On the 100th anniversary of her birth, Nikola H. Péteri, the György Bessenyei Award-winning artistic secretary and artistic advisor of the Csokonai Theater, was remembered in a narrow circle at the Csokonai Forum.
She is the soul and guardian angel of the theater, as József Bényei – the retired editor-in-chief of Napló and former theater director – wrote about her in January 2003, on the occasion of Nikola H. Péteri’s 80th birthday. “For almost forty years, she was the soul, creator, guardian angel, diplomat, and interpreter of the Csokonai Theater in Debrecen. She is a connoisseur of all things theater, an acquaintance of every artist, a friend, a confidant, and the right-hand man of every director. During that time, she served almost ten directors. I’m wrong, she didn’t serve them, but the theater with faith, love, and devotion,” read the greeting lines.
Apart from theater circles, little is known about the duties of the general secretary of the arts, as her work takes place behind the scenes and is difficult to define precisely. This is where the threads of the complicated theater mechanism come together, which the general secretary handles with the bravado of marionette artists: she is the organizer, conciliator, mediator, and recorder of all things – hence, she knows secrets. She is also involved in the preparation of the new seasons, the development of the program plan, and the cast. Perhaps the most essential part of your job is to act as a mediator between management and membership. You have to be born for the position of general secretary of the arts: it requires nerves of steel, psychological and diplomatic acumen, and last but not least, complete devotion to the theater.
According to the recollections of her former colleagues, Nikola H. Péteri was a modest possessor of these abilities and cultivated a special relationship with the artists: she poured soul into the actors struggling with stage fright, calmed down the more violent ones, smoothed over disagreements between directors and directors, and with her tact handled many conflict situations in a politically charged period.
The fact that today, even within the walls of the Csokonai Forum, her name is unknown shows that she has become an iconic figure in her profession.
She explains her commitment and passion for the theater by the fact that she trained as an actor herself: in October 1944, she graduated from the National Academy of Drama, but did not stay in the field: she became a research associate at the National Theater History Museum and later at the Hungarian Theater Institute. In the meantime, she obtained a teaching degree in Hungarian at Eötvös Loránd University. In 1960, József Szendrő signed her to the Csokonai Theater as an assistant director. Still, as her theater abilities soon showed, she was entrusted with the duties of secretary and then general secretary. She spent a great era with her personality and name as a creative person who was in the background, yet omnipresent, for forty years and beyond. hallmarked. The trace of her work is still in the life of the theater today.