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General Commissioner of the PQ 07

The General Commissioner of the PQ 07 was American theatre specialist and pedagogue Arnold Aronson, professor of the Columbia University School of Arts in New York. This is the first time in the history of the PQ that this important role has been given to a foreign theatre specialist. Arnold Aronson however has cooperated on the PQ for the past several years – in 1991 and 1999, he was a member of the international jury, and in 1995 was the curator of the exhibit from the USA. He was a guest of the Heart of the PQ project in 2003.

As General Commissioner of the PQ 07, Mr. Aronson was the main guarantor of the Concept of the PQ 07 and its accompanying activities. He is also the editor and one of the authors of the publication about the PQ 07 that will be published in 2008.


Arnold Aronson is Professor of Theater and Head of Dramaturgy at Columbia University. He was named an Associate Dean of the School of the Arts of the Columbia University in 2005.

He served as Chair of the Theatre Arts Division at Columbia (1991–1998), and prior to that, chaired the theater departments at Hunter College and the University of Michigan. In 1995, Arnold was a curator of the American National Exhibit during the Prague Quadrennial and served as President of the International Jury at PQ 1991 and 1999. He participated as a specialist during the Heart of the Prague Quadrennial 2003.

He is author of History and Theory of Environmental Scenography, American Set Design, Architect of Dreams: The Theatrical Vision of Joseph Urban, and American Avant-Garde Theatre: A History,  Looking into the Abyss: Essays on Scenography.

His articles have appeared in such publications as the Cambridge History of American Theatre, Pleasure: The Architecture and Design of the Rockwell Group and Approaching the Millennium: Essays on Angels in America. He has contributed to such encyclopedias as The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance and The Encyclopedia of New York. His articles have been published in American Theatre, The New York Times, TheaterForum, Theatre Journal, The Drama Review, Theatre Research International, Theatre Design & Technology, and Bühnentechnische Rundschau, among others. He has also published the articles about PQ in various journals and magazines.

He is former Commissioner and current Vice-commissioner of the History and Theory Commission of the International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians (OISTAT) and a representative of United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).


There is no other event like the Prague Quadrennial anywhere in the world. The PQ reminds us that theatre is—perhaps first and foremost—a visual and spatial event. Of course there cannot be theatre without performers and without some form of text, but theatre is live, and therefore it must exist in time and space. And even an empty space has a look and feel that affects an audience just as much as anything a performer says or does. The word theatre comes from the ancient Greek word theasthai, meaning “to see.” The theatron—the place where the audience gathered—was thus “the seeing place.” But all traditions emphasize the place of spectacle and the engagement of the sense of sight as part of their origin myths. The Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu O-mikami, was coaxed out of her cave by spectacle and the sarugaku was born; in India, the god Brahma, creating the Sanskrit drama, began by instructing Bharata Muni how to construct a theatre that would please the gods. In short, a well-designed theatre and a subtly-executed scenic design will have a profound effect on the spectators—often in ways they do not understand. Rarely is this visual and spatial art of the theatre celebrated.
So, every four years, for a few weeks in June, the PQ transforms Prague into a theatron, a seeing place—a place where all the spatial and scenic elements and even the aural aspects that make up the theatrical event can be seen, heard, and experienced. It is a chance to focus on the work of designers and architects—the people who create the décor, the costumes, the lights, the sound, the projections, and the performance environment; the people who are responsible for the colors, textures, sounds, and images that live in our memories long after the performance has ended. But PQ is more than that. It brings together everyone who creates theatre, not just the scenographers. It is the also the largest international gathering of theatre students in the world: the exhibition of schools and the interactive Scenofest both showcases and inspires the theatre artists of tomorrow. Most important, few, if any, theatre festivals in the world bring together representatives of so many nations. In scope, in focus, in diversity, it is a truly unique event.

PQ ’07 will mark the 40th year since the first Quadrennial. The original was born out of desire—a necessity—to bridge the divide between East and West during the Cold War. As our wars once again have turned hot, and the world is perhaps more volatile than it was 40 years ago, the Prague Quadrennial can play a vital role in international communication. This is a place not merely for artists to gather, but for all people interested in theatre and the arts. The PQ is at once a place of investigation and communication as well as a place of celebration. It is a place where the world may come together.

I invite everyone to join us in this celebration in June 2007. Come to exhibit, to participate, to see, and to celebrate.

Arnold Aronson
General Commissioner of  the PQ 07



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