THEMandinerconducted an interview with Attila Vidnyánszky.
📌The case of the Performing Arts has long been transferred to the political space, the students are manipulated by the same forces that moved the theatrical demonstrations in December, says Attila Vidnyánszky, the newly appointed chairman of the SZFE board of trustees about the days-long war. According to him, no one can seriously think that all students and teachers agree with what is happening on Vas Street now, only many people do not dare to take their views. The National Director also talks about being privately supported by many great old men. We asked Attila Vidnyánszky.
🇭🇺This is the beginning of the school year, and at the University of Theater and Film Arts, not only would the moods have subsided, the emotions are growing. The students occupied the university, the entrance was closed so that the members of the board of trustees could not enter the building. They have been protesting for days, with a series of dismissals. László Upor, the vice-rector of SZFE, decided without consulting the board of trustees that they would not start teaching this week.
📌Despite expectations, the academic year did not begin at the university. The senate resigned, after Gábor Zsámbéki and Gábor Székely Tamás Ascher, Ildikó Enyedi and Gábor Máté also announced their resignations, and several lecturers and leaders refused to continue working until their demands were met. How will this be the beginning of the year?
🇭🇺We asked the Deputy Rector to justify his decision and inform us of its legal basis. And so far we have only heard orally about the resignations, we have not seen any documents yet. I had previously asked the Chancellor to bring a paper on resignations, but so far we have not received anything. This is, so to speak, contradictory.
📌The other day, however, I finally managed to sit at a table with the university leaders. So what did they stay in?
🇭🇺We actually had a meeting with the university management a couple of days ago. We have stated that the most important thing is to start education properly. We all agreed on that. I asked if we were with the teachers, László Bagossy said that there were some problems with the redundancies. We agreed that the current leaders - László Upor, Gábor Németh and Bagossy - would replace the missing teachers. Now, however, we had to face that
they voluntarily decided not to start teaching yet.
📌In Kossuth Radio, they say they think differently on almost every issue. What are the contentious issues, what do you represent, and what are they?
🇭🇺We represent change, we want substantial transformations to take place at the university. I stress everywhere: students and teachers who are already in the system can do their job with peace of mind. Students will receive the teachers they have been hired for and will accompany them to graduation. However, the leaders of the university are refraining from any change, and all their actions so far prove that they do not want to move in any form.
📌When you talk about change, for the time being, there are only conjectures and gropings about exactly what it covers. Would you summarize what you would be talking about?
🇭🇺We would open the university. We would expand capacity, launch additional classes. Other teachers would be included in the system and even new courses would be launched. There is also literally a lot of emphasis. We definitely want to make substantial progress internationally - in both the theatrical and cinematic lines. We would invite guest teachers, take part in international festivals, think about joint projects. But most importantly, we also want to connect with the part of the profession that the university has little contact with today - all the more so because it is the larger part of the theatrical sphere. This also applies to the film world. We want to work more closely with the film industry. I would very much like to see one or more conferences in the near future, in front of the full public in the theater and film professions, so that we can discuss the direction of the university education system in the coming years.
You need to start planning your new campus to finally have a state-of-the-art infrastructure to serve your training.
The transformation also means an expansion of the budget - it is also in the interest of the current teaching staff that this serves more diverse training. These things should be the subject of constructive discussions and consultations. Until then - I cannot stress this - we need to work with the current teachers, we need to start teaching.
📌“National and Christian values should also be given a place in the university,” it is said many times. It's just that there are those who don't understand that. Let's put this right! What does this mean exactly?
🇭🇺It means that when we teach, we pass on a set of values, whether we like it or not. When we choose compulsory reading or a play, add a text to a speech exam, or offer a topic to the directing students, it’s always about value transfer, and that’s okay. But just
there will be a much more colorful education at the university if it includes a wide range of ideas, beliefs, methodologies and worldviews.
Only then can proportionality, a reflection of social diversity, develop. The last teacher to think along the lines of Christian, conservative values in acting was Imre Kerényi. You have to watch him get fired. More than a decade.
