Slovak puppetry and drama theatre director. Ondrej Spišák belongs to the younger generation of directors of puppet and alternative theatre in Slovakia. After graduating in 1987 from the puppetry department of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Divadelní akademie múzických umění or DAMU, he worked for the State Puppet Theatre, Štátne bábkové divadlo, in Bratislava until 1992, then founded Teatro Tatro in Poprad, along with another famous Slovak artist, scenic and film designer František Lipták. The theatre’s performers come from both puppetry and acting backgrounds, and they create a strongly visual style of alternative theatre incorporating puppets. Their staging of Sire Halewyn (1989) by Michel de Ghelderode was especially inventive. Teatro Tatro also produces street theatre, such as an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (in Slovak: Pán prsteňov) under the title Minas Tirith-Minas Morgul (1993). Teatro Tatro continues to tour street performances.

Ondrej Spišák has been the key director at the Nitra Puppet Theatre since 1992. His creative potential is reflected in his readiness to experiment with various theatre forms and genres. He is director of the theatre of the metaphor, with a proclivity to visual theatre in which puppet theatre means are put to use.

In his productions for child audiences, Spišák opens up the theatre space, lifting the barrier between the stage and the auditorium. The theatre is turned into a common space for daydreaming and an escape in the magic world of fairy tales: the children become a component part of the show. In addition to Budkáčik a Dubkáčik, the story of two wandering piglets by Jozef Cíger Hronský, Spišák’s own play Snívajte sami (Dream on Your Own), based on a book of adventures of Baron Prášil (Baron Munchausen) staged in 1996, may be listed among the shows of this kind.

Spišák’s staging of Faust (1995), well received by critics, is intended for the young theatregoer. The main protagonist, Faust, is portrayed in a unique adaptation as a young drug addict. The musical Žltý autobus (The Yellow Bus, 1999) is also dedicated to young viewers, as a tribute to The Beatles. In 2001, he produced a children’s theatre play, Belasý vták (The Blue Bird) by Maurice Maeterlinck and Limonádový Joe (Lemonade Joe) for youth and adults, the latter a Western parody, based on a Czech theatre play. In 2004, with stage design by František Lipták, Spišák directed the popular The Hobbit based on J.R.R. Tolkien, combining stylized movement and acting, masks and wooden sculptures.

In 2005, Ondrej Spišák staged the nationally and internationally successful Havran z kameňa (The Stone Raven), based on a Czech book by Tomáš Pěkný of the same name, which the author based on Preussler’s story about a small witch. The director, together with his team of theatre professionals, created an “ecological” theatre production. The story unfolds out in the open, with the protagonists collecting twigs of different shapes and stones, which were brought to life on the stage. Compositions were created out of that material. Under the supervision of the creative artist Mária Žilíková-Herodeková, artistic objects were made. The actors’ own bodies were elements of these artefacts, and the symbolism of objects was used as a semantic component. The director used light channels of the black theatre. In 2006, this production was awarded Slovakia’s “Hašterica” prize for puppet theatre stage direction.

Other productions of his over the past decade include Snehová kráľovná (The Snow Queen, 2003) by Hans Christian Andersen, the adaptation of Koľko jahôd rastie na mori (How Many Strawberries Grow in the Sea?) by Edward Lear, and other titles for children.

The latest Ondrej Spišák production, Jánošík, by the Slovak author Jozef Mokoš, is an image-breaking play based on the legend of Jánošík, the Slovak highwayman who became a national hero. The production was premiered in the 2009/2010 Season and became a component part of an international project of the three-production Jánošík, Janosik, Jánošík. The Slovak Nitra theatre, the Czech theatre ensemble Divadlo DRAK from Hradec Králové, and the Polish puppet theatre Lalka from Warsaw participated in the project. Each theatre rehearsed its own version of Jánošík, using unique author adaptations and stage design concepts. The outcome of this joint project was a stage production composed of the fragments from all three sub-productions. In total, the three theatres gave a joint performance sixteen times at various festivals in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.

In 2008, Ondrej Spišák became managing director of the puppet theatre in Nitra (the theatre was renamed in 1999 Old Theatre Nitra). Spišák regularly works as a guest director in Poland and the Czech Republic in both professional puppet and actors’ theatres. He has received many awards in Poland for his puppetry and drama productions.

(See Slovakia.)