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Two directors, one theater and the rise of Nazi ideology in Eastern Europe.
Clashes outside the theater in early February pitted neo-Nazis against liberal demonstrators in which dozens were injured. Hungary’s far right, which overwhelmingly supports the theater’s new management, has fought against the growing anti-government protest movement in the central European country — and Budapest’s cultural scene — since the beginning of the year.
"I have no doubt about the type of plays the new director will put on the stage," said Katalin Nemeth, a pensioner who has been a season ticketholder at the New Theater for years, but has not bought a ticket this month.
Dorner, who once was the voice of Bruce Willis and Eddy Murphy in many Hungarian movies, calls himself a “radical nationalist,” and says he wants foreign influences off the stage.
“I want to see Hungarian plays being brought onto the stage for Hungarian crowds to cheer," Dorner said in an interview with a local paper.
He has publicly said his vision for the New Theater involves "cutting in on the leftist and Jewish dominated populated theater scene.”
Dorner also plans to stage a play by Csurka, the man initially appointed to run the theater’s artistic program, who has since died. The play, “The Sixth Coffin,” deals with Trianon, the treaty agreed after World War One that left Hungary with just one-third of its former territory.
It is a subject that infuriates Hungary’s neighbors, Slovakia, Romania, the Ukraine and Serbia because they fear Hungarian territorial expansion due to the large Hungarian minorities still living in their countries.
But Dorner has few qualms about raising the subject or doing more to provoke. Recently, he promised to rename the theater “Hatorszag” (Hinterland), a concept, critics say, invokes Hungarian claims on its neighbors’ territory. Budapest’s mayor vetoed the suggestion, but the idea lingers.
Dorner also fired the theater’s lead actor Balazs Galko. While Galko had been silent on political issues, he has been a regular at anti-government demonstrations. These days, Galko recounts how, after he was fired, he was told rather amiably by Dorner that he should not expect to get a job in the Budapest cultural scene in the future.
Dorner's actions outraged Galko, he says. In January, Dorner took to the stage at a demonstration held by Jobbik, and stood next to the party's leader, Gabor Vona, as party members torched a European Union flag.
"This is our message to the European Union if it does indeed want to colonize us: [EU Commission President Manual] Barroso thinks we are idiots, and he treats us like that too — and we won’t take it,” Vona said at the event.
“It made me feel uneasy when I saw Dorner was present at the burning of the European flag," said Galko. "And I wanted to keep my job but I could not just overlook these disturbing changes.”
Charles McPhedran contributed to this story from Budapest.