History of women and theatre
After women appeared on stage, the theatre-going habits changed too. They made great impression on the audience, especially on women, who started copying actresses’ clothes. Interestingly, they did not have historic costumes in the beginning, but wore garments corresponding to current fashion on stage. Later when photography spread, not only the fashion industry, but also the beauty industry noticed the potential hidden in them; thus, they became faces of advertising. On the cover of journals, Lujza Blaha advertised powder, Sári Fedák surgical spirit and Havasi Gyopár (Edelweiss) cream.
Serving Thalia, in Hungary – from the starts
Artistesses playing in travelling theatre troupes in the 18th century had rather doubtful reputations. However, a few decades later, who were members of troupes, could gain serious public esteem. A significant part of actresses of the era already had connections with theatre originally, because most of them were wives, daughters or sisters of actors.
The Acting School established in 1865 gave impetus to the acceptance of the profession, as well as the fact that the school paid special attention to its students’ morals. But what were these women like? Surely, they were less tied-down by social conventions, and probably they were more emancipated. Besides Déryné (Róza Széppataki, Mrs. István Déry), Kornélia Prielle was the first, who earned her own living.
The teenager Kornélia Prielle was already on stage. She debuted at the National Theatre in 1844; despite her successes in Budapest, she preferred playing in the country, thus poet Sándor Petőfi could see her in Debrecen in 1846. During the performance, Prielle did not sing the due song, but one of Petőfi’s poems, with great empathy. Certainly, not only the audience was touched. On the following day, Petőfi visited her and proposed to her. The wedding was cancelled just because neither a reformed pastor nor a catholic priest could hold the ceremony without a dispensation. Next year, Petőfi married Júlia Szendrey and Kornélia married Kálmán Szerdahelyi, and the case remained another interesting literary historical story.
Collecting photos – Juliska Lukács’s beautiful dresses
Probably, nobody finds any special in a family album with photos of never-seen relatives, neighbours and deceased family members. But what might be special is when you find photos of actors and actresses besides the family photos. Why? Without any pejorative comparison, it was also a kind of possessiveness, just like teenagers’ collecting posters or swapping basketball players’ cards; in the 19th century, collecting actors’ photos could be the same.
A significant part of the collection of Debrecen Literary Museum, which can be found in our database, shows a certain Júlia Lukács. More than two hundred photos of her, a rather significant number makes us conclude that the lady could be very popular, though her biography does not reflect that.
The short story unveils that she was an actress and not by the way Kálmán Porzsolt’s wife. Porzsolt was a famous author and director of Népszínház (Folk Theatre) as of 1897. She was born in Nagyvárad in 1867, finished the Acting Academy of Pest in 1889. She played naive roles permanently in popular dramas, and was member of the company of Népszínház until 1904, when she divorced from Porzsolt. After her divorce, she played in rural cities: Arad, Nagyvárad and Debrecen. But why did she have so many photos taken?
Although Juliska was a talented artist, she could not hope for a huge success besides her contemporaries – especially Lujza Blaha. Who would remember a naïve, if the prima donna were on stage? She could trust that photos, as memories, would make her youth, talent, beautiful dresses and successes everlasting – and it happened this way.
Translated by Zita Aknai