Česká organizace scénografů, divadelních architektů a techniků

The Arts and Theatre Institute bids farewell to Jarmila Gabrielová

Jarmila Gabrielová was born on 28 July 1928 in Bystřice pod Hostýnem. After five years of primary school her parents sent her to a secondary school specialising in languages founded by Tomáš Baťa in Zlín, where she was enrolled in the French department. The hard years of wartime occupation of the country restricted her personal and educational opportunities, and she even contracted a serious illness.

After graduating from secondary school in 1946 she studied journalism and then began working at the Ministry of Culture. She applied her language skills working in the department of foreign cultural relations, where she had an opportunity to learn about the work of cultural institutions at home and abroad. It was during this period that she met her future husband František, with whom she raised two children.

In 1958 she accepted an offer from the head of the then recently founded Theatre Institute in Prague, Dr. Eva Soukupová, to help build the institute’s external relations department, and she helped to prepare a journal of information on Czech theatre for foreign readers.

Soon after joining the Theatre Institute she established cooperation with similar institutions abroad. This was not always easy to achieve in the difficult political and social circumstances that reigned under the regime in power at that time. Nevertheless, the Theatre Institute soon began to participate in the promotion of Czech and Slovak theatre culture and to take part in various theatre activities and international theatre projects. Jarmila Gabrielová was largely instrumental in founding national centres of international non-governmental theatre organisations whose central offices were at the Theatre Institute. She was for many years the administrative head of many of them – e.g. the ITI (International Theatre Institute).

Among the professional activities that warrant highlighting in her career is the Prague Quadrennial. She contributed greatly to the preparation and implementation of this international competitive exhibition devoted to stage design and theatre architecture, the uniqueness of which makes it one of the most highly valued international cultural events. She was involved in its founding and worked with foreign partners on ten editions of the event between 1967 and 2003.

The first exhibition of scenography and theatre architecture got strong response and high praise and PQ 1967 became a powerful impulse to create further international organisations.. She was with other colleagues and experts instrumental in founding OISTAT, which based its general secretariat in Prague, where she held the position of head of administration until 1993. She edited OISTAT’s press materials and published some of them. She summed up her many years of experience into Chronicle of the Prague Quadrennial, published by the Theatre Institute in 2007. In recent years, to the extent that her illness allowed her, she worked with equal meticulousness and dedication on a history of the ITI.

During her long career she created friendly connections with theatre artists around the world. Her erudition, language skills, and subtle diplomatic tact helped her to overcome many barriers. Set of skills especially important under the previous regime. She was always kind to her colleagues, and she never misused her superiority. For her the common project was the most important thing. And she took pleasure in everybody’s success. In a way she became one with the Theatre Institute, to which she has devoted a great deal of time and energy.

Her own words are testimony to her humility and graciousness:

Over these many years I have met and come to know many interesting, kind, and loving people, outstanding individuals, reliable, true friends. I am very grateful to them and to fate for this. And I hope I was able to contribute something positive to the work and to interpersonal relations, to create the kind of friendly atmosphere so essential to productive exchange.’

We thank you in advance for submitting your personal memories of Jarmila Gabrielová, in writing, which we will include in a book of tributes that will be given to her family and stored in the PQ Archives.