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Dear friends,
In the new issue of our Letters you will find information about new English
translations of the plays introduced in our earlier bulletins – including plays by Václav
Havel, the first anniversary of whose demise we are just commemorating.
The eighth issue of our e-mail Newsletter for 2012 brings also synopses of five
Czech plays, staged successfully but yet untranslated into English.
As usual, we also present winning plays from this year’s anonymous Alfréd Radok
Playwriting Competition.
We can provide you with texts and/or more information about all of these plays –
please write or call.
We are looking forward to hearing from you,
Jitka Sloupová, Michal Kotrouš
Theatre Department
Aura-Pont s.r.o.
Jitka Sloupova
Aura-Pont Agency
Veslarsky ostrov 62
147 00 Praha 4
Czech Republic
[email protected]
NEW PLAYS by Karel Steigerwald, Milan Uhde, Petr Kolečko and Petr
(Jan Kratochvíl, Nenad Djapić and Iva Procházková) …………………….12
Václav Havel, Vladimír Morávek
(Prase aneb Václav Havel´s Hunt for a Pig)
8 M, 4 F
Published for the first time as a fictitious interview in a small samizdat revue in 1981 it
was originally an amusing story based on apparently true events about how Havel,
then a disident, had tried to acquire a pig in a village far from Prague for a zabíjačka
(a hogkilling or pig-slaughtering in English). In this case, the zabíjačka is also an
excuse for a gathering of friends and fellow dissidents.
The entire village is astir. Havel´s involvement makes it both a political question, and
, clearly an oportunity to make a lot of money. And so an absurdist chain of events is
unleashed. How can they deliver the pig (or not), whom to delegate for the delicate
task of making the delivery, and most importantly how to make some profit.
All in all, the text is a combination of Hašek´s comic grotesques and Kafka´s
senseless, aimless wandering through a world of the unutterable, the unnameable,
and the ungraspable.
The adaptation by Vladimír Morávek uses excerpts from the most famous of Czech
operas, Smetana´s The Bartered Bride. The main character of that opera, the Czech
people, proclaim repeatedly in full choral voice: „Why not make a celabration/God
has given us our health.“ This is the same mood one finds in Miloš Forman´s film,
The Firemen´s Ball; there as well, the characters try clumsily to live in a state of bliss
but instead ride off into the sunset feeling only awkwardness and embarrassement.
The premiere of The Pig, directed by Vladimír Morávek, took place at the Goose on a
String Theatre in Brno in June 2010.
Translated into English and adapted by Edward Einhorn. The American version
premiered in New York´s Ice Factory (a stage of the off-Broadway Ohio Theatre) on
29th June 2011. The translation was published in The Havel Collection, a series of
new translations of five of Havel´s plays by Theater 61 Press, New York 2012. See
Václav Havel
(Ela, Hela a stop)
A short one-act play
1 M, 2 F
The young stage hand at the Theatre on the Balustrade contributed two sketches to
the Hitch-Hiking (Autostop) Revue (1961) of the ensemble’s principal at the time, Ivan
Vyskočil. One of them seemed lost forever and was not found in the archives until
shortly before the author’s death…
Into a conversation of two elderly ladies decided to hitch a ride for the first time in
their lives, Havel builds in the drift of a banal middle-class dialogue to a total
disintegration of the communication, foreshadowing his future plays.
This short one-act play was premiered independently first on December 4, 2009 at
the Theatre at the Dlouhá Street.
English translation by Edward Einhorn. The translation was published in The Havel
Collection, a series of new translations of five of Havel´s plays by Theater 61 Press,
New York 2012. See review:
Václav Havel
(Pět tet)
A short one-act play
3 M, 1 F
In his very last theatre script (2010), Havel returned after thirty five years to the
protagonists of his famous one act play Private View (or Vernissage). The writer
Vaněk comes again to visit his friends Michal and Věra. What shape is their world at
the beginning of the 21st century?
This one act play premiered as rehearsed reading on June 13, 2010 at the Goose on
a String Theatre in Brno.
