Other Theatre activities

Theater diary

Putin is Skiing (2009)

The staging was preceded by several years of preparation, starting in the moment (in 2006) when I learned about the fate of Anna Politkovskaya and saw the book “Russian Diary” in the bookstore window. I began to read the book, and images flashed before me, solidifying into a scene centered around a crumbling table, from which drawers emerged “scenes from Russia.” From the moment I decided on “Russian Diary,” things started happening that went beyond the realm of theater. I encountered people and communities that opened up new horizons for me – the Berkat association and Petra Procházková, the Chechen dancer Alikhan (from the Maršo ensemble – he also performed at the festival in 2006), Mrs. Galina from the Kalmyk Republic, who cooked unprecedented delicacies at several festivals, and Suhrob from Afghanistan. We started carrying a box of embroidered scarves and shawls for sale, sewn by girls and women from poor Afghan villages (a project conceived by Petra Procházková), and we also adorned ourselves with these colorful items.

We bought a fairly spacious military tent, and in it, we performed the play.

The play had several versions. During the winter, we rehearsed intensively in a freezing hall in Ondrajdy, but this period was interrupted by Luďek’s several-week pneumonia. We had to stop rehearsals and wait for spring.

The first legal public performance of the latest version of the play “Putin Skiing” took place in early May 2010 in Lužánky.

Froggs (Dreams of Grandpa) (2008)

From spring 2008 to January 2009, we worked on a play about two frog friends. Arnold Lobel’s book was at home in two copies – from the times of mine and Luděk’s childhood, but neither of us remembered the story. I think these books remained unread. We reached for them by chance when putting our children to sleep. The result was bursts of laughter, which didn’t lead to calming the boys down much but did contribute to pleasant evening moments. The fact that frog humor doesn’t work only on children was evidenced by the journey of nine people to Spain in the fall of 2007, during which Petr Kryštof (later the performer of Kvaka) read from the book, keeping the travelers (the Robinson ensemble) and the spirited driver Irena alive.

Puppets were carved from wood and sewn from leather by Antonín Maloň in the spring of 2008. The stage was made from last year’s harvest of one-year-old bamboo, which he cultivated in his garden. When it warmed up, we started rehearsing in our backyard. The first outdoor (half-hour) version of the performance was created, with which we were not satisfied at all. Our material was too fragile for the street version. Theatrical means came into play – especially light, which would highlight the small artistic details against the black background. Unlike the literary original, in our stage version, we added the character of Grandpa, the guide through the story. He dreams the story, narrates it, and eventually, drawn into the game by his own imagination, merges with it. The prototype of this stage being is all those old men and women talking aloud to their often very fluffy darlings, who interpret their animal behavior through the subtlest motifs and movements of their own minds.

To move the form forward, we needed a space that we could darken. In a rented hall in Ondrajdy, in one of the stalls left to us by previous tenants, Luděk finished the ceiling, creating a room – our first rehearsal room. So, we completed the play here. Rehearsals went well – until the frost hit. Although we brought stoves from home, wood from the sawmill, and Michal went to rehearsals with a bucket of coal, I directed in snowdrifts and thawed my feet in the washbasin after rehearsal. During a thaw, a waterfall leaked from the roof through a hole in the ceiling of the hall. My directing desk with a notebook stood by the stoves in a puddle. I partly enjoyed these adventures, but after Petra’s kidneys started hurting, I felt that after ten years of fairly persistent work, this underground life was already too much. Adventures – both pleasant and unpleasant – should not hinder our work.

The premiere of the final version took place in January in the cellar stage CEDU, in warmth and dryness.

Events in Líšeň – Líšeň to Itself

In 2008, a situation arose in Líšeň where local cultural civic organizations and the city council were at odds. This division was most pronounced during the celebrations of Líšeň’s festivities, which the local groups organized for the first time without the participation of the city council.

We established a closer connection with the civic association Pastelka from Líšeň, which has been co-creating accompanying events during the festival for several years, and we are weaving further action plans for the future. The most significant joint effort so far, involving several other Líšeň associations and personalities, was “Líšeň to Itself” (September 2010) on the field behind the local gym. The purpose of such activities is to make visible what interesting things are emerging in Líšeň, to bring together people and groups who have a desire to create something, to showcase it to each other and to others who come, and thus collectively establish a connection with the place where we live.

