Theatres played a pivotal role in the country’s transition to a democratic society in 1989. Theatres were the first to go on strike at that time and they became a platform for the political discussions that were led by theatre artist and future president Václav Havel. While until then they had been centrally controlled, theatres were the first entities to be decentralised to a lower level of state administration when they were transferred to the municipal level (1993).
After 1990 the entire state-controlled sector of the arts underwent decentralisation and privatisation and parts of it were dissolved entirely. In the performing arts this process affected state funding organisations, arts agencies, circuses, publishing houses, and copyright collection societies. As early as 1990 the most restrictive parts of the Theatre Act were annulled and, in connection with other legal regulations (the Trade Licensing Act), the running of theatres was opened up to the private sector (profit and non-profit).
Traditional circus, which traditionally belonged to circus families, has a long tradition in the CR. All circuses were nationalised after 1948 and they were administered by the Ministry of Culture as the state-owned company Czechoslovak Circuses, Varieties and Fun Fairs until 1989. There was also a circus school in the Czech Republic – the Circus and Variety Training School, which was dissolved after 1990.
After 1989 smaller circuses were restituted and gained independence. Traditional circuses, in particular, were not administered by the Ministry of Culture and were transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture (because of the animal breeding) and they have no definition as an art form.
New or contemporary circus started to take shape back in 1990, but it started to develop more intensively after 2009. Unlike traditional circus, contemporary circus is acknowledged as an art form in the CR, but it is not steadily anchored in any live arts disciplines, as it exists between theatre and dance as far as grant procedures of the state or municipalities are concerned. (Štefanová & Byček, 2018).
In the area of the performing arts the state administers through the MC the National Theatre and the intermediary organisation the Arts and Theatre Institute.
The National Theatre followed from the existence of the Interim Theatre that preceded it and opened, first, in 1881 and then, after a fire, again in 1883. The construction of the theatre was funded through a national collection and with donations from other contributing parties. The state assumed responsibility for the administration and management of the National Theatre in Prague on 1 January 1930. The National Theatre is currently made up of four ensembles – the drama company, the ballet company, the opera company, and Laterna Magika, which was originally a separate contributory organisation of the MC. There are four performance venues that are managed by the National Theatre as an organisation: the National Theatre itself, the State Opera, the Estates Theatre, and the New Stage.
The Arts and Theatre Institute is a research organisation that is primarily devoted to theatre and also promotes the Czech arts internationally. Since 1967 it has been organising the largest international exhibition of performance design and space – the Prague Quadrennial.
Through its grant programmes the MC also supports contributory organisations administered by the municipalities. This support is mainly provided through the Programme of State Support for Professional Theatres, Symphony Orchestras, and Vocal Ensembles.
To support the independent areas in the performing arts there are a number of grants programmes at the level of the MC and at lower levels of state administration that support the creation, production, and presentation of works of art as well as international cooperation.
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