English translation by Jan Novák. The translation was published in The Havel
Collection, a series of new translations of five of Havel´s plays by Theater 61 Press,
New York 2012. See review:
Petr Zelenka
(Ohrožené druhy)
4 M, 2 F
The play from contemporary Prague shows the world of advertisement and business
of pharmaceutical giant companies.
The world-wide renowned photographer and past exile, known as Jeremy (60),
is lately out of luck. Only the efforts to find better care for his father-in-law who suffers
from Alzheimer make him accept a lucrative offer to work with an advertisement
agency Pitch Productions on a campaign for Cogitamin, a medicine produced by
Delete Company. The man who decides about the campaign is Jeremy´s former
classmate, a homosexual Jan Šustr. Jeremy´s wife Jana shows specialist interest in
Cogitamin. According to her the drug is suspect for dangerous side-effects that could
lead to outbreak of some brain illnesses, but Jan keeps referring to successful tests.
Pitch productions finally loose the tender anyway and Jeremy, despite Jana’s
protests (in the meantime, she got a position with Delete), starts fighting the
corporation on the level of a professional campaign. Jeremy beats the company by
bringing Jana’s father in a wheelchair to his press conference to demonstrate
possible consequences of the medicine. This misuse of a member of her family
makes Jana decide to leave Jeremy.
Cogitamin is taken off free sale. Although Jana admits Jeremy was right, she refuses
to return to him and instead is taking care of Jan who is recovering from his personal
crash. Jeremy is offered a high position at another multinational pharmaceutical
company which he accepts.
The play by the most successful contemporary Czech playwright had its world
premiere on November 24, 2011 at the Nová Scéna stage of the Prague National
Petr Zelenka – the Most Successful Czech Playwright Abroad
Of all Zelenka’s theatre plays, his first one, Tales of Common Insanity, written –
similarily to his latest one, Dubbing Street – in collaboration with Dejvice Theatre,
remains his biggest and unsurpassed success. Since 2001 when it premiered at
Dejvice (and was performed in repertory for the next 8 years), the play was staged at
6 other professional theatres in the Czech Republic and at least 11 in Poland (the
number of productions there keeps increasing) and was also produced by many
amateur companies in both countries. Reports from Germany quote 6 professional
productions; the Tales was also performed in German translation in Switzerland and
Austria. There were professional productions in the USA, France, Belgium, Hungary,
Rumania, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Moldavia, Latvia and
Slovakia. There also were rehearsed readings by professional companies in Spain,
England and Northern Ireland. The play was published in Russian translation.
Televised versions of the play were broadcast both in the Czech Republic and in
Poland, and the audiences will remember the film version directed by the play’s
author Petr Zelenka.
Zelenka’s second play, Theremin (written in 2005, also for Dejvice Theatre where it
still runs in repertory) was so far produced in Poland and Russia. The translation was
published in the US, France and in Bulgaria.
His third play, the comedy Departures of Trains based on Michael Frayn´s farce
Chinamen has already been staged in Poland and Germany.
Coming Clean (2008) premiered in Poland at the Teatr Stary in Cracow; it opened in
Czech at South Bohemia Theatre in České Budějovice. The play was also staged at
the Rumanian National Theatre in Bucharest, it was published in Bulgarian; there
also are translations available into Hungarian, English and Russian.
The latest play by Zelenka so far, Endangered Species, had its world premiere at the
New Stage of the National Theatre in Prague in 2011. There is a Polish, Bulgarian
and English translation available.
The extraordinary popularity of Petr Zelenka in Poland is further confirmed by the fact
that there was a successful stage adaptation of his screenplay for the movie Loners.