The Hall of the Former Pub – Ondrajda

In the spring of 2008, the theater rented a portion of a deteriorating building from the municipality. In addition to several small rooms on the first floor (which are in good condition), there was also a courtyard and a hall that, with a hole in the ceiling, resembled the hall in Dělňák ten years ago. Then there was the basement, where we moved props and eventually moved them out again – moldy.

Apart from Mrs. Vojtová with a diverse pack of dogs, who acts as the caretaker and resides in the stage area, no one inhabits the house. In the hall with a collapsing ceiling, the belongings of non-payers were stored. A bizarre pile, including broken children’s strollers, dried flowers in pots, artificial teeth in a glass, old family photos, and even official documents with a threat of property seizure – all indicating that when someone is in a difficult life situation, a powerful official will ensure that it gets even worse. The confiscated items had little value, and their confiscation was mainly intended for humiliation and degradation. After the majority of items went unclaimed, the pile was demolished and taken to the landfill. We used some of the things in the theater. Despite the desolation of this place, we gradually settled in, made the rooms on the first floor more comfortable, and moved the theater facilities here. And in the hall, we set up a booth – our first permanent rehearsal space.

The Badger on the Pine (2007)

We worked on the production “The Badger on the Pine, or Mudžina” between 2006 and 2008. The initial textual version of the play came about by chance during a movement workshop with Hubert Krejčí in the summer of 2006. We organized this workshop for ourselves, and those who were playing with us at that time participated. Although we initially did not expect the workshop to yield any specific results, a text emerged that we decided to stage under the direction of Hubert Krejčí. The work on the play was accompanied by radical transformations of the acting ensemble. Initially, participants in our summer workshop worked on the play. Later, at Hubert’s request, they were replaced by members of the Small Theater Kjógen (who, under the guidance of a Japanese master, work with traditional Japanese techniques and are therefore better equipped for such work). Their creation culminated in the summer of 2007 with a public rehearsal of “Mudžina and Žižka’s Bees” (another Kjógen written by Hubert). However, this acting lineup also abandoned the work, and, to top it all off, Hubert Krejčí resigned as the director. We were left with unfinished textual and scenic material, including three beautiful wooden masks by the artist Igor Kožený.

We decided with Luděk that we would try to bring the work to completion together with the actor from Husa na provázku, Michal Bumbálek, and his wife Marika. Since we did not physically, mentally, or theoretically master Japanese theatrical technique, it made no sense to superficially copy it, so we approached it as an inspiration.

Our version of “The Badger on the Pine” was performed at the Líšeň Theater Festival in the fall of 2007. The most significant change occurred in the visual aspect. Together with the visual artist Marika Bumbálková, we replaced fabric costumes imitating Japanese originals with remarkable paper from the attic, which we had debated whether to throw away or not for ten years. In our opinion, it created the impression of oriental richness and grandeur as well as stiff, complex, and expensive fabric costumes. This version fully preserved Hubert’s text. But we were still not satisfied. A fundamental shift occurred only when we started improvising on stage and completely reworked the entire text. In the end, we added a sound component – Luděk made a bamboo cart, and together with David Sysel Synák, they equipped it mainly with rhythmic instruments. Only then did we consider this form definitive (it premiered in the spring of 2008). So on stage, we pay homage to Japanese theatrical tradition with our European farce in a Japanese-Líšeň style.

We present “The Badger on the Pine” either as a standalone half-hour performance or together with the “classically conceived” Kjógen of the Small Theater Kjógen, so that audiences can compare two possible approaches to the oriental theatrical style.

Without a Car and Without a House

At the beginning of 2006, our car was stolen in front of our house. Fortunately, there were no stage props loaded in it. By that time, we had definitively realized that Dělňák in Líšeň was not really the right space for us. Under the management of the Líšeň Cultural Center, it was taking its own direction that did not align with our ideas.

In a sense, after eight years, we were starting from scratch – we bought a less expensive and less comfortable car and began searching again for unused properties in Líšeň that could provide us with shelter.

Without a Car and Without a House

At the beginning of 2006, our car was stolen in front of our house. Fortunately, there were no stage props loaded in it. By that time, we had definitively realized that Dělňák in Líšeň was not really the right space for us. Under the management of the Líšeň Cultural Center, it was taking its own direction that did not align with our ideas.

In a sense, after eight years, we were starting from scratch – we bought a less expensive and less comfortable car and began searching again for unused properties in Líšeň that could provide us with shelter.

