Open Arms 2006 - National Theatre's festival for and by minorities

The Czech theatre group Vlastenecka Omladina, or Patriotic Youth, was founded 120 years ago in Vienna. It performs two productions annually for the Czech-speaking minority in Austria. But this week audiences in Prague also have the chance to enjoy its work, as the group takes part in a mini-festival entitled Open Arms 2006.

Organised by Prague's National Theatre, this is the third year that it is being held. Daniel Dvorak is the theatre's director:

"The Open Arms festival is part of a National Theatre programme that we call the 'director's' programme. That includes all the performances that cannot be categorised in our usual programme schedule. What's unusual about Open Arms is that it focuses on minorities - but in the broadest sense of the word: not only social or ethnic minorities, but also those who are minorities because of a health problem, for example. And we want them to play an important part on stage as well as in the audience."

One example is a performance of William Saroyan's Tracy's Tiger by the theatre group Divadlo Na Blizko - the first theatre group in Europe especially aimed at people with hearing disabilities. Adriana Svetlikova is the group's manager:

"This theatre performance is a new version of Tracy's Tiger created through so-called 'shadow interpreting' that presents the play to people with hearing disabilities. The performance is interesting because every actor moves around the stage with a 'shadow', which acts and presents the performance in sign language."

The other two groups featured at Open Arms 2006 are the Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan and France's LoCor de la Plana, brought to the Czech Republic by music journalist Petr Doruzka:

"The Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan originally come from the Indian state of Rajasthan. They are dancers, musicians, acrobats, and fakirs - everything you're interested in - and they are actually based in Europe. It's a very colourful and spectacular performance. I would recommend it. The other group is from Marseille and is called LoCor de la Plana. They sing in the Occitan language, which is the ancient troubadour language of old poetry. They are all men who use percussions and Arabian drums to accompany their song. The repertoire is from the Middle Ages, church songs, from the liturgy, and also contemporary folk songs."


LoCor de la Plana - Friday, February 3, Estates Theatre, 19:00

Vlastenecka Omladina - Saturday, February 4, Estates Theatre, 19:00

Divadlo Na Blizko - Sunday, February 5, Kolowrat Theatre, 19:00

Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan - Wednesday, February 8, National Theatre, 19:00