Karel Steigerwald
(Má vzdálená vlast)
6 M, 5 F
Dagmar Šimková spent fifteen years in a Communist jail. She described her
experience there very truthfully, in a suggestive way and with unexpected literary
beauty in her book, We were there, too. The extraordinarily strong description of what
the Communist regime was able to do was the inspiration for the play, set in our
times, called My remote country. The theme of the play is not the cruelty of the 1950s
regime but the way the Czech society is nowadays unable to deal with it. Our failure
to see the past openly and to have an opinion produces only one thing – hiding the
past and keeping silent about it. The protagonist tries, unsuccessfully, to get a legal
rehabilitation, and sees the vanity and comic side to her current efforts. She survived
the fifteen years in a jail fighting a clearly defined enemy. Nowadays the enemy is
blurred, without decisively defined borders or clarity.
The goal of our society nowadays is to create a past with which we could live easily
and without problems. The play is reflecting on this tragicomically, looking both at the
Czech efforts to deal with the past and at the impossibility and vanity to put a fat
black line behind it with irony; at the lamentable form of Czech way of farewell to
The play opened in February 2012 at the National Theatre in Prague (Nová scéna),
directed by I. Rajmont.
Milan Uhde – Miloš Štědroň – Leoš Kuba
(Divá Bára)
A musical
10 M, 5 F, choir
Bára, a young girl of slightly uncertain origin, is growing up during the 19th Century in
a small Czech village and becoming what we would call nowadays an independent
personality. Perhaps her grandmother was a witch, and her mother who died very
early used to heal the whole community with her herbs. Bára is the fruit of her
mother’s forbidden love – and it seems her fate will not be the easiest one, either.
Although her real father, the village mayor, together with a rather reasonable parish
priest, try to protect her from a distance, there are limits to what they can do to help
her when her non-conformist character clashes with the prejudice, superstitions and
animosities of a village community – the community convinced a poor girl like her has
no right to independent thinking and behaviour. Neither does she have many friends
among those of the same age as hers; and there is Pavel, the boyfriend Bára
rejected, who’s inciting the others against her. She also has some faithful friends,
such as the future seminarist Ondřej who is in love with her, and the parish priest’s
ward Eliška whose fate is quite similar to Bára’s own. The local manorial caretaker
wants to marry the girl, even without the dowry; he is a widower who wants to buy
Eliška’s favours by his contributions to the communal cash box. The parish priest and
the whole village are over the moon about this, but nobody thinks to ask unhappy
Eliška’s opinion. In the meantime, Eliška recalls her meeting with a certain Prague-
based young man. Bára, her fiery defender thinks up what we would call a happening
nowadays – and she goes on to implement it: during the night, she crosses the
caretaker’s way at the local graveyard disguised as a devil; and gets the frightened
man to promise he would give up Eliška. It does not take long for the village to
understand who actually played the joke on the caretaker. All the animosity the
villagers had to suppress until then is given free rein and ends almost in the lynching
of the young girl – the mayor and the parish priest are only able to prevent it by
proposing a “stylish” punishment for Bára – to lock her overnight in the local
graveyard mortuary. Then everybody in the village is patrolling outside the mortuary
to prevent anybody to get the young girl out of the inhuman and stupid situation. The
only one able to achieve that – albeit under threat of armed violence – is the
gamekeeper from “outside the village” whose getting together with Bára is a leitmotif
from the very beginning of the storyline. Instantly, the gamekeeper is fired by the
caretaker and both he and Bára are leaving the village as free people.
The musical based on the classical short story by the Czech 19th Century female
writer, Božena Němcová was written by the playwright Milan Uhde and the composer
Leoš Štědroň, the tandem that wrote perhaps the best known and the most valued
Czech musical of all time, A Ballad for a Bandit. Brno-based composer and musical
arranger Leoš Kuba also participated at the creation of the music. The premiere took
place at the Městské divadlo (City Theatre) in Brno on March 24, 2012; it was
directed by Juraj Nvota and the show has been playing to extraordinarily uniform
critical acclaim.
“The result is almost a musical lyrical and epical poem offering a dramatic story but
also wanting and having to remain a pure theatrical entertainment.
