“It’s an enormous honour” Becka McFadden on Thália Award win

Becka McFadden with Thália Award

The Thália Awards are an annual ceremony that honours artists in the performing arts in Czechia. Awards are presented to both men and women in four categories – drama, opera, dance, and musical and operetta. This year, American-born performer Becka McFadden received the Thália Award in the category of alternative theatre for their performance in the production of Black Dress. I spoke with them in our studios about what this recognition means.

I’ll start by saying congratulations on the recent Thália Award win. I want to ask what this recognition means to you?

Becka McFadden with Thália Award | Photo: Michaela Říhová,  ČTK

“It means a couple of things; it feels like an embrace by the Czech theatre community, that what I’m doing makes sense and has value, and is something people are glad is here. In my acceptance speech I said that I didn’t need the award to know that it was the right decision to change my life and move here permanently about five years ago, but the award makes me feel that the feeling is a bit mutual, and that’s a lovely way to feel. It’s also significant in the sense that Black Dress is an unusual show, it deals with non-binary-femme identity, and the fact that an establishment like the Actors Association was interested in this performance, and devoted a lot of time and attention to it says something about what is happening in the performing arts in the Czech Republic, how it’s becoming more open. It says something about the exciting things that are happening in queer performances specifically, so I think it’s really exciting.”

Do you want to tell us a little bit about your production Black Dress?

Becka McFadden | Photo: Martin Vaniš,  Radio Prague International

“Black Dress is an exploration of non-binary-femme identity told through 12 dresses from my wardrobe. All of the dresses from the production were dresses that I had. It’s delivered as a performance lecture with little bits of dance intercut into it. It combines personal anecdote, dance, and then some of the broader reading I was doing prior to starting to work on this when I was figuring out my own gender identity. It draws on this, and tries to be personal, but also reach beyond the personal. With the dances, we thought about how the dresses offer the body a structure against which to react. So how does the dress encourage me to move, what are the limits of the movement I can do in the dress, and how that spins out into the two to three minute dances.”

It’s obviously resonated with the audience here in the Czech Republic, typically Thália awards are given to Czech performing artists, so how does it feel to get that recognition?

Becka McFadden | Photo: Martin Vaniš,  Radio Prague International

“It’s an enormous honour. I’m overwhelmed, and I was at the award ceremony with people I had been researching during my PhD, and to share space with them is an enormous honour. I’ve been very clear since I moved back permanently that I was not interested in occupying some expat space here, I was not interested in working outside the Czech system. I speak Czech, I apply for grants in Czech, and I perform in Czech with the theatres here. It was very important to me that I was able to integrate into the system, so I’m very happy about the embrace I have received, but also to be an example that it is possible to do for others.”

Are there any other projects you have in the works right now, or are you just enjoying the ride from Black Dress?

Becka McFadden | Photo: Martin Vaniš,  Radio Prague International

“I’m trying to do both! The way the grant system works here, there is really no rest from the making process. I will have a premier with my production company Beautiful Confusion in December of a piece called ‘Hypo’, it’s a humorous look at hypochondria through our own experiences of it, and also through the lives of famous hypochondriacs. Next year, we will have a piece called Baroque Walks with Daniel Summerville who is the co-creator of Black Dress. This looks at Baroque opera and architecture and how queerness would sit within those frames.”