You may have heard Brigita Zemen’s name before. She is associated with the Branky, body, kokoti (Goals, Points, D**ks) online show featuring actress Tereza Dočkalová performing as a feminist news anchor, which was also released as a book. Brigita has worked in various positions at many media and she currently works as a news editor at DVTV. Initially, she graduated from DAMU in theatre theory. Is this field of study useful for working in the media? “My studies taught me critical thinking. I think that’s absolutely crucial for working in the media,” says Brigita Zemen.
Can you explain briefly how you made it from the theatre world to the media?
I studied theatre theory and criticism and I graduated as a bachelor. I got pregnant unexpectedly in my first master’s year. Reconciling maternity with full-time DAMU studies was impossible. Since DAMU does not provide remote study programs for obvious reasons, I didn’t finish my master’s degree. Then I went to work once my maternity leave was over.
What made you apply for DAMU and study theatre theory and criticism?
My life is all coincidence and quick decisions. Initially, I wanted to study theatre dramaturgy. Or rather, I knew I wanted to focus on theatre since I was about six. Back then, I thought I would apply for an acting course, though, because I used to attend drama classes for children and played a few child roles in what was the Mrštík Brothers Theatre at the time (named Brno City Theatre now). I come from Brno and I repeatedly applied for dramaturgy studies at JAMU; I did that for three consecutive times and it was always a narrow miss. In the meantime, I started studying theatre science at the Faculty of Arts in Brno and I thought that I could still try the admission tests at DAMU in Prague. It turns out there was still time to submit my application and essays to the Department of Theory and Criticism. I passed the admission tests and decided to actually take the course. I used to study under Professor Císař; we attended seminars with Professor Vostrý and Associate Professor Vinař. I experienced the golden era of theory at DAMU, and that was great. Looking back, I have to ask myself whether I ever could complete any school other than art. If I could take that decision again, I think I would make it the same. I still love theatre.
Can you use the knowledge you gained at DAMU in your current media work?
I can; the more general part of it. DAMU made me improve my writing skills by writing a lot. Theatre theory and criticism studies are an awful lot about reading and analysing. We wrote tons of papers, read many critics’ texts and we wrote theatre reviews. You just keep on writing things as you study, and you get to improve your skills in four years. There’s no other way. My studies also taught me critical thinking. And I think that’s utterly crucial for working in the media. That said, I cannot find any use for the history of global theatre anymore. The practical stuff is handier to me than theory now. That’s obvious. Of course, abandoning theatre theory and criticism to work in the media is a big departure.
Do the benefits of studying at DAMU include gaining contacts? How do you remember the times of your studies?
Of course, when I work, I also invite people I studied with for interviews; that’s nice. This field is not actual theatre, though. If you choose to be a theatre critic, you’re on the other side – you rate the work of others. If you choose to be a theorist, then you truly are a scholar. I had lovely student times at DAMU. The atmosphere – at least during my studies – was friendly, relaxed and extremely liberal. I have already spoken about what that gave me – hands-on experience and a sense of having had good times in university, which is no small feat. Another thing that was highly beneficial about DAMU – and I assume this still holds true – is that its departments are not enclosed microworlds in which people could get encapsulated. Whatever field you study, you will get in touch with almost all of the other departments. There are many shared seminars and it’s a great thing to meet the students of other departments and other future professions on a daily basis, as that broadens your horizons. The school shows clearly that the art of theatre is a team effort, and being reclusive doesn’t really work.
Who would you recommend studying at DAMU to?
I would recommend DAMU in general, including my programme, to people who genuinely love theatre. I mean people who really do love theatre as such and go to see shows. It’s not at all about desiring to be a film and TV actress. Theatre and being in love with it is essential. If you don’t adore theatre, this is not for you. Specifically, I would recommend my programme to everyone who loves theatre and doesn’t mind reading and writing lots of tests and spending half of the month’s evenings in theatres. In a way, it requires a certain degree of obsession.
Are you happy with your current job as DVTV’s news editor?
I am; a lot. The job is extremely difficult, but it makes sense to me and, more importantly, I get to work with people who are the best in the field. With that being said, I do miss theatre, of course. I am sorry I couldn’t stay with theatre, but it was really not manageable with a young child. After my parental leave, I joined the media simply because the job was available, and I thought, why not: I know how to write, so why not try? I’ve been through the positions of a copy editor, editor, and the chief of website content – and suddenly there was no going back to theatre. Actually, there might still be a way back for me, but I have made my decision this way.
You said theatre was close to your heart ever since childhood. Did family roots play any role?
Not at all. I was really energetic as a child, but I was not really talented for sports, and so when my parents were thinking of what I could do, they had me take this theatre course, and I loved it a lot. It was a magical world for me and, in fact, that’s the way I still see it to this day. No matter if I worked in online media, publishing houses, or TV Nova and saw the TV studios where they produce the shows, and even now at DVTV when I see the studio, the cameras, the director’s desk… To me, it always says: this is where the magic happens; this is where they make this universe that is different and nice – and that’s how I felt about theatre too. For example, I used to play a little girl in The Lantern who got to say two or three sentences. My role required wearing a wig, so I had to go through all the wig, make-up, and costume rooms and that was an incredible experience for me. The world of theatre is magical; it is happening here and now, and theatres even smell in a particular way. Those were the things that drew me to it. You know, building an entire story out of nothing. Theatre still remains a sort of a festivity that it always was and that it grew from. I found it lovely and I still do. Theatre is actually the only artform that shows you a story that is not real, yet is within your reach. It is live and happening in front of you. Theatre is utterly unique in this respect. It’s incomparable with anything else.
The interview can also be found at www.universitas.cz/en