Paramisa – Cunning stupid roma (2005)

The original plan was to rehearse an intimate fairy tale for two. However, in the final form of Paramisa, six actors, a four to six-member band, and a ladder are involved.

The initial inspiration came from Mrs. Hübschmannová’s book – Romani Fairy Tales. Authentic, raw folk narratives, condensed into compelling and concise explanations, were orally transmitted through generations by storytellers and eventually captured by Mrs. Milena’s microphone. The original and distinctive way of presenting individual stories inspired a theatrical interpretation.

I personally met Mrs. Hübschmannová at the Museum of Romani Culture, where she gave a lecture. I spilled my plan to her and expected her absolute blessing, but – to my great surprise – Mrs. Milena was horrified. She refused to have anything to do with our project. She diverted attention from her book and pointed to the modern literary works of contemporary Romani writers and their books published after 1889, which she wanted to lure me into. However, I described my fascination with the stories she had recorded (from people who often couldn’t even write), with their unpolished, naive humor, conciseness… It brought her even greater despair. Then she told me about a public reading of her fairy tale collection, where she was a guest. Roma people were in the audience. Non-Roma people could burst into laughter, but Roma people took the text seriously. And Mrs. Hübschmannová perceived her work, which she had worked on for many years, as deeply misunderstood. Whites couldn’t uncover the real and serious meanings that the text brought for the Roma.

The encounter with Mrs. Hübschmannová did not discourage me from my work but rather led me to a more thorough understanding of the subject: for our work not to be superficial, it must necessarily include personal encounters with the Roma. We visited “Drom” – renovated apartment buildings on Bratislavská with a courtyard in the middle. A modern Romani settlement. In addition to apartments, there is a social center – legal advice and several interest groups. In the dance ensemble Čercheňa, they allowed us to attend rehearsals and even willingly taught us basic steps. In the basket workshop of Mr. Zima, wickerwork horses were created. People in Drom amusedly watched our clumsy attempts at movement through barred windows. “Don’t laugh!” a ten-year-old boy defended the awkward white boys from a handful of other laughing children and adults, “they will learn, they can’t help being Gadje! Right, ma’am?” he turned to me. I was grateful to him for believing that our guys would learn something. (I also watched them only through barred windows because, at the same time, like other mothers, I was watching my boys playing in the yard.)

The encounter with the Roma was powerful. I felt as if I had suddenly fallen into another dimension of time, space, and human relationships. Getting a Romani actor – dancer or musician meant getting to know his entire extensive family and explaining our artistic intent to everyone in detail and then discussing the social situation. We spent hours in Romani families where we were always warmly welcomed and generously hosted. Even though we agreed and started working, it wasn’t won. We faced a different way of approaching work. It wasn’t easy to explain that this ant-like, diligent, and systematic work lasting weeks and months would actually lead somewhere. (From the first preparations to the first performance, a year passed.) We tried where we could – in Drom, in our garden in Líšeň, in the under-construction Dělňák, in the rented hall on Šimáčkova Street, in the park of Líšeň Castle… There were moments when I lost hope and didn’t believe that we would finish the play, or an even worse possibility (in case of the departure of Romani actors) – that I would have to compromise and stick with the Gadje interpretation of Romani themes. But the situation was always surprisingly resolved for the better at a time when I no longer hoped… and sometimes for the worse, when I thought we had won. So it actually continues throughout the life of the production.

The pillar of the Romani part of the ensemble is Milan Horváth, the leader of the band Cimbálová muzika Milana Horvátha, which he took over from his father. He promised to add music to the story based on Romani folk songs and put together a band that would play on stage during the performance. I imagined two musicians. We have a whole band in which all the brothers of Milan Horváth, and even his dad, gradually took turns with various instruments.

While the band functioned from the beginning thanks to Milan Horváth, a more complicated situation arose with the casting of actors. The first actors were from the dance ensemble Čercheňa. But they left us soon. The main character – Zoltán – rehearsed with us the longest. We met him in Drom when he was fourteen. After six months of rehearsal, Zolin announced that he was no longer enjoying it and would rather box. So I appointed Tomáš Pavčík (at least he has ancestors in Slovakia…) to the role of the Romani hero. I consoled myself that if we had built a functioning Romani band, there must be a hero somewhere, and we would surely find him over time. However, Tomáš Pavčík started working on the hero. He contacted Zolin, thanks to which we didn’t completely lose contact with him, and for a reasonable fee, he learned to dance from him. And at the premiere, Roma themselves appreciated how “such a Gadjo managed a complex Olaš-Magyar rhythm.” Non-Roma didn’t realize that he was white, and when they saw him cleaning up after the event, they praised him for how the Gypsy is engaging.