Lubomír Mareček,, 5.4.2012
The production of Bára the Wild at the Musical Stage feels like a successful attempt
to return to the theatre the genre of romantic musical with folkloric stylisation that has
a very long tradition, especially on Brno stage, a tradition that goes back to the
legendary A Ballad for a Bandit. The duo of authors Uhde and Štědroň is still a safe
David Kroča, Mozaika, ČRo3 – Vltava
Bára the Wild has become a musical. No Hollywood scriptwriter would be ashamed
of the script.(…)
The story of Bára the Wild is almost made for a musical. For a practical joke intended
to get a friend rid of an unwanted suitor, a courageous girl whose origin is clouded in
mystery almost becomes a victim of lynching. There is a double love story, including
a romantic happy end with a mesmerizing gamekeeper!
Marie Reslová,, 1.4.2012
Petr Kolečko
2 M, 2 F
A tragicomedy about losing illusions about the Velvet Revolution, about losing
illusions about today’s world, and about the fact that many people nowadays put all
their eggs in one basket.
The story is set in two alternating timelines. The first one takes place just before the
revolution (1988) and immediately afterwards, at the time of the general euphoria
caused by the democratic changes; the second one is set before the 2011 Christmas
during the time of general moral crisis and right after the death of Václav Havel
symbolizing the end of post-November 1989 illusions of the Truth and Love.
In the pre-revolution timeline we follow, in short flashback scenes, the fate of Franta,
both bitter and comical: he is critically ill with cancer, plays the Czech national card
game of Mariáš (Matrimony) and works at the oil wells somewhere in Africa – just
moments before his death he would rebuke his daughter Jana for not being able to
play his favourite card game which has far reaching consequences for her future life.
A year passes. During the Revolution days, Jana had slept with one or the other of
the dissidents in a pub during a power shortage and now she has no idea with whom
she’s expecting her baby, her future daughter Pavlína. Jana becomes a solitary,
ironic and bitter poker player, and, as a consequence, a millionaire. Twenty two years
later, the ironic and sarcastic poker master player returns home from a poker
tournament. She surprises her daughter Pavlína with a lover, Viktor, an idealist who
believes in the revival of the society through the means of establishing a new political
party, with a programme of mandatory support for the employment of young people.
But he lacks money and so the sharp and practical Jana is only laughing at his ideals
as well as Viktor himself. On the other hand, she offers Viktor two million Euros, but
Viktor, disgusted by her cynicism, declines her money.
Nevertheless, next day Viktor returns. He would like to sleep with Jana who
fascinates him – but this time the couple is surprised by Pavlína. At first, Viktor tries
to claim it all was just a test of Jana’s affection for her daughter (after all, Jana did
feel ashamed in front of Pavlína). But a moment later, Viktor surprisingly pulls out a
revolver and demands from Jana an enormous sum of money from her winnings that
– as he knows – she keeps in her house in gold. Is he really an idealist, or is he
bluffing as much as Jana and is in fact just an ordinary, common thief? And is Jana
really as devoid of feelings and as cold as she displays in her behaviour to him and
to her own daughter, conceived accidentally all these years ago – and maybe even
by the future President? It transpires Jana is mainly a better player and from the
game of the posturing she emerges as a victor.
Devastated and depressed, Pavlína in the end reconciles herself with her mother and
starts to learn how to play poker from her.
The play opened in September 2012 at the Gunagu Theatre in Bratislava in Slovak
translation. The play originated in the framework of the international project by the
Centre for Contemporary Drama Theatre Letí Generation Icons, as a part of the EU
Culture 2007 – 2013 Programme.
German translation by Rhea Krcmarova is available. Translations into other
languages are getting ready.
Petr Kolečko
(Zakázané uvolnění)
“Do you think now that I’m married I don’t have a sense of humour anymore?” – that’s
what Klára the fresh bride asks after being kidnapped in compliance with the ages
old tradition during the wedding reception by the groom’s wedding witness into the
unexpected milieu of a pub where normally ice-hockey players and their fans gather.
