A Brief History of OISTAT
First, it is necessary to mention several post-war events preceding the establishment of the OISTAT.
After the establishment of the world organization to develop and support culture UNESCO, the International Theatre Institute (ITI) was established in Prague in 1948 and has become an umbrella organization for all the other created or already existing international non-governmental theatre organizations. It acquired full support of UNESCO expressed by the granting of the A Statuts, i.e. the supreme NGO status in the field of theatre.
The ITI programme anticipated international co-operation of almost all the areas of artistic theatre creation and established the direction, educational, publishing, Third World and drama sections. In view of the remarkable success of the visual elements of the theatrical performances including stage and costume designs, it was attempting to establish also a section of scenography. However, this endeavour failed.
In the meantime, however, the worldwide interest in the visual element of theatre was growing which was evidenced by many international exhibitions of plastic arts and competitions where the exhibits still more and more frequently included also stage and costume designs, for instance the Biennale in Sao Paulo, the Exhibition of Plastic Arts in Paris, etc. In response to this interest, the International Association of theatre Technicians (Association Internationale des Techniciens de Théatre) was established in Paris in 1958 with Thomas de Gaetani and J. Mourier at the head. However, this organization covering not only theatre technicians, but also stage and costume designers was not sufficiently profiled. It was lacking a clear programme, definition of its activity, organizational structure and, last but not least, the administrative and financial provision. Therefore, its representatives asked the ITI to assume their activities or help to support the development of their activities.
In this period, there was great development of scenography and costume art worldwide. In particular, great success was achieved in this respect by Czechoslovakia, for instance at the Biennale in Sao Paulo or thanks to the topic and implementation of the very successful international competition exhibition Prague Quadrennial in 1967. All of this gave birth to the idea expressed still more and more often at the meetings of foreign scenographers and theatre experts-to create in Czechoslovakia a base for the development, systematic research, documentation, exchange of experience and knowledge, and confrontation of opinions of this distinctive section of stage art.
The ITI Secretary General Jean Darcante came to Prague in 1967 to discuss with the representatives of the Czechoslovak National ITI Center, the Theatre Institute and the Institute of Scenography the possibilities of establishing such an organization whose general secretariat would be seated in Prague. The Czechoslovak scenographers including professional workers and theatre specialists of both the above-mentioned institutions prepared a draft programme for the activity of such an organization including its budget and discussed this matter preliminarily with the representatives of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. Jean Darcante familiarized himself with this material and came to Prague again early in 1968 to win a binding promise of the Czechoslovak official authorities and agree with the Theatre Institute and the Institute of Scenography the last details. On 7 and 8 June 1968, there was a meeting of the foundation committee to establish the new International Organization of Scenographers and Theatre Technicians(Organisation Internationale des Scénographes et technicians de Théatre-OISTT/OISTT). At this foundation meeting attended by many international theatre experts including the ITI Seccretary General, the representatives of the Czecoslovak Ministry of Culture and the representatives of the Czechoslovak Association of Drama Artisits, the organization concept and the draft Statutes were submitted. (Stenographic record-in English and French versions-of the meetings held on the two days is enclosed hereto)
The membership in this new organization was possible only in the form of a national centre consisting of theatre experts of various theatre professions and the representatives of the existing national institutions engaged in theatre technology.
The founder members were the following countries: Czechoslovakia, Canada, Israel, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of German and the USA. In view of the existing activities of the Theatre Institute, the success of the 1st Prague Quadrennial and the involvement in the preparation of the establishment of the new international theatre organization, it was approved unanimously that the seat of the general secretariat would be Prague-the Theatre Institute Mrs. Jarmila Gabrielová , head of foreign department of the Theatre Institute, was engaged in all the preparatory works as an active participant was charged with the activities of the OISTT general secretariat from its establishment until its handover to the Netherlands in 1993.
Prof. Dipl. Ing. Walter Unruh, foremost German specialist, was elected the first President of the OISTT (1968-1971). The post of Secretary General was taken up by the renowned Slovak scenographers, Ladislav Vychodil, chief stage designer of the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. However, the duties of Secretary General necessitated his frequent presence in Prague. Because of the enormous working and artistic engagement and business of Prof. Vychodil this was not feasible. A suitable candidate for this post was a very knowledgeable man of the theatre, stage director, translator with great knowledge of languages Ota Ornest, the then director of the Prague Municipal Theatres (1968-1970). There were no objections against his candidacy and his election was unanimous. When he left the post, Josef Svoboda, excellent Czech scenographer, chief stage designer of the Prague National Theatre was elected to this post; he held this post with the assistance of Jarmila Gabrielova until 1984. Then the post of Secretary general was taken up by Dr. Eva Soukupová, former director of the Theatre Institute, (1984-1990) who held it with continuous assistance of Mrs. Gabrieloá until 1991. The next two years this post was held again by Ota Ornest (1991-1993). The first OISTT congress was summoned to Prague in June 1969.
The ITI assumed its patronage over this organization and included it in the group of ITI coordinated organizations, invited its representatives to the meetings of the international coordinating committee (Comité de liaison) and gave its recommendation the UNESCO to provide it with the C status.