The main hypothesis of the research is that the beginnings of the often cited and researched alternative, experimental, progressive theatre of the seventies and eighties date back to the ‘amateur theatre movement’ of the sixties. The so-called amateur theatre movement which created the majority of the later ensembles and participants, also created the operational structure and network within which they operated, and the conditions and possibilities for inclusion. Nevertheless, a systematic study of them has not yet been carried out. Moreover, we are at the last possible moment of processing that integrates living memory, after the generation of creators active in the period and of spectators who experienced the performances is slowly disappearing. It is important to note that the designation ‘amateur’ referred primarily to the operating conditions (and not to the quality of the performances), which were different from those of professional companies. For practical reasons, this term is also used in the present research, but the research hypothesis is that the genealogy of the terms ‘amateur’, ‘experimental’, ‘independent’, ‘alternative’ needs to be clarified.

In the early 1960s, the consolidation of the Kádár-regime brought a relative cultural opening, and as a consequence, the so-called amateur theatres enjoyed relative freedom: they were able to perform works previously forbidden to professional companies and were given the opportunity to experiment with different theatrical styles and methods. Although important publications have been produced on a number of companies and artists, the subject has not yet been systematically researched and studied. The present research aims to cover the history of “amateur” theatre companies in the period between 1961 and 1972, two symbolic years, the period between the founding of the Universitas Ensemble in Budapest and the Szeged University Stage and the National Theatre Festival in Kazincbarcika. It should be noted that the dates chosen are not to be considered as time limits, but merely as practical tools for research. The Orfeo Group and the Kassák House Studio (which started in 1969, as their activities were concentrated in the 1970s and no basic research was carried out on most of the artists of the 1960s) are part of the corpus of a future planned research project.

As a first step, we are searching for existing documents in public collections and archives. In addition, the lack of basic research on the subject makes it particularly important to survey private archives. However, the study of amateur theatre artists and companies, which started in the 1960s, not only aims to fill a gap in the history of theatre in Hungary, but also to create new documents through interviews with artists, spectators, and critics. The results of the research – the metadata of the documents found, the oral history video interviews and the theatre history studies synthesising them – are published in Hungarian and in the form of short summaries in English on the website.

The aim of the research is thus twofold: on the one hand, to record and rewrite the last-minute memories of living artists and their recipients who can still be contacted, and on the other hand, to map the socio-cultural network that emerges from the case studies. Accordingly, the main objective of the project is to carry out three years of basic research in its first phase, between 2021 and 2024, to process the histories of the experimental theatres between 1961 and 1972, while at the same time highlighting alternatives for contemporary theatre historiography. The study of the theatrical practices of the companies and creators to be processed are carried out in archives and archives (Hungarian National Archives, Historical Archives of State Security Services, Open Society Archives, National Institute of Culture) and theatre collections (National Museum and Institute of Theatre History, The National Széchenyi Library Theatre History Department), on the other hand, it would be organised by the search for documents that are largely held in private archives. In addition, the research are also reviewing and collecting contemporary reception (reviews, newspaper articles) and literature related to each group and community. A specific objective is the inclusion of oral histories in the research, which would generate new perspectives and narratives through interviews with still available artists and some of their audiences, which would rewrite and thus reopen (even already known) theatre historical contexts.