Finally, our lost Romani hero returned to us (for a while). Zolin envied Tomáš his stage Gypsy, invaded the stage during the premiere to dance on the thank-you, and then came back, saying he wanted to return.

Some others who had left during rehearsals also returned after some time. And then they disappeared again. The role of the Witch’s Daughter – four Romani girls rehearsed it successively. Terezka Malíková significantly advanced the role; she began working with us on the processional version of Paramisa – Schovejte si slepice (2006), a series of short stories, proverbs, jokes, and improvised chases with straw horses,

Robinson (2004)

Reviving Robinson was the third attempt by the Líšeň Theater to put this play together. The revival of Robinson meant opening up the ensemble to a larger number of people (six actors, three musicians). So far, all productions had been created within a narrow circle of a few actors. The selection of new actors was a straightforward process – everyone who started rehearsing and persevered until the end played a role. Rehearsals mainly took place outdoors in our garden and in the under-construction, dusty Dělňák.

With Robinson, we undertook the longest theater journey on the path to the “forgotten audience” – we visited a refugee camp, a psychiatric hospital, a camp for a children’s psychiatric hospital, and a camp as part of a children’s hospice in Malejovice. After the performance, we played with the children, manipulating puppets over a meter tall, and created other improvised variations on the Robinson theme.

We last performed Robinson in Tolosa in 2007 in Spanish. We didn’t have an official final performance, but since then, we haven’t been able to assemble a large ensemble.

Expansion of the Theater

In addition to expanding our family with sons Štěpán (2001) and Šimon (2003), who had been actively involved in all our theatrical activities from the beginning, other people gradually joined us, contributing to the development of the theater. There have been many over the years, and I apologize for not mentioning them all here.

A pivotal addition to the theater was Kateřina Bartošová. How did this “fragile girl from a good family,” as described by performer and musician Petr Váša, end up in Líšeň? One day, she accidentally attended a performance of Sávitrí, where she met me, her classmate from theater studies. She gradually took over the most important organizational work – production and promotion of our performances and the program at Dělňák, festival dramaturgy, seeking grants for year-round activities and individual events, and raising the visibility of the theater in the media. Additionally, she cooked goulash in the festival kettle, sold tickets, sodas, and beer, and took care of the noisy kids. If Kačka hadn’t accidentally met us back then, she would probably be calmly writing articles for the cultural section.

From almost the very beginning, Irena Moštková has also been with us – we “inherited” her from her brother Vítek, who, in the first years of our makeshift functioning at Dělňák, served as the musical dramaturge. Irena, still a teenager, discreetly hovered around the early underground Dělňák productions. One day, we suddenly realized that we urgently needed a new puppeteer for Sávitrí. Irča took on the role and gradually assumed lighting, sound, archives, stage management, driving, and accounting.

Since the summer of 2005, we have been collaborating with Tomáš Pavčík (a member of the Small Theater Kjógen), whom we knew from the days of Studio Dům. In addition to acting, he delved into repairing props that, over time and constant transportation, take a beating. Tom knows best how to bring order to our disorganized piles in the storage, arranging them into neat and almost aesthetic formations, over which we silently and respectfully marvel until chaos prevails again.

Requiem for a house (an evil play) (2003)

At the beginning, there was no textual, visual, or musical reference. At the beginning, there was only a feeling. An intense, fantastical sensation of grotesque horror that needed expression. The experiment involved the use of puppets. This type of puppet is not typically used to convey a continuous story in an hour-long performance; instead, it is more commonly used in short, emphatic displays. The Wicked Play is essentially structured in this way, but individual scenes are interconnected, build up, and create a story.

We defined characters embodying human types that corresponded to the initial, primary feeling – a prostitute, a married couple, a thief, a homeless person, rats. And an angel. Petra Kubáčková created bizarre figures – papier-mâché heads cast in synthetic resin. Tonda, along with Luďek, defined their living space on stage – the street, the underground (made of chipboard), and the house (made of sheet metal). Everything else was left to improvisation. Characters, the story, text, and the stage underwent significant development during rehearsals. The puppets radically changed their appearance several times. Rehearsals took place over two years, and two versions of the play preceded its final form. Through improvisation, the theme deviated in a different direction. The final form resulted from a return to that initial, intense dark feeling and the thorough processing of material obtained through improvisation, aiming for the clearest expression of the theme. Thus, the Wicked Play was created, which may not please everyone.

