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Slovak Regional Governor cancels theater production he doesn't like

16.3.2016 14:55
Marian Kotleba wearing the logo of his
Marian Kotleba wearing the logo of his "People's Party Our Slovakia", which is very similar to the emblem of the WWII-era Hlinka Guard, the militia maintained by the Slovak People's Party in the period from 1938 to 1945, when Slovakia was a client state of Nazi Germany. (PHOTO: Wikipedia.org).

The ultra-right Governor of the Banska Bystrica Region, Marián Kotleba, has ordered the early closure of a theatrical production that he does not like, allegedly because it uses indecent expressions. News server Sme.sk reported that Kotleba's office had commissioned the play for performance at a teacher appreciation celebration in the town of Brezno.

The production of Kováči (The Blacksmiths) by the local Ján Chalupka Theatre Ensemble was stopped in the middle of the show on Monday by a staff member of the Regional School Department on the orders of Kotleba, who was sitting in the audience, Slovak news server Dennikn.sk reported. The woman sent by the Regional Governor to interrupt the actors justified doing so by saying the play used indecent expressions.

"About midway through the performance there were three characters onstage, two blacksmiths and the wife of one of them. Suddenly we saw that something was happening backstage - our colleague quietly attempted to see what was going on while my brother and I just looked at each other, we didn't know what was happening, if she was ill or something. After a moment she returned and said we had to stop the show," Gabriel Obernauer, the head of the ensemble and one of its actors, told Sme.sk.

"We tried to keep going, but then I saw a staffer of the BBSK backstage (the Office of the Banska Bystrica Regional Administration) saying something to the prompter. My colleague came over again and said we had to stop. So, in the middle of the performance, without any explanation, we stopped performing and left the stage," Obernauer said.

The ensemble has reportedly not yet been given any explanation for the cancellation. The performance had been commissioned by the Regional Administration on the occasion of Teacher's Day as part of the cultural program.

The premiere of "The Blacksmiths" was held last July and it had been performed 20 times before Monday, according to Obernauer "to very positive responses from audiences". The ensemble, according to its head, warned viewers in advance that the play was not intended for audiences under the age of 15 because vulgarisms are used in it.

Kotleba's office had asked the ensemble two weeks ago whether a different play might be performed instead, but the ensemble was not able to offer something else. Three days before the performance, staffers from the Regional Office called the ensemble to ask whether the vulgarisms might be altered.

"A half an hour before the performance they asked again whether we had changed it. We said it wasn't 100 % possible but that we would attempt to modify it," said Obernauer - apparently any changes made were not enough and Kotleba intervened during the performance.

The right-wing radical's ultra-right People's Party Our Slovakia ((Lidová strana Naše Slovensko - LSNS) was the biggest surprise of Slovakia's Parliamentary elections the Saturday before last when it won 8 % of the vote. In its program the party has promised, among other things, to establish "order with the parasites in the settlements" and to protect people from "Gypsy terror", has rejected immigrants, and wants to advocate for Slovakia leaving "the criminal NATO pact" and holding a referendum on the country leaving the EU.  

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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divadlo, Marian Kotleba, Slovakia, censorship



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