“Reality doesn’t interest me enough to copy it:”

The work of Marta Roszkopfová

By Haley Ritzert

The exhibit Shakespeare in Prague: Imagining the Bard in Central Europe is running at the Columbus Museum of Art through May 21. The exhibit features the work of various Czech and Slovak theatre artists and designers, including materials from the Jarka Burian Collection and the Czech Theatre Collection held by The Ohio State University Libraries’ Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute.

This post is fourth in a series highlighting designers in the Burian Collection whose work will be featured in the Shakespeare exhibit at CMA. Previous artists include Čestmír Pechr, Ladislav Vychodil, and František Tröster.

Marta Roszkopfová

Marta Roszkopfová


This post’s featured artist is Slovak set and costume designer Marta Roszkopfová. Roszkopfová was born in 1947 in Žilina, Czechoslovakia. She studied in Brno and worked as a scenographer at the Academy of Performing Arts (VŠMU) in Bratislava, where she studied under Ludmila Purkyňova and Ladislav Vychodil.  Jarka Burian notes that she then spent an influential year in Warsaw studying in the studio of Józef Szajna, a close collaborator with Jerzy Grotowsky.  In 1974, Roszkopfová became a resident designer at the State Theatre in Ostrava. Her work has been exhibited in numerous cities abroad, including Lisbon, Moscow, Budapest, Helsinki, Montreal, and twice in Columbus, currently as part of Shakespeare in Prague. In 1984, she received a gold medal in theatre costume design at the 7th International Triennial at Novi Sad. Scenography scholar Helena Albertová described Roszkopfová’s designs as “full of dramatic tension and dynamics,” exhibiting “metaphoric vision and intensive efforts to discover the essence of the play.” Of her own work, Roszkopfová said, “Reality doesn’t interest me enough to copy it. During work on a production, the unique, unrepeatable reality of the play is what counts most.”

While describing her 1988 set design for Romeo and Juliet, which features two large, round, Hoxhaist-style bunkers, Roszkopfová said that she is interested in “the problem of human suffering and maturation in the tolerant, liberal individual. I am interested in what it is that makes us slaves, although we think that we have a lot in our own hands; what makes us vulnerable, although we have the feeling that we are armored.” The bunkers represent the limitations placed on Romeo and Juliet by their parents, Roszkopfová says, and were inspired by news coming out of Gaza at the time. Roszkopfová saw a connection between the story of forbidden love and the setting in “another part of the world that had been sectioned off, where love and mutual affection and respect bloom between individuals of feuding regions, not just feuding families.” The design is reminiscent of a war zone, with trails of red in the black sky evoking both rocket smoke and blood.

Romeo and Juliet 1988 Set Design

Romeo and Juliet 1988 Set Design

Roszkopfová is still active in theatre. During the 2017-2018 season, she is designing costumes for eight productions, including Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) and Jesus Christ Superstar at the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, Czech Republic. She is also designing sets for three of these productions.

Shakespeare in Prague: Imagining the Bard in Central Europe is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art; The Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences Initiative; the Arts and Theatre Institute, Prague; and the National Museum, Prague.

Works Cited

Helena Albertová, biographical sketch of Marta Roszkopfová, circa 1994. Folder 14, box 4, series 1, Jarka Burian Collection, Theatre Research Institute, The Ohio State University.

Jarka Burian, Leading Creators of Twentieth-Century Czech Theatre. London: Routledge, 2002.

Marta Roszkopfová, letter to Jarka Burian, 1994. Folder 14, box 4, series 1, Jarka Burian Collection.

“Marta Roszkopfová, Guest of the Opera.” Czech National Theatre. 2017.

“Marta Roszkopfová.” National Moravian-Silesian Theatre. 2017.

“Shakespeare in Prague.” Columbus Museum of Art. n.d.

Haley Ritzert is a senior majoring in history and German with a minor in Slavic languages and literatures. She is currently working at the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute and in Special Collections Descriptions and Access as part of a public history internship course.