Fidesz Wants Dismissal of Katona Theater Management after Director’s Scandal
Fanni Kaszás 2019.12.02.
As we previously reported, Péter Gothár, director of Katona József Theater in Budapest had behaved “beyond the moral boundaries several times with theater staff,” and therefore discharged. Since then, several diverse opinions and attacks appeared in the Hungarian media and theater world.
The theater first posted a statement on Facebook saying that theater management had become aware that one of their contracted staff members was dismissed for “crossing moral boundaries” with co-workers. The staff member was not named but immediate guesses began as to who it might be. Later, director Péter Gothár himself announced that he was the staff member, apologizing for his actions.
After Gothár’s admission, his other workplace, the University of Theater and Film Arts, started an ethical investigation, which the director involved in the scandal asked for himself. The university’s management promised that the outcome would be passed on to the university’s citizens and the general public, while Katona József Theater announced that it will be removing Péter Gothár’s production, ‘The Hangmen’ (written by Martin McDonagh) from their schedule.
The Katona József Theater is one of the most popular theaters in the country. The institution receives nearly 100,000 visitors each season and feature names such as Eszter Ónodi, Alexandra Borbély, Ervin Nagy, Ági Szirtes, Andrea Fullajtár and Adél Jordán. It is often the case that tickets to a popular show are sold out months in advance. The theater is widely cited and considered as the citadel of liberalism among art institutions, which is why many are now calling out the institution, which strongly supported the start of the #metoo movement in Hungary a few years ago.
Pro-government news portal Origo also attacked the Átrium Theater, saying it is “widely regarded as the theater of Róbert Alföldi” and it “also provides a gateway for Gothár, who is involved in a sexual harassment case” by keeping his production “The Lonesome West” (written by Martin McDonagh) on schedule and who made “a similarly cynical statement as Gábor Máté.”
The management of the Átrium theater justified the decision by saying that the “sexual harassment did not occur in the [Átrium] theater.” They added that they condemn all acts of violence, but since the incident itself did not directly involve them, they have no information about the case beyond what has been reported in the press so far.
Politicians also talked about the case. State Secretary for Culture Péter Fekete wrote a letter to the managing director of the Katona József Theater, Gábor Máté, and to the deputy rector of the University of Theater and Film, László Upor, after it was revealed a few days ago that Gábor Máté, director of the Katona József Theater, knew about the harassment case. The theater director admitted in an interview to liberal 24.hu that he had known for a year about what happened between Péter Gothár and his colleague.
Gergely Gulyás, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, also spoke about the case at the government briefing. The minister said the case “needs to be investigated; this is not the first time that the liberal left experiences that words and deeds contradict each other in the most sensitive issues, as they have been hiding such a case for a whole year.” He added that Gothár became unworthy of any state awards; however, he would be cautious about withdrawing the director’s previously awarded honors.
Fidesz MP László Pósán, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, told Hungarian television ATV that a change of leadership is needed at the Katona József Theater and the University of Theater and Film Arts because of the Gothár case. Fidesz MP János Halász also urged changes in the leadership.
In contrast, the opposition Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, and the chairman of the capital’s Human Resources Committee talked about the issue in a milder tone: “In the case of Péter Gothár, the institutions that have been in contact with him have the right to make their own decisions. I think this decision was made at the Katona József Theater,” said Karácsony.
In the theater world, statements on the matter are also divisive. Gábor Kálomista, director of Thália Theater said at pro-government news channel HírTV’s Bayer Show, that those who disagree with the liberal ideological views at the University of Theater and Film has no future in the profession. He added that in his view it is not enough to get through such cases with an internal investigation and an apology. Attila Vidnyánszky, president of the Hungarian Theater Society, told Origo that Hungarian actors are being implanted at the University to be humiliated by the director, which kills the art.