Hungarian theatre in the times of Sándor Petőfi, 1823–1849
Our national poet, Sándor Petőfi, took his chances with acting himself: he was an extra, playbill deliverer and odd-job man at the Hungarian Theatre in Pest; character actor, choir member in various itinerant troupes and also a cast member at his friend, actor Gábor Egressy’s reward performance in the theatre already renamed National Theatre.
He translated and written plays and recited his own poems. In the exhibition we will present the structure of theatre life in the early 1800s in Hungary, in light of the political ambitions of the so-called Reform Era, focusing on the various performance genres, set character types, venues, scenographic possibilities of the companies. We will present the acting styles used, as well as the societal position of theatricals, also using Petőfi’s poems abundantly. We evoke the permanent theatre venues already in place between 1823–1849, taking a look at the earlier developments. Itinerant theatre operations were a necessity at the time, mostly because of the lack of public subsidies.
Actors were forced – mostly hoping for the support of the aristocracy – to look for their audiences in their local towns, often on markets and assemblies. The life of the itinerant actor is mostly preserved in the public memory in a somewhat idealized form, mainly due to the classical feature films dealing with this topic (first of all Déryné and Liliomfi). By contrasting Petőfi’s theatrical biography with this idealized image, the exhibition tries to paint a realistic picture of the heydays of Hungarian theatre. Exhibition design by stage designer János Mira.