Festival Struhadlo casts spotlight on the disabled


The early days of Dilny tvorivosti - the Workshops of Creativity - were difficult, but as it seems now dawn is finally breaking. The organisation, which helps young disabled to integrate and find employment by teaching them how to be self-sufficient, successfully introduced its first cultural festival Struhadlo just a few days ago. Struhadlo is an unusual title, it's something you would normally use in your kitchen to grate cheese - a grater.

The fourth evening of the Struhadlo festival was dedicated to theatre and started with a non-verbal performance called Sound Makers. In addition to the piece the Jedlicka Institute's Temporary Shakespearean Company performed three more acts all written and directed by Eva Slamova. She says about their beginnings.

"We started with Shakespeare and the first pieces I wrote were parodies of Romeo and Juliet and of Hamlet. This gave us an idea of the title. Then we thought it would be funny to be called Temporary Shakespearean and not to play Shakespeare anymore. At the beginning no one believed that the company would succeed, that it would continue. We just thought it would be really temporary just for the time being and just for the productions of those short parodies."

The group consists of about 16 actors, some of whom are disabled, but who play characters not limited by disabilities. The playwright, Eva Slamova has never considered writing a play about the disabled although she has been working with them for more than six years. To her mind it would have to be done by themselves, to be based on personal experience. That at least is the approach she takes in her own work.

"It was very different at the beginning but then I just stop thinking about it. Actually they never act disabled people they always act normal healthy people in their characters and I treat them like that. I just never consider whether they can do it or not. It has become quite normal to me. We all do it just for fun. It really helps them but it was not my goal. Sometimes all the people who are in the wheelchair say : Oh, my God it is insane what we have to do, what we have to act. "

Lida Vladykova, is one of the actors.

" I am the oldest woman here, therefore I have special roles. My role is very important one because I should be a sexy woman. Sexy and an old lady who is travelling by train who is trying to find out if she is sexy, if she looks well."

Above all, the Struhadlo festival is dedicated to the rights of the handicapped presented from different points of view. Its goal is to stress the right to self-expression, to family life, as well as the rights of minorities. Jitka Dubnova, the head of the Workshops of Creativity thinks they clients have a lot to offer.

"Apart from their handicap every person has many good qualities and deals with many problems. Therefore we have to think of things that they are capable of doing. Many of them are much better than ordinary people in many things. For example we are trapped by every day problems, and the daily rat race. They are often more sensitive and thoughtful."

The idea to organise the festival was Jitka Dubnova's. She believes that it will become well-known but not to the extent that organisers would have to slavishly obey their sponsors and spend more time promoting, than helping the disabled. Finally, what about that name Struhadlo - Grater? Jitka Dubnova is its author.

"Some issues are still ignored and many people don't care and are not aware of the handicapped. The name of the festival should symbolise sharp edges within society. At the same time it symbolises gaps in our society, gaps in tolerance and our attitudes, the way we all treat disabled people. You can create something amazing by using a grater. For instance if you grate an apple you destroy a unit but on the other hand you make a delicious apple strudel."