Dělňák – Inspirational Ruin (1999 – 2008)

In the early days of our theater, amid practical and artistic concerns, we faced a fundamental question – where would we rehearse and perform? This question, as of now (writing in 2010), remains unresolved. The history of our theater is most closely connected with the house on the corner of Klajdovská and Martin Kříž’s streets, whose rescue marked the beginning of our activities in this location and the Líšeň Theater Festival. The following text, accompanying the exhibition of photographs depicting a decade of the Líšeň Theater’s presence at Dělňák, captures this history:

Ten Líšeň Theater Festivals! It’s time for a brief reflection.

This year’s festival concludes a ten-year effort by the theater to save Dělňák in Líšeň.

The first festival came about by chance and very quickly – it responded to the immediate situation. The former Workers’ House had been deteriorating for fifteen years, the city council didn’t know what to do with it, and there were talks of demolition. We attempted to reverse this ominous fate by organizing the Awakening from Ruins festival, through which we brought attention to the problem and sparked lively interest from the media and the public. We succeeded in convincing the city council leaders (especially the then-mayor of Líšeň, Mr. Jiří Vondál, who embraced our idea) to renovate the house and use it for purposes for which it was originally built, with funds raised from the citizens of Líšeň. Over the years, from the first Awakening from Ruins festival to this year’s tenth edition, we experienced many interesting, stimulating, and controversial moments. Although Dělňák remained in ruins for a long time, we organized intermittent cultural events almost throughout its reconstruction (within festivals and beyond). From 1999 to September 2008, we organized more than two hundred events – theatrical performances, concerts, workshops, film screenings, exhibitions, discussions. Later, we expanded the festival to other charming places in Líšeň that we wanted to showcase – Mariánské Údolí, the park of Líšeň Castle, and the originally oldest Workers’ House on Šimáčkova Street, which has been exclusively used as a warehouse for eighty years. We also expanded beyond the borders of Líšeň when it was not possible to perform at Dělňák due to construction work – to the Workers’ House on Jamborova Street in Židenice in 2007.

We gained a lot of experience, our festival has its loyal supporters, and in recent years, we have succeeded in organizing guest performances by foreign theaters (discoveries from our theater’s travels to international festivals). Dělňák is renovated and operational. Nevertheless, after almost ten years, we find ourselves, in a sense, back at the beginning. For our theater, which was promised Dělňák as its permanent venue, there is no place from a spatial or operational perspective. Regular use of Dělňák is also hindered by the high rent. Unfortunately, Dělňák has not become a base for other artistic groups in Líšeň either, as intended half a century ago when the city council decided to renovate the house – to provide a space for Líšeň groups (not only our theater) and contribute to the development of local creativity. Like the theater, local associations and groups use the house only minimally due to the high rent (except for one-time events such as fairs).

Nevertheless, Dělňák stands and offers its possibilities. We hope that the accumulated problems surrounding it will be successfully resolved by the Líšeň Borough and the Líšeň Cultural Center, which manages it.

But let’s return to our creative work. About two years had passed since the staging of Sávitrí when we embarked on another production. (At that time, Petra Kubáčková’s puppets had been lying in the closet for a year). We invited Tonda Maloně to join us in creating the stage.

DZP – Theater for the Forgotten Audience

In addition to performances for the general public, we yearned for shows that would be festive events for the participants, fostering a deeper connection between actors and their audience, and providing a more intense theatrical experience. With this awareness, we created Sávitrí.

The DZP project is designed for residents of children’s homes, psychiatric hospitals, medical facilities, and social care institutions. We initiated it in the fall of 1999 with visits to children in children’s homes.

