International Students’ Festival of Drama in English
In 1997 the Institute of English and American Studies launched the first English-language Theatre Studies Specialization in Hungary as part of the English curriculum at what was then called Lajos Kossuth University (University of Debrecen since 2000). The four-semester program included courses in theatre - and drama studies as well as performing practices and skills. As a way to close the program the first graduate students of the specialization presented Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. Thanks to the support of the Institute and the Hungarian Society for the Study of Drama in English (HUSSDE) this event grew into the first English language drama festival as English drama groups from other universities were also invited to perform on this occasion. The first festival on May 7–8, 1999 turned out to be such a success that, every year after that (till 2010), the organizers staged the English-language theater productions as a grand competition among the performing students.
The founder of the Theatre Studies Specialization as well as the director and main organizer of the annual drama festival (1999-2010) was theatre historian, translator, former director of the Institute of English and American Studies:
Dr. Péter Szaffkó (1998-2009).
Theatre Studies Specialization (1997-2013)
Since its introduction in 1997 the Theatre Studies Specialization (Theatre and Communication Specialization from 2010 till 2013) was offered to English major students for sixteen years, which shows a strong interest in these studies. Although the program recognized as unique in Hungary ended in 2013, the passion for and the commitment to acting in English did not cease to exist. In 2015 the two most popular courses of the specialization – Performing Skills and Performing Scenes – were re-introduced in the English curriculum in the form of optional seminars available for students in Bachelor and Master programs alike.
English Language Drama Festival, 1999-2010
During the first ten-year period of its history, competing groups from Szeged, Veszprém, Szombathely and Debrecen as well as Poland and Romania attended the festival. In addition to the competition, guest productions by semi-professional groups from Hungary, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland also featured at the festival to the great delight of all the participating students.
Gallery of past productions:
From the very beginning, the festival presented awards to the best performances, the best actor and best actress, and starting in 2007 to the best director as well. The latter is named “Dick St. George Award” in honor of Dick St George (SUNY Brockport, USA), a visiting professor in Debrecen, in recognition of his high-quality work towards the success of the 2007 Festival.
The organizers strongly believed that the professional competence of the theatre and drama experts in the jury could make the festival both attractive and significant. Therefore the international jury consisted of theatre people as well as university professors, thus the members included directors, dramaturgs, playwrights and professors of drama from Hungary, England, Scotland, The United States, Canada, and Australia. The jury’s not always easy work was professionally coordinated by Professor Donald E. Morse (University of Debrecen), whose contribution to the huge success of the Festival is simply invaluable.
International Students’ Festival of Drama in English revived as
11th Debrecen University Drama Festival (May 16-18, 2019)
The tradition of the International Students’ Festival of Drama in English launched by the Institute of English an American Studies in 1999 was successfully revived in 2019, when 11th Debrecen University Drama Festival opened. It was arranged with the support of the University Theater of Debrecen in conjunction with the Municipal Authorities of Debrecen.
Press releases about the festival:
The five foreign and three Debrecen theatre groups that entered for the festival shared unforgettable experiences at the three-day event.
A special feature of the festival is that the expert team including prominent theatre people provide their evaluations of the productions in the presence of all participants and interested parties.
The expert team 2019:
A further novelty of the festival is that professional workshops are offered for acting groups to develop their stage skills.
Gallery of productions in 2019:
Much to our regret, we had to cancel the 12th Debrecen University Drama Festival, scheduled for May 7-9, 2020, due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Preparations were already in full swing for the event. All the groups accepted for the festival as well as the team of distinguished experts were looking forward to the occasion:
The festival will resume as soon as possible, since in the future we will need even more theatrical experiences and community events to seek answers to our questions about our responsibilities and the meaning of our being.