Playwright and MIÉP leader István Csurka has been given the position of artistic director at Budapest’s Új Színház. Csurka submitted a joint bid for the post of director in tandem with actor György Dörner, who will become theatre director from February. István Márta, who has run the theatre for 13 years, also applied for the post, and was backed by six votes to two by a professional panel who had interviewed all of the applicants. Mayor István Tarlós signed the appointments on Thursday.
The winner of the tender to become Új Színház director György Dörner has published his bid, which includes the sentence “Hungarians will declare war on the liberal entertainment state, which has sunk to the brothel level”. Dörner will take up the post from next February, with MIÉP leader István Csurka as his “intendant”. The theatre will be renamed Hátország (Hinterland).
Dörner is a self-confessed supporter of extreme right wing party leader István Csurka, whose party (MIÉP) was voted out of parliament in 2002. He also campaigned for Jobbik last year. Csurka, however, is a fierce critic of Jobbik and often supports the government in his regular editorials in the MIÉP weekly, Magyar Fórum. In his application for the job (leaked by a new “transparency site”, http://www.atlatszo.hu
), Dörner named Csurka, once a popular playwright, as the spiritual leader of his project.
The Hungarian theatre society sent an open letter to mayor István Tarlós after he vetoed “a majority professional opinion” of 6-2 in favour of the present director István Márta, and chose Dörner instead. The letter added that the decision has increased the theatrical community’s and voters’ beliefs that the only motivations of theatre appointments are political. However Tarlós dismissed the open letter as “inconsiderate, irritating and contemptible”. City Hall press chief Mária Somlyó Szűcs said Tarlós considers the dispute closed, adding that City Hall finds it unacceptable that “the smallest change elicits such an aggressive response from theatre directors”.
Csurka said he would like to see the theatre perform new plays with “public themes”, such as former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, and the history of Hungary’s privatisations. Both the Socialists and Politics Can Be Different (LMP) protested the appointments. Philosopher Ágnes Heller said “a theatre has been handed to the far right, and racists”.
The website of Der Spiegel carried an article at the weekend entitled Far Rightists Take Over Running of a Theatre, which described Csurka as “a well known anti-Semite”. Belgium’s RTL described Dörner and Csurka as “far-right figures”, adding that their appointment has filled the entire Hungarian theatrical community with anxiety.
In HVG Online, Árpád W. Tóta, a popular blogger, ridicules the left-wing press for interpreting Dörner’s application as a declaration of war, rather than as an artistic programme. (Dörner wrote in his mission statement that his main aim was to fight the “liberal yoke” under which Hungarians “are groaning.”) “There is nothing even vaguely reminiscent of a major scandal,” – he suggests. “All that has happened is that a group of severely mentally handicapped people have been granted another opportunity.” It is not an inexpensive venture – Tóta continues, but “since we live in a (civilised) society, we should not deny the disabled their group therapy.” Bálint Ablonczy, a regular columnist at the Fidesz linked Heti Válasz, does not find the episode so entertaining. “If György Dörner and his programme really do suit the right wing majority which runs the capital, then the gentlemen at City Hall should not be surprised if people who actually do appreciate quality in culture vote with their feet – and not just against certain theatre productions.”
Preparations for a protest on October 21 have been initiated on the social networking website Facebook.