A Car – a Chapter of Its Own

With Sávitrí, we began touring throughout the entire country and increasingly ventured abroad. Consequently, we faced the crucial issue of finding an adequate means of transportation from the very beginning. Transportation is fundamental to the operation of our theater, but unfortunately, no grants or subsidies take this into account, making it challenging to secure finances for such purposes. With Sávitrí, we traveled in a Zhiguli running on gas, accommodating not only the entire Sávitrí production but also five actors and two dogs. The car was so tightly packed from the outside and filled with props from the inside that the rear seats no longer fit, and the actors sat on crates filled with props that also served as part of the stage. In the first three years of the theater, we gradually used five second-hand cars. The last in the line of “mobile wrecks” were two Renault Twelves. In winter, we traveled wrapped in blankets with a thermos in hand, and due to the “mobile Siberia,” Luděk acquired special snow chains for driving. When we returned from a winter tour, the entire ensemble fell ill. In the hottest summer temperatures, the car turned into a “mobile Sahara” because the higher the temperature outside the vehicle, the more we heated inside to cool the engine. When we raced on German highways to a festival in Berlin, we didn’t encounter a similar vehicle along the way. That was also the longest journey of that car, lasting two days. Only our family and props were in that car; the rest of the ensemble traveled in a regular car.

All these extraordinary vehicles, dangerous even before starting, in their own way contributed to the development of our theater. Given that we survived and no longer use them, we can retrospectively express our gratitude to them.

In 2004, we bought a nine-seater Volkswagen on installment, and since it got stolen, we have a Renault.

Líšeň in Líšeň – The Beginnings of the Theater

In the fall of 1997, we moved to a small house on the outskirts of Brno – to Líšeň. This place gave the emerging theater its name. The old house, which we were repairing (and continue to do so), provided us with the first real base – the attic, the courtyard, and the rooms were the initial rehearsal spaces, the chicken coop a theatrical workshop, the cellar a props room. Later, the garden became a stage and the courtyard an audience area, the coziest place for performing our plays during the summer. We were determined to consider not only the house on Obecká Street as a creative space but the whole street, the forest – simply Líšeň, and shape a place where we live.

The production Červená (1998) emerged from Luděk’s sound experiments, his solo variations on Little Red Riding Hood (played on a trombone with a saxophone mouthpiece) and our collective sound and movement improvisations. The process of creating Červená was precisely the opposite of all other theater productions. It did not precede a lengthy phase of careful rehearsals. On the contrary, rehearsals began only after its first fully improvised performance at the Břeclavský Píseček festival.

During the summer of 1998, we rehearsed (in Líšeň in the yard) the second version of Robinson, which then played for two years as part of the D-dílna of the Studio Dům. Since we no longer collaborated with Studio Dům on any production afterward, Robinson marked our farewell to this theater, which fundamentally influenced our subsequent work.

I completed my studies in theater science, and Luděk performed civilian service in an accident hospital. Earning a living through theater was unrealistic, so Luděk started working as a math teacher at Kociánka (a school and institute for physically disabled children) in 1998. In the same year, we founded the civic association Líšeň, which primarily means that we can apply for grants and subsidies.

Sávitrí (1999)

During the winter and spring, we gathered inspiration and material, and during the summer holidays, we intensely began rehearsals because Luděk, as a teacher, fortunately had time off.

Apart from being enchanted by the ancient tale, with this performance, I wanted to counteract often tasteless productions labeled as “theater for children” that are commonly offered with the argument that it is sufficient for children. While we also perform Sávitrí for preschools, we present it in the middle of the night at festivals for adult audiences. (And that term “theater for children” is highly suspicious anyway.)

The script originated from the ancient Indian myth of Princess Sávitrí from the Mahābhārata. The visual and sound elements were loosely inspired by oriental theater. We experimented with light for half a year, using any remarkable object, seemingly transparent, to create shadows by exposing it to light. We borrowed old vases, plates, glass ashtrays from antique shops, illuminated them, and returned most of them. The visual appearance of the puppets was defined by Eva Krásenská, then a scenography student at JAMU (she also crafted puppets for Robinson and previously worked on costumes and props for Černá paní). Thanks to her imaginative skills, she created an exceptionally impressive foundation for the visual aspect of the performance. Luděk “invented” the guiding mechanisms for the puppets and the method of lighting.

In our European version, the oriental orchestra was represented by a single character, a musician-narrator in a stylized white half-mask, accompanying the narrative with words and sound. Luděk, in this role, utilized his personally made, destroyed, or modified musical and non-musical instruments.

