Summer by the Sea - Prague theatre festival


If you want to visit a theatre in Prague, summer is not the best time. Even though there are dozens of theatres in the city performing all year round, a lot of them close for the summer months of July and August, others have only a few performances during the summer. Two theatres decided to take advantage of this gap and organized a small theatre festival called "Leto u more" - "Summer by the Sea".

"There is no sea in Prague, as everyone knows, but there is a river and there are a lot of courtyards. Our theatre Divadlo Alfred ve dvore is the Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre and we have joined forces with the Forman Brothers who have a beautiful theatre boat on the Vltava."

Says Ewan McLaren - a Canadian who's been living in Prague for fifteen years and is currently the managing director of the Alfred ve dvore theatre.

But at the "Summer by the Sea Festival" you don't get to see any traditional plays. The shows featured by Alfred ve dvore are usually brand new pieces which experiment with combining different genres such as film, dance and theatre. Usually there is not much text; lots of the shows do not use spoken language at all, so they are suitable even for non-Czech speakers.

"We are definitely a theatre that tries to break the rules. We don't have one set company like most other Prague theatres. The Forman Brothers are also part of this independent movement in performance in the Czech Republic. We decided to put on the stage some brand new - creation based - performances and on the Forman Brothers' Boat we are putting on some of the more fun bands around, so that audience members may come to the theatre in the courtyard and than go on to the boat and have a full jam-packed night of unusual summer theatre and music experiences. It's really not a typical night out."

The performances in the Alfred ve dvore theatre use different theatrical forms.

"Just one of the shows that are happening in our theatre (Alfred Theatre) is Double Bill. There are two performances by Veronika Svabova who is an excellent dancer, performer and choreographer and Tomas Prochazka who is a wonderful sound designer. They are a couple and they work together on really unusual theatrical forms. In one of the performances she dances and moves in a field created out of sensors, machinery, wires which detect her movements and actually crate the sound and light depending on how she moves."

Another very special piece is a performance called "At home" - a show by an American artist Howard Lotker.

"It's a site-specific performance that takes place in a different flat in Prague each time. We've performed twice so far at two different owners' and the performance is always about the people who live there and about the space they live in and about their problems and conflicts and fantasies, and other things that we find interesting in the house and with the people themselves. This time Sarka Havlickova, the producer of Alfred ve dvore invited us to bring the performance and to try to put it in a theatre and see what would happen if we did some projections and than also brought some of the owners into the flat - including the dog and some furniture and we are going to have some garage sale of some of their stuff."

Even though this piece has only been featured in Prague so far, Howard Lotker plans to perform it also abroad - perhaps in New York next year.

"I made it up in Prague and it's going to be performed mostly in Prague and I also hope to take it to other cities, because there is so much you don't know about other person's culture. So it would be interesting what kind of fun we can have with that, what kind of mistakes we can make, and how we can learn from them."

A show called "You Are Just the Side-Car" is an abstract poetic performance based on a gender topic. The three female actors astonish you by a great variety of props and sound effects they use. I spoke to Katerina Jungova and Martina Musilova who are the co-authors as well as actors in the piece and asked them what inspired them to write such a play.

Katerina: "It's from our lives, from lives of five women."

Martina: "At the beginning there was a theme: 'The life with a man' or 'The life in a partnership' and Katerina choose five women, proposed this theme and we decided to write some reflections or some diary texts, and that way the theme developed."

Is this theatre somehow typical for what you do or is it on the contrary something new, something what you have just discovered?

Katerina: "We all did very different performances before and most of us didn't know each other before."

Martina: "Yes that's right. We had just the theme and we didn't know how to develop, how to create the performance. So for us it was very experimental to get to the shape of the performance in the end."

You sometimes also organize debates, like tonight; there has been a debate with the audience on the topic of the play. So this way you can judge the reactions of the audience. What do you think about them?

Martina: "From the experience that we have, I can say that the reactions of the audience, who is of the same generation like us, are very interesting. It is something they feel it is from their life. I think this possibility to share the experience is the most important to us."

As we have already heard, after the performance - if you are not tired - you can enjoy a night of music on Lod Tajemstvi - the Mystery Boat run by the Forman Brothers which you will find on the left bank of the Vltava River close to Revolucni Street - just a 20-minute walk from the theatre.

The Forman Brothers (the sons of the famous film director Milos Forman) became well known thanks to their performance Nachove Plachty - The Purple Sails they featured on their boat during a cruise. The boat is currently being used for two theatre's joint project "Summer by the sea". Irena Velebilova is from the Forman Brothers' Theatre:

"Since the Mystery Boat is a mobile stage, we anchored it close to the Prague district of Holesovice where the Alfred ve dvore theatre is based. The whole festival is interconnected in the way that each performance which takes place at the theatre is than followed by a concert on the Mystery Boat."

The festival Summer by the Sea takes place between July 10th and 17th but even if you don't manage to visit this short festival this week, don't worry, both theatres have prepared many other events for the rest of the summer.

Alfred ve dvore theatre continues in its summer operation featuring many interesting pieces until the end of July. Even though the theatre closes for August, there will be a rich programme featured at the Celetna