Sopron and The Festival:

A good festival must meet many different requirements. It is always there a hosting city, an institution servicing it, a community for which it is organized and are always there the individual viewpoints.  Our taste and expectations should be multifarious; our cultural and artistic claims should be quite different. After it is over one always can see better, and this gives chance and also enthusiasm to take the next step. And if all goes well, a festival has been born in Sopron designed to be molded further together as it would have gone through the most important filters.

Sopron is a real cultural miracle with its historical treasury, with it tasty wines and cuisine, with its closeness to the border – all these together makes a real touristic experience for those who are present.  The Sopron Petőfi Theater supported the festival with its professional staff and facilities, and one must admit that rarely happens by an amateur-, student- or children’s theater festival that it is backed by a county-wide operating, established theatre institution.

It is not the last one among the viewpoints (and it also rarely happens) that 2000 local spectators had booked tickets for the festival performances. This fact means that in general more than 200 external theater fans came to see each performance.

A real reflection does not forget about shortages so I have to speak about these as well.  The realization opportunities of the festival have been uncertain for quite long or better to say they have been “question marked”. Well, although the selection process had been started already in March, the final and full timetable has been set together only for end of August. So the official info on the selection decisions have reached the applicants and interested quite late which rightly could be blamed of by both those groups that have or have not been selected finally and could take part in the festival only in the off program.

This delay in the main program had a side effect on the offs. Because of this the community events, workshops had to be left out. Having participated in many festivals for more than 20 years I do say that the festival mood depends on the quality of the people’s presence if they are really present at all.  By the next edition of PROGRESS more emphasis could be put on this, as by this first occasion somehow it went like some cautious socializing, on the other hand, and in some cases a bit overdone.  It proved anyway that there’s a room for the amateur theatre life in Sopron’s cultural life.

Selection philosophy:

During the selection process I tried to take into consideration several points of view: the sorting should meet the demands of the amateur theatre scene, namely it should be representative but at the same time should satisfy the expectations of the local audience.

So there were children’s, secondary-school, and mixed age theater groups in the basket. The brave and experimental spirit that characterized the invited groups has been shown up in different artistic languages so the festival could represent the multicolored facets that one can find in the non-professional theatrical laboratories.

There is great need for such groups, not only because they mediate but maintain and in many cases create cultural traditions and values. They make all this in a different set of rules as opposed to the professional theaters. This alteration means that they can react on the surrounding world faster and more directly, their way of thinking is more instinctive, their cry for help works like signaling buoys, their humor is like Shakespeare’s clowns – grotesque, self-ironic and philosophical at the same time but always true.

This “trueness” makes possible to love them and also their eccentricity.  Sometimes it can cause discomfort or, what is more important, deep self recognition. As a child who with he/r questions and statements never wants to offend but rather to understand. However it is worthwhile to respect and encourage this endeavor.

This had been acted by SOPRON PROGRESS 2017 when it has launched an opportunity for a Hungarian festival with a perspective on the international amateur theatre field.


For our greatest pity the group from Sri Lanka had to cancel the participation because of visa problems. So finally 5 Hungarian and 3 international groups took part in the festival. During the discussions on the shows the jury gave both an outlook on theater history and criticism but what is more important than this, the chance for dialogue has not been excluded from the talks. So the groups could get reflections on their work from many sides.

The Italians (Avanzi di Scena) with an extraordinary montage technique dreamt on stage a movie universe evoking the past of the Italian ‘film factory’.  We have got the time and chance to ponder on how great stories and stars gave shape to the Italian film universe and till now how little we possess from this.

The Germans’ paraphrase on Don Quixote (Don Q by Compania Sincara) masterly exploited the mask play technique and it is not a coincidence that it won the most awards among others the invitation to the Budapest National Theatre’s MITEM International theatre festival.

Among the Hungarian groups was seen the RÉV Theater’s IRINA that have been performed in many festivals recently for example the Tyumen CEC festival. Here the jury awarded them for their creativity. The students of the Vörösmarty Grammar School have recently been proved their theatrical skills and social sensibility many times. Their performance The Broken Family co-directed by Balázs Perényi and Ádám Szalai made spectators to think and introspect of the family problems present everywhere around. Some special awards have gone to the Soltis Lajos Theater’s The Lonesome West production that beyond any taboos put on stage a world without God and belief and human relations bleeding of common problems. Acknowledgements were given to one of the actors, the three musicians and for the stage design. From the village of Deszk an experimental group came show us the everlasting questions of man and woman, in some moments evoking the movie pictures of Lynch and Bergman.  Well, although their performance entitled Still Life divided the audience but still became an important part of the festival because of its experimental search for form: the ceremonial- and poetry theatre got a Bob Wilson like visual realization. The KB35 Company is one of the most significant amateur workshops and communities of the country.  By them the most important mission of amateur theatre scene is been realized year by year: to make move generations, educate and develop through dramatic and theatrical means.  Their show based on Lope de Vega’s The Disobedient scrutinized the behavior of the exploited who confront/revolt against the power.

Among the numerous and valuable Hungarian off programs one was really a great present. This is the Strucz József Players Company from Kupuszina (SRB). The players in this village group might not be aware of what a miracle they keep in their hands: this is the coexistence of live art and the tradition itself in the best and most pure way of the word. And what is more, they sing, dance and play like professionals, in an amazing way they create a historical but still alive folk-play, an interpretation of habits and suppositions that normally belong to museums.

In general and in spite of the initial difficulties the festival ran successfully. Besides a plenty of helping and supporting hands the personal efforts and presence of Mr. András Pataki (Director of Petőfi Theater), Tibor Várszegi (managing director of the festival) and János Regős (Chair of HFATP), Lucie Orbók, István Pinczés and Imre Katona (members of Jury), Julia Oláh designer and compere, Ervin Németh, the dramaturge, editor of  the printed materials, Anna Németh the press correspondent – all did have an important part in this.

We are looking forward to the continuation.

Criticisms and all other info:

Sándor Komáromi

artistic director of the festival                                                                                 

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