Originally, we planned the play for two actors – for ourselves. However, working with the growing creative material fascinated us to the point where we ceased to heed all practical limitations. The acting team was supplemented by Luděk’s classmate Pavel Novák and set designer Martin Ondruš, who also contributed to the visual aspect of the emerging performance. Other “first” actors in Sávitrí included both of our set designers – Jana Francová and Eva Krásenská. (They were followed by many others who took turns in performing during the many years of the play’s existence.) The material for the performance was gathered throughout the winter, and during the summer holidays, the play was intensively prepared. Puppets, props, and sound instruments were crafted during the day in the chicken coop-workshop and the yard, while rehearsals took place on the attic from dusk until dawn. Sávitrí began playing in the fall – its first presentation (for friends and children from the drama class we led back then) took place in Líšeň in the attic. However, it took about another six months until we improved the play into a form with which we were satisfied.

We gradually rehearsed Sávitrí in several foreign languages (English, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian; all, of course, with an oriental accent) and traveled with it around the world.

The production took shape over the course of an entire year, marking the beginning of a journey that the theater continues to this day. When creating our plays, we proceed similarly: a strong theme stands at the beginning – a challenge for expression inspiring both a basic vision of using stage means. We choose unusual and rarely used theater forms and techniques for our productions. We emphasize the visual aspect, which influences the overall concept of the work. As we are not visual artists, we seek collaboration with people who share similar aesthetic sensibilities and a willingness to work collectively. We gather creative material and explore its possible uses. We define stylization and staging principles – the principles that isolate and organize things on stage into an effective, understandable, logical, and compact whole. It is essential to explore all possibilities and find the most efficient stage images capable of expressing the meaning of the emerging work. In this process, we do not let time constraints limit us. It happens that after the first public presentation, we declare the existing form unfinished and continue working on it for several more months. Then, conversely, a performance may be announced as a public rehearsal, only to be retrospectively declared a premiere. Therefore, I consider the term “premiere” in our case misleading, and I would prefer not to use it at all. (I also don’t recall ever having a closing night.)

Dreams of a theatre

I met Luděk at Studio Home, which was, for us, the most significant practical theater school. At that time, I was also studying Theater Science, where my enthusiasm for theater was fueled by Professor Bořivoj Srba’s pure approach to both theater and life. Anyone who encounters Professor Srba must dream for the rest of their life about doing theater, preferably their own, original, avant-garde, and engaged. Luděk did not study theater because he couldn’t stand it. He studied mathematics and chemistry and played the clarinet, saxophone, flute, prepared guitar, vacuum cleaner trumpet, and heaps of other diverse junk from which he crafted his own sound instruments. Luděk was at Studio Home as a musician, and I was there as an actress and aspiring director. Within the framework of the D-Workshop of Studio Home, my first production, Černá Panna (1996), was created, in which Luděk played as an actor. We discovered that our ideas about theater were similar – aside from the theater we both disliked, there was a type of theater that deeply fascinated us.

At the beginning of 1997, we worked for the first time (and so far the last) in a conventional theater. It was at the Nítě studio of the West Bohemian Theatre in Cheb. Luděk as a puppeteer – a civilian soldier, and I as a visiting director. Far from home, we rehearsed Robinson. In Cheb, our dreams crystallized under the pressure of an environment seemingly studio-like but realistically fully subordinated to the operation of a stone factory theater. We were specifically determined to establish our own theater – one that would be poor but created freely, without compromises or concessions. Our stay in Cheb was rich in experiences overall – in addition to our artistic, personal, and emotional fortification, we also experienced a fire (we didn’t start it, but the sight of the stage and auditorium engulfed in flames remains one of my most powerful theater experiences; we preferred to jump out of the window. Luck favored our puppets too – the next day, they were supposed to move from the rehearsal room to the stage, which completely burned down). With the summer, the studio disbanded. We also left the borderlands and the burned-out building, returning home with the puppets of Robinson, which were bought by Eva Tálská, who allowed the play to be rehearsed with the actors of Studio Home.

When I started writing about our theater a few years ago, it was just a few pages and could be read in a moment. Over time, a lot has accumulated, resulting in a sort of theater diary. I do not recommend reading the following narrative to those looking for specific information. It is more of a reading for those interested in our story. The diary currently ends with the rehearsal of the play “Putin Lyžuje” (Putin Skiing), and since then, things have been moving at such a pace that I can’t even keep up with recording them. If you want to know what happened next, you can follow the news at the top of the page, connect with us on Facebook, or drop by after a performance.

Pavla Dombrovská