The situation does require sense of humour, anyway: a storm is raging outside; the
pub is empty as the Ice Hockey World Cup semi-finals are on; but the plasma TV is
not working. The bridegroom’s witness is a young woman, suspiciously close to
Himself. The cynical landlady, abandoned by her ice-hockey player husband, is not
keen on men too much. And the groom is not coming…
A comedy seeing three young women meet in one space at the same time to dissect
their lives, relationships and – most of all – men. Three experiences, three stories,
three perspectives on the world and the unique dramatic resolution that puts the lives
of the protagonists upside down and then returns them with a bitter irony back to the
old ways.
The play premiered at the A Studio Rubín in September 2012, directed by D. Špinar.
…in our times of seriously meant gloomy testimonies about horrors of life, a lighthearted play is pleasantly refreshing. Moreover, although the play has a comedy
framework, it labels very well the bitterness of living together, loneliness, existential
and existence problems and fatal chance events that influence our destiny. And, in
this idiosyncratic report on the state of our society, it doesn’t spare either women or
(absent) men.
Jana Soprová, Mozaika, ČRo 3 – Vltava, 29/10/2012
Petr Zelenka
(Dabing Street)
3 M, 3 F
After many years, the best-known contemporary Czech playwright returned to
collaborate with Dejvické Theatre, where years ago his first play and – so far – his
biggest theatre hit, the comedy Tales of Common Insanity was first produced.
Dubbing Street returns to the turn of the millennium years (2000/2001) when the wild
and optimistic 1990s began to run out of steam. Pavel and Eva are the owners of one
of the first small dubbing studios, but the orders are down, the loans up and their
marriage is falling apart. All of these facts complicate their relationship with their parttime employees, siblings Karel (who also works as a bodyguard) and Lada (who is
also a rock singer). In this situation a well-known journalist Michal Kros storms into
their small world. Enchanted by their burning passion for the dubbing industry and
slightly amused by their problems he makes them an offer. First, he rents out their
studio and more or less moves into it, then he buys the studio from Eva with whom
he sleeps, to help her overcome financial problems. Nevertheless, it transpires
gradually that his casual alcoholism is not as harmless as it seems. His partner Jana,
a former director of an alcohol treatment clinic where they first met each other,
appears on the scene to rectify Michal’s excesses. Although we soon find out that,
during his alcoholic “binge trip”, Michal managed to sell the studio with profit to
developers and thus destroyed it; yet the charming alcoholic finds another young
nurse in Lada, and it becomes clear then that despite this Jana will, once more, play
the role of the angel of the last salvation. The fate of Karel the outsider finishes in a
tragic way: his small world of dubbing falls apart, he fails, at the key moment when he
finally could get Eva all for himself, during Michal’s final drinking binge he discovers a
homosexual attraction for Pavel and, at the end, wounds Michal when shooting at
him with his gun. His suicide passes unnoticed for a long time – all that’s left after he
dies is his father’s large yet worthless archive of porn tapes.
Dubbing industry that has seen, especially in the Czech Republic, a spectacular
quantity growth and quality decline with the arrival of private TV channels is in the
play both a source of endless humour (there are scenes of actual dubbing –
especially of vulgar sitcoms and animated series) and a parable of generally dumbing
and dulling influence of the media on today’s world.
What was before presented as tragedies, Zelenka tries to tell in a comedy based on
situations. I try to think what from the things on offer could be generalized, but I would
not apply to this drawing-room comedy – although it also contains murder –standards
of a social model and/or criticism and would just be satisfied with pleasant
entertainment and brilliant acting. (…) If, of course, we refuse to see the topical and
sharply critical attitude to our times precisely in the portrayal of vulgarity and
superficiality in relationships, in a description of meaningless work in which one can
hardly discern any skills, let alone art or mission.
Nina Tiliu, aktuálně.cz, 7/12/2012
Petr Zelenka is a kind of Czech Fellini: he collects freak show phenomena and
bizarre elements and then arranges them nicely. (…) He’s one of the few Czech
authors able to write a tragicomedy that also tells us something. (…) His play can fool
you a bit. It appears, especially in the first half, as a pure comedy, but it contains
much more.
