The Association was established by five founding institutions: The National Theatre, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre, DRAK Theatre and the Theatre Faculties of JAMU and DAMU.
However, the actual initiators were theatre educators themselves. The Association was created to satisfy their own wish to cooperate, share experiences, develop their field and popularize theatre audience development in the Czech Republic.
The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Theatre Faculty (DAMU)
The Department of Drama in Education at DAMU focuses on finding ways of bringing together drama, theatre and education and exploring their relationships in various formal and informal education contexts. The Department’s establishment in 1993 reflected the academy’s gradual transformation and a shift in the approach to the arts in formal education that both took place in the 1990s. While initially the Department focused on drama in formal education, it later expanded its scope to examine the role of drama outside schools.
For more than 10 years, the Department has explored the role of the theatre educator which is seen to have an important potential. Since 2015, students have had a chance to practice theatre education working with the faculty’s DISK theatre, and many student projects took place at other theatres, too.
Theatre educators give theatres the access to find new ways to contribute to local, cultural and community development, such as audience development, community outreach, regional development, etc. Naturally, many graduates of the Department employ the goals and methods of theatre education in their subsequent profession of a drama teacher.
The Department of Drama in Education supports the establishment and activities of the Association of Theatre Educators. It encourages the Association’s efforts to popularize the profession of a theatre educator, bring this topic to attention within discussions about the new role of cultural institutions and create a space for mutual inspiration and self-development among educators.
Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (JAMU), Theatre Faculty
The Theatre and Education Studio (Ateliér Divadlo a výchova) offers academic courses reflecting current trends and demands in audience development. The programme Theatre and Education thus includes specialised modules combining the theory and practice of education in theatres – Workshops on JAMU Productions (for Bachelor students) and Theatre Project – Audience Development (for Master students). Graduates who complete these modules are well-oriented in the field of theatre education and understand its role in the broader context of audience development. They can develop, apply, or adapt appropriate formats of audience development events and lead workshops about particular productions. The modules include practical training and illustrations of audience development at Czech theatres.
Theatre and Education graduates can design a curriculum for a chosen audience group or institution. They are able to lead a group of non-professionals in devising an original collective piece. They also have a basic understanding of arts management, complemented by real experience with organising a theatre festival or a non-professional competition. They possess a complex skill set in art and education qualifying them to become theatre educators at professional theatres.
When Drak Theatre was opening its new building – Labyrint – its challenge was to make the most of it. This impulse led to the development of a brand new narrative in the theatre’s activities – creating bridges between drama and education.
The other two important factors were a strong support from the new managing director Eliška Finková and the then dramaturge Dominika Špalková’s efforts to revitalize Josef Krofta’s project, the International Institute of Figural Theatre.
Among the first projects in the area of audience development were talks and actor-led workshops about theatre professions. Later, the theatre ran a series called “Puppets not textbooks” referring to the the newly founded puppet museum and Ikaros-themed workshops, both created by DAMU and JAMU students as part of their practical education.
In the 2013/2014 season, the theatre welcomed a new theatre educator Anna Hrnečková who developed a complex strategy for audience development programmes for various audience groups. This strategy continues to be followed today and it has become a key part of the theatre’s image. The current theatre educator Jana Nechvátalová, in collaboration with two external professionals and the team of the director Tomáš Jarkovský, keeps on searching for even stronger and more natural links between artistic and educational principles.
The National Moravian-Silesian Theatre
The National Moravian-Silesian Theatre (NDM) is the largest and oldest professional theatre of the region, comprising four ensembles and three stages. It has been active in audience development since 2010 when its managing director Jiří Nekvasil started the Summer theatre school for educators. Following this, the educators and other staff founded a non-profit Studio for Children and Youth, an essential part of the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre to this day.
After the renovation of Jiří Myron theatre in 2018 the theatre opened The Theatre Education Atelier at the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre, a centre for theatre education and creativity, which has been serving as a venue for all audience development events of the theatre since then.
In cooperation with the Studio for Children and Youth, the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre (NDM) offers a wide range of audience development programmes for its own audience as well as the wider public. Among these are play-themed workshops, theatre tours, discussions with artists and experts and regular courses and workshops. The theatre also has special offers tailored to schools including project-based day events, workshops led by artists, courses for teachers, and workshops about specific topics in the history and theory of drama.
Audience development at NDM additionally focuses on long-term projects for various target groups. The theatre’s youngest audience members can become members of the Drama Studio at NDM (‘Činoherní studio’) or the Drama Group Memory of Nations (‘Divadelní kroužek paměti národa’). Pensioners can join group discussions with emeritus artists of the National Moravian-Silesian theatre, talks on the theatre’s history or the senior drama studio. Additionally, families with children can benefit from weekend or regular drama workshops and interactive performances.
The Studio is currently run by Daniela Jirmanová, Tereza Strmisková, Radana Otipková, Vladimíra Dvořáková and Sylvie Vůjtková.
The National Theatre
The National Theatre has a strong and steady presence in audience development. It provided the key initiative for the foundation of the Association of Theatre Educators. In 2014 the National Theatre started its “ND+” programme comprising all the complementary events and audience workshops. These events, spread between all four ensembles (Drama, Ballet, Opera, Laterna magika), aim to enrich the audience’s experience, explain the context and the process behind productions, explore the past and present of the National Theatre, and offer visitors the chance to get more deeply involved.
The variety of opportunities is rich: visitors can talk to creators, discuss topics with dramaturges, come with their children to production-themed workshops, peek in the backstage, explore the magical techniques of Laterna magika right on the stage, dance with ballet dancers, engage in group discussions about the opera, take dance classes or ND Young courses, join workshops, or come to one of the talks by experts on current affairs. There is a special focus on working with schools and teachers.
On top of these ensemble programmes, there is another section called “Národní jinak” (i.e. “National Theatre in another way”) that offers events covering a range of possible interests for both adult and child audiences, such as the history of the theatre and its buildings, unconventional tours, deep dives into theatre professions and operations, explorations of the theatres’ studios and depositories, archive tours, eco-policies and others.
The ND+ also organizes events and programmes such as International Children’s Day, season opening, Prague Theatre Night, International Day of Dance or ‘Night with Andersen’ etc.
In the current situation the National Theatre educators have been focusing on interacting with the audience through online channels, which opens up new unexplored possibilities.
The National Theatre (ND+) team of educators are: Lenka Hubáčková (Národní jinak), Zuzana Kráľová (NT Drama, Laterna magika), Kateřina Hanáčková (NT Ballet), Denisa Rausch (NT Opera) and Daniela von Vorst (Association of Theatre Educators, ND+).