Theater Líšeň provokes social activity.
Could you introduce Theater Líšeň to the readers?
Our theater is an independent association that my husband and I founded a long time ago, over 20 years ago, to be able to work freely, explore, and experiment. To do the theater in our own way. We have been successful in doing so, with various minor or major difficulties. But we can now say that we are an established ensemble.
Do you have a permanent stage?
Essentially, we have a permanent warehouse, rehearsal space, and workshop, which is crucial for us. We spend a lot of time preparing performances. We create them, rehearse them. It can happen that some productions take a year to develop, and then they may run for twenty years. So, we are not a repertory theater in the sense that we offer several performances during the year that premiere and then end, but we create projects that last and continue over time.
What kind of performances can the audience attend?
We have several programming lines. On one hand, we perform for a wider audience – for children, families, schools, festivals – and, in addition, we have a line of productions that are special in the sense that they are provocative. They are primarily for adults and address significant topics that need to be addressed currently. For example, we have a play called “Blood Hygiene,” which deals with neo-Nazism and the problem of the Holocaust and intolerance in general, focusing on the value of human life. Then we have a play called “Putin Skis,” which we have been performing for a long time, but it constantly updates because the issue of Russia is always relevant. The newest play we are starting to perform is “The Confession of a Jailer,” inspired by the staged political trials in the 1950s.
What do you draw upon when writing and performing such plays?
For this provocative program, we are used to contacting experts in the field and also eyewitnesses, and we offer accompanying programs. We create an environment in which the audience can be enriched not only by the artistic experience but also learn something, ask questions, and delve deeper into the subject.
Do you also perform plays that are not politically or socially engaged?
Apart from that, we have productions that are special in the sense that they are visually interesting. And I can say that they are unusual because very few people work in this way. Our probably most famous production is “Sávitrí,” which we perform in many languages. We can play it in English, German, Polish, Russian, Italian, and Spanish. We are currently negotiating participation in a festival in Lithuania next spring.
We no longer solve the problems that are being discussed here. We are running out of strength. As a result, it often happens that it is possible to fall into lethargy, which is not good.
You launched the Provocative Theater project this year. What is its goal or message?
The Provocative Theater project includes productions that are in some way provocative, whether it’s a political or social topic, such as the Holocaust, interpersonal intolerance, or Russia and its influence on our political scene, which is a current topic. It also deals with coming to terms with the past, as seen in the recent play “The Confession of a Jailer.” We believe that the present is still influenced by these events because as a society, we have not yet been able to come to terms with the crimes that occurred in the 1950s. So, these are topics that need to be addressed because they are still relevant, and we try to bring them into the public space. We also offer them to schools, create an atmosphere of discussions and reflections around the plays, and we want to inspire people to think about and address these issues. With the upcoming elections, these topics will be current. Therefore, we try to engage both artistically and as citizens.
Why did you choose the word “provocative” in the title?
Provocative, in the sense that we want to provoke people to be active because we feel that one of the problems is that we are all tired of this. We no longer address the problems that are discussed repeatedly. Our energy is diminishing. It often happens that we can fall into lethargy, which is not good. So, we provoke action, activity, and the continuation of doing something about it.
Has the dramaturgy at the theater changed over the years?
I think we have kept our dramaturgy quite consistent because we have always wanted to do provocative theater and express ourselves regarding current events. At the same time, we have had a need to create some poetic performances to calm down a bit. This aspect remains unchanged. What has developed is that we now have a nice set of provocative productions that complement each other. But we still maintain our original convictions and direction.
Where can people see your performances in the coming weeks?
Although we don’t have a permanent stage, we look for venues where we can perform regularly. From September, we will perform at the basement stage in the Center for Experimental Theater. We performed there before the COVID lockdown, and in September, we will resume with two performances: “The Confession of a Jailer” on September 20th and “Blood Hygiene” on September 24th.
It was founded in 1998 by Pavla Dombrovská and Luděk Vémola with the aim of working and experimenting freely. Their repertoire is focused on both children and adults. For example, the play “Sávitrí” has received several awards at festivals, and the ensemble can perform it in six different world languages. The Theater Líšeň group is based on external collaboration, currently, for instance, with actors from Theater Polárka. Apart from festivals and theaters, they also present their performances in cafes and open spaces. Their plays are original and typical for experimenting with various forms, using puppets, masks, and live music. This year, Theater Líšeň launched a multi-year project called “Provocative Theater,” which addresses current social and political topics. As part of this project, the group performs the engaging play “The Confession of a Jailer,” referring to the 1950s, “Putin Skis,” about the rise of the Russian president to power, and “Blood Hygiene,” dealing with the issue of the Holocaust and intolerance. The project is supported by the EEA grants 2014-2021. For more information, visit www.divadlolisen.cz.
Kateřina Gardoňová | photo: Zdeněk Kolařík