Jana Machalická, Czech Television - ČT 24, 6/12/2012
Jan Kratochvíl
(Vladimírova děvka)
7 M, 3 F
The play is extraordinarily built on the ground plan of an absurd drama. The repeated
motives and situations (the pub landlord who serves in a remote Scandinavian village
Olaf, the regular, bottles of alcohol, an unnecessary killing of a mare, etc.),
flashbacks when in framework of Olaf’s repeated story many more village people
appear and shape the cruel story: a slut had arrived into the village with her bastard
son and was accepted into a house (that of Vladimir) and died soon afterwards. The
bastard son (eventually we find out it’s Olaf himself, the main teller of the story)
obviously slept with Vladimir’s wife and is killed by him as a consequence. At the end,
the text hints at Olaf killing the landlord. The other characters become the ghosts of
the past, coming to the pub as regulars and then leaving Olaf with the Landlord
The storyline is constantly questioned (“people keep saying that”) and make even
Olaf insecure: he wants to put the story together again (he’s probably already dead)
but the landlord is only doing his job not helping Olaf with his story – on the contrary,
he lets Olaf bring in the characters from the past and construct an insecure storyline
that can only be one of the possible interpretations of what really happened.
The winning entry in Alfréd Radok Drama Competition for 2011.
The premiere of the play will take place at Švandovo divadlo, Prague in Spring 2013.
Nenad Djapić
(Vídeňský hřích)
2 M, 1 F
In the subtitle, the author of the play taking place in Vienna’s police card index
department, says it is a “scenic historical-criminological, almost musicological time
slice image of the 1801.” In fact, it is post-pseudo-baroque, almost post-pseudo-neobaroque dialogue mesh with unsure ending: it also deals with the issue of coffee
grains prophecy (the coffee finely ground) and cooked goat’s head, and also the
phenomenon of Czech surnames in Vienna’s phonebook”. The main duo of
protagonists, the Czech servant Růžena Čížková and a young police inspector
Hautschrubber, is complemented by a mute role of police officer sent sometimes by
the inspector to get things.
The main storyline, interrogation of Růžena in connection of her husband’s death (did
he drink the potash lye himself while drunk, or did she have a hand in it?) and in
connection of her illegal profession as a midwife reminds of Cimrman-like
mystification humour in many ways, but it is only a bare skeleton on which Růžena‘s
lines, full of black humour, resembling both Švejk and Hrabal, sometimes almost
surreal, spiced with dialect, religious superstitions and human interest stories about
the forced abortions of Czech maids in Vienna after “the landlord mistook their rooms
for toilet”, about local criminal underworld or absurd visions of future through the
means of prophecy from coffee grains and cooked goat’s head. On the other hand,
the inspector wants Růžena to tell him whether he will become famous for solving
Mozart’s murder – did Salieri kill him, or not? But the street-wise Růžena only sees
anything in the future (for instance Oscar for Amadeus by Miloš Forman and the
eponymous play by P. Shaffer): the play is open-ended and, as in its beginning, the
inspector uses remote control to make the two barrel organs play music by Mozart
and Salieri…
The play won the second place in Alfréd Radok Drama Competition for 2011.
Iva Procházková
9 M, 6 F
A dramatic collage
The author calls her play “a dramatic collage with a fixed axis for the story and
mosaic structure of the storyline. The production presumes the division of the set into
parallel ‘islands’ of life that can repeatedly shift from the periphery of attention into its
centre; everything is latently present, it can be activated at any time but the island
can also suddenly, unexpectedly go under and disappear from our section of
perception.” Great stress is being put onto the imagery (projection, unexpected
images) and sound/music components of the text.
From the fragments of individual characters’ fates, an extraordinary story of a gay
man in the contemporary post-Communist Czech society emerges.
The play won the third place in Alfréd Radok Drama Competition for 2011.