📌The injured party complains that they were suddenly and unexpectedly affected by the model change. They say there were no prior consultations, no dialogue, and they also accuse them of not having the same amount of time to switch as other universities. In summary, they mostly complain about the way this process went. Are these grievances justified?
🇭🇺I first heard this in a conversation with Minister Palkovics, which was attended by representatives of the profession. I asked back: why, if there was a transition from January as for other universities, wouldn’t it be the same? Of course it would be the same. If it were a year from now, the same thing would happen in a year. The need for change has been a problem for decades. There has been constant controversy in the profession since the change of regime, but also at the university.
We knocked on those doors for many, many years, asking in countless forms for an opening. But they shut themselves up.
Previously, theaters were involved in a much wider range of college training, but now the range of these theaters has narrowed. The Katona József Theater is a significant workshop, but it is not right to be overrepresented at the university in this proportion. Gábor Máté, who was today the director and deputy rector of the Soldier (when the rector was Tamás Ascher, who also worked as the chief director of the Soldier for a few years at the same time as his university position) himself admitted in an interview that it was “unhealthy”. But then who had the responsibility to change that? And whose is it today?
📌Is there any way to meet the requirement that members delegated by the university senate be included in the board of trustees?
🇭🇺I think that's how the lineup has become realistic now. We are now there with negotiators of the right weight sitting opposite each other. Even so, we have a very difficult process ahead of us. In principle, SZFE itself supports the change, as László Upor talks about organic transformation, but this process is imperceptible from the outside.
📌Has there been any dialogue with SZFE-HÖK?
🇭🇺They did not come to the last trial. I met them once, at a meeting of Minister Palkovics. Ten of their representatives were present, but what happened there between us can be called everything, not just dialogue. It was a machine gun fire on their part and an ultimatum set. The shocking thing is that the students who should force change the most, who should be the most open, close. The ultimatums that have been formulated are about keeping everything the same.
Also, the physical lock that has just been created is about not wanting to allow any change.
This is the most painful for me. I hope that the arguments, the plans outlined, will affect them as well - but I can’t even say them.
📌Were you able to get into the building? Have you tried to get in at all since the entrance is barricaded?
🇭🇺No. I'm not going there. Why should I provoke the situation? This is not necessary now, but to create an opportunity for dialogue.
📌In an interview with our paper earlier, Zoltán Rátóti said: "this process will have an even deeper point". Is that it? What is the worst case scenario you are expecting?
The worst case scenario is if education does not start.
🇭🇺We're right here now. Obviously, when one takes such a step, one thinks about the direction in which the story might move. For example, I’m a kind of naive person, so until the last minute, I was hoping it wouldn’t be this scenario, but obviously that’s what we expected. In fact, there is no element of what has happened so far that we would not have thought would happen. It is impossible to have a professional dialogue in this way, as it is currently in every political space. It hurts that students don’t want to see this. Although they declared that they did not need politicians to protest, when they said so, they were already there.
📌As they have been showing up ever since, from András Fekete-Győr through Ágnes Kunhalmi to Ákos Hadházy. Have you settled on an initiative again?
For the opposition, it is a straw that can be clung to and a story that can be built according to their political interests.
In this, tools are students, like it or not. That's what they need to see. They also tried - very rightly - because they asked politicians not to show up, but in vain. The same scenario prevails as at the December demonstration, with the performers almost the same. And Amnesty International is helping students prepare for the strike.
📌What is a Plan B if you can’t start education?
🇭🇺Then the board of trustees representing the maintainer is responsible for organizing the education.
📌Is a resting point expected in the near future?
🇭🇺To do this, the university should treat the issue as a professional matter. As long as everything is going on in a political space - my fear is that for a long time to come - the moods will not calm down. God forbid I am wrong.
📌The open leaves are showering from both directions. Everyone sends a message to everyone. Why don’t they drop these conversations among themselves? Or is it political forging capital, location?
