 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Ivan Turgenev: A Month in the Country

2008 / City Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night or As You Like It

2008 / State Opera Banská Bystrica / Eugen Suchoň: The Whirlpool

2009 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Jan Novak: Tolstoy and Money

2009 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Roman Polák: Anna Karenina

2009 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav: Herodes and Herodias

2010 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / Molière: The Misanthrope

2010 / Aréna Theatre, Bratislava / Štefan Kršňák: Take a Shotgun For the Husband

2010 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Platonov

2010 / Andrej Bagar Theatre, Nitra / Dušan Mitana, Roman Polák, Daniel Majling: Endgame

2011 / the ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Eugene O´Neill: A Long Day’s Journey Into the Night

2011 / State Theatre Košice / William Shakespeare: As You Like It

2011 / State Opera Banská Bystrica / Ján Cikker: Coriolanus

2011 / City Theatre Žilina / Zuza Ferenczová: Babyboom

2011 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / Sophocles: Oedipus Rex

2012 / City Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Pierre Corneille: Le Cid

2012 / Aréna Theatre / Agatha Christie: Towards Zero

2012 / ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre / Franz Kafka, Roman Polák, Daniel Majling: The Castle

2013 / Opera of the Slovak National Theatre / Gioacchino Rossini: The Barber of Seville

2013 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, Roman Polák, Daniel Majling: The Brothers Karamazov

2013 / Karol Spišák’s Old Theatre, Nitra / Pavol Dobšinský, Roman Polák: Earthly Beauty

2013 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Eugen Gindl: Carpathian Thriller

2013 / National Theatre Brno, Czech Republic / Richard Wagner: Flying Dutchman

2014 / Andrej Bagar Theatre, Nitra / Gerhart Hauptmann: The Rats

2014 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Thomas Mann, John von Düffel: Buddenbrooks

2014 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin and City Theatre of Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav / Patrick Süskind: The Double Bass

2015 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / František Švantner, Roman Polák: The Bride of the Ridge

2015 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Ivan Stodola: The Shepherd’s Wife

2015 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Karol Horák: Prophet Štúr and His Shadows, or the Revelation, Sacrifice and Ascension of Prophet Ľudovít and His Disciples

2015 / Opera of the Slovak National Theatre / Gioacchino Rossini: Figaro Here, Figaro There

2015 / Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Tom Stoppard: Arcadia

2016 / State Opera Banská Bystrica / Ján Cikker: Juro Jánošík

2016/ Academy of Performing Arts / Woody Allen: Urban Sexualism

2017/ Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre / Péter Esterházy: Mercedes Benz

2017 / Opera of the Slovak National Theatre / Giacomo Puccini: Trilogy: Sister Angelica, Coat, Gianni Schicchi

2017 / Summer Shakespeare Festival, Bratislava / William Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors

2017 / Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin / Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: The Cherry Orchard

 

Awards:

1997 / Dosky (Theatre Award of the Season) – Award for the Best Direction of the Season for the production The Forest at the ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre.

1997 / Dosky (Theatre Award of the Season) – Award for the Best Production of the Season for The Forest at the ASTORKA Korzo ’90 Theatre.

2005 / Literary Fund Prize for theatre and radio work for the exceptional staging of Play Gorky or Summer Guests.

2006 / Crystal Wing Award in the film and theatre category.

2006 / Dosky Award for Best Direction of the Season for Ivanov produced at the Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin.

2006 / Dosky Award for Best Production of the Season for Ivanov produced at the Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin.

2009 / Dosky Award for Best Direction of the Season for Anna Karenina produced at the Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre.

2009 / Tatrabanka Foundation Prize in the theatre category for the dramatic production of Anna Karenina.

2010 / Dosky Award for the Best Direction of the Season for The Misanthrope produced at the Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin.

2011 / Prize of the Slovak Minister of Culture in the field of professional art in 2010 awarded for the direction of Dušan Mitana’s Endgame and Molière’s The Misanthrope, taking into consideration other directorial work from previous years.

2013 / Tatrabanka Foundation Prize for art – awarded for the direction and co-dramatization of the novel The Brothers Karamazov.

2014 / Literary Fund Prize for the direction of the play Carpathian Thriller at the Slovak National Theatre, and for the direction of The Rats at the Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra.

2017 / DOSKY Award in the in the Extraordinary Drama Production category, for the production Mercedes Benz

2017 / Literary Fund Award for Lifetime Achievement

 

Foreign language skills: Russian

 

Contact: romapolak@gmail.com

 

Videos from productions:

 

The Misanthrope, 2010

video: archive SKD Martin

The Rats, 2014

video: archive DAB Nitra

 

The Shepherd’s Wife, 2015

video: archive SND

 

Prophet Štúr and His Shadows, or the Revelation, Sacrifice and Ascension of Prophet Ľudovít and His Disciples, 2015

video: archive SND

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