“I think graduates from the Department of Arts Management can find a broad range of careers in a huge number of fields, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in theatre management,” says Václav Strýček, a graduate of DAMU’s Department of Arts Management. He is a good example of what he just said. He currently does not pursue theatre management for family reasons. You can see him performing on concert stages, however, as he plays with several bands, and also at the teacher’s desk in primary school classrooms, teaching music. This is where he puts what he learned in school to everyday use. He loves theatre, though, so coming back to it is never out of the question.
How did you make it to DAMU as a student of the Department of Arts Management?
I come from an art-oriented family where music was never far away. And it was through music that I got my taste of theatre in high school. My brother, who is three years older, repeatedly applied for acting studies at DAMU’s Department of Alternative and Puppet theatre, and by coincidence, we were both admitted to DAMU in the same year. My brother and I then studied in the same year, only at different departments. My decision to study at DAMU was quite easy. I knew I wanted to study in the field and I knew I wanted to go to Prague because that’s where my brother was.
What was your idea of what studying arts management would be like?
I decided to study management sometime in my third year in high school. My mum contributed a bit; she works at Czech TV as a dramaturge and she suggested this could be the right field for me, as the management job combines several aspects. I took interest in the Department of Arts Management and really found myself, because they don’t guide you towards a set goal – they keep doors open wide for you. I think graduates from the Department of Arts Management can find a broad range of careers in a huge number of fields, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in theatre management.
You come from Ostrava. Did leaving for DAMU in Prague mean an entirely new phase in life?
It did. I daresay my brother and I saw it as a natural change that was bound to come one day. We knew we would go on to study in another town after high school graduation. I will admit that, during the initial years of studies, I felt a bit sorry for my Prague schoolmates who did not have this chance to flee the coop so to speak, because when you study in the same city where your parents live, it’s tougher to justify living separately. I was really grateful for this experience, being able to live on my own terms and start doing everything my way. And I’m saying that with the full knowledge that I genuinely love my parents and that our relationships are great.
At this point, you are not working in theatre management due to your family situation and two young children. What is your current job, then?
Shortly after graduation, my wife gave birth to two children, one by one. We have an almost three-year old son and a nine-month old daughter. I was unable to work in the theatre for personal reasons for some time because theatres operate mostly in the evening, you work long and irregular hours, and that’s not really what a family with young children needs. So, I left my field for some time and went back to music. I play with a band and I teach music to primary school children. Given that the past two Covid years were not really favourable for live art, I am happy for this nice job.
Do you plan on returning to theatre when your children grow older?
I don’t know if I will go directly to theatre; most likely, it will be closer to the field I graduated in. The huge benefit of the Department of Arts Management is that it is no longer focused – as it used to be – on a single model of operating a building with one troupe with a manager sitting in the office with a telephone on the desk and a precisely defined job description. The Department of Arts Management in its current form prepares its graduates for any type of business in art, live art and culture in general. It also broadens one’s horizon in fields such as culture planning. For example, I know that graduates from the Department work at the Prague Institute of Planning and Development. The school allows for a wide range of jobs to do after graduation. Even when touring with the band, I get to use my knowledge on a daily basis – whether it is the internal management system, budgeting, equipment, live sound, or marketing tools and so on. I can actually use everything that I learned in school in any job. Careers for which the Department prepared me lurk everywhere.
What traits do you think a good manager should have?
I don’t think the answer can be definite – simply because the career options are so varied. The manager job involves various types of activities. The principal common denominator, I guess, is the art of connecting people and communicating with them. Managers in companies that organise large concerts will have to be well versed in sound equipment and various specialised software tools; the managers who focus more on promotion and working with social media may not use that knowledge as much. It’s truly a very varied palette of what a manager can do.
Some say that you don’t need to study management at all – that all you need is the right talent, and the rest just comes naturally. What do you think of this?
To put it with a big hyperbole, you don’t need to study anything at all. You likely don’t have to study in any field – perhaps except medicine – to be able to do it. I know many people who never studied management and just do it. I know many people who graduated in management and don’t actually do it. Like myself at this point, for example. But this is not to say the studies are not useful for life. More importantly, this is not to say that studies won’t help you to do your job well. Studies in any field will give you primarily the platform on which you operate in real life. They will give you all the academic background. Sure, you can learn how to use things in real life. With an academic degree, however, you know not only how to use various things, but also how and why they work, what was used before them and what will probably be used afterwards. You get the context, which I believe is very important for any job. I am glad to have studied at the Department of Arts Management. One side effect of studying management is that students in the field are very much in-demand while still students. It’s quite common for everyone to be involved in projects in their second or third year of study; everybody works somewhere because I think managers are rare on the market. And, unlike with other programmes of study, there are fewer of them graduating. As a result, the demand for management students is quite high.
Is studying at DAMU also good in that it helps you in gaining contacts?
Of course, in particular for those who want to stick to theatre after graduation and do not plan to focus on entirely different fields of art – for those, it can help a lot. This is also because DAMU is a quite small, intimate and contact school, and over the course of five years, you get to know an entire generation of theatre professionals. You meet set designers, directors, actors, dramaturges and other people in other areas. You become friends with them, you go to pubs together, and you also meet through working on various student projects together. This theatre generation accompanies you through your subsequent life. If I jumped back to that world right now, returning would not be very difficult for me simply because I know the ten people I would call first if I wanted to participate in something with them, because we know each other from our student times.
What are your future career plans?
I have to admit that this is a question I have been asking myself recently. Many of my plans are changing in my hands right now, so I guess all I can say now is: I want to live a happy life, with happy children and wife. Preferably in a world without war. And as for the rest, we’ll see. I don’t know if I’ll get to work in or outside my field. Even if I did something completely different and you asked me whether I’m happy to have studied management, my answer would be yes. The management job can be very taxing on your psyche; you are always in contact with people, mostly right in the centre of their conflicting interests, reconciling needs on one side with possibilities on the other. You get under a lot of pressure and stress. You have to learn how to deal with all that. So, many subjects at the early stage of studies are focused primarily on working with yourself and organising your own mind. Even if this was all that the studies offered, it would be highly beneficial and usefully spent time. You can use these skills everywhere, including in arguments at home. Not for you to win an argument, but to avoid arguments entirely.
The interview can also be found at www.universitas.cz/en
photo: Václav Beránek