🇭🇺Look, there was no regime change in our profession. It's happening now. It's that simple. Thirty - or, if I want, seventy - years of repressed thoughts are now coming to the surface. From both sides. It is quite shocking and touching to me that everyone is showing solidarity with me. Great old people call and support. I wouldn’t be able to do that alone if I didn’t feel so much social support behind me. What’s painful is that the stories I get five or ten a day from the past decades of Performing Arts still don’t sound public, they just stay in my emails, in my memory.
People still dare not stand up, the dam is not torn.
📌Are they afraid to speak?
🇭🇺There’s a militant-toned group who aren’t many, but are capable of constantly poisoning professional public life. Anyone who speaks out of their circles and directs the debate to a professional level is under pressure - so to speak, subtly. There was the earlier story of Kiss-B. With Attila, who does great, full-house theater. When he was on the table and “almost dismantled,” Attila Dolhai could no longer stand it and spoke next to him. The total fire that hit him eventually made him back down. It’s about no one daring to stick his head out. My foreign friends are already writing to me if what they hear is true, and on Friday the Berliner Ensemble also canceled their participation in the MITEM. I naively imagined that with them we could demonstrate that although we obviously think differently about the world, it has a place together in the common cultural space. That’s why we invited them, that’s why they came for three years, their principal, Olvier Reese, even held a master class for students in Kaposvár - much to our delight. They also stepped back into the political space - a great pity.
📌Students from Kaposvár also formulate open letters and stand out among the signatories of the petitions. There are criticisms that not everything worked cloudlessly there, and they fear that a similar situation will arise at SZFE. Are the criticisms or the backlash justified?
🇭🇺This is a separate topic. If I were to say that I am completely satisfied with the training in Kaposvár, it would not be true. The current structure works with security, but our plan, the essential element of change, has not been built. I had to realize that in the current accreditation system, we cannot start the complex training that I have seen convincing examples in at the School of the National Theater in Strasbourg and in Moscow as well. However, we have good relations with the profession, which is clearly proven by the fact that
there have never been more students from Kaposvár in Budapest than now.
Just as the relationship with rural theaters, which make up a significant part of the profession, has become extremely close. Since the institution did not have any international presence before me, the fact that today there is an ongoing relationship with the Moscow Artist Theater or the Piccolo Teatro school is an important gunfire. What changes started in Kaposvár could be discussed separately once.
🇭🇺I would like to highlight two things: Károly Eperjes and György Cserhalmi, who taught together at that school. SZFE cannot show such a thing. In Kaposvár you can think differently. That is why it is quite okay for some students to sign; if they feel they should. You can speak in Kaposvár, as well as in the National Theater. Therefore, no one is retaliated against. This is the difference between the two ways of thinking. We are much more open than those who constantly promote their openness.
Doesn’t anyone seriously think that every student and teacher at the Performing Arts agrees with what is happening on Vas Street now?
Why don't they speak? Why don't you dare to take their opinion? These are really worrying issues.
📌How do you cope with this period?
🇭🇺Very difficult. This is not my profession, I am not a politician, but my sense of professional responsibility prompted me not only to express my opinion years ago, but to be a participant in public life acting in accordance with my values. I am often told to direct and not to politicize, but if politics means participation in public affairs, then to take on a role as an intellectual in this, if not a duty, but certainly not a shame. Of course, I feel really good as a director in the rehearsal room. It’s a very strong handrail that there’s creative work as well, so thank God, we often manage to break out of this whole thing. In recent years, I have been able to talk to Bánk bán, Rocco and his brothers or the Thirteen apple trees in many ways about what I think of the world, and now I am very happy to prepare for the arrangement of Romeo and Juliet. And there is my strongest support, my family. I have a background that protects, helps me regenerate, and binds my spiritual wounds. This is a wonderful thing.
There is so much support coming from both the civilian and professional worlds that you have to go through this.
🇭🇺I feel our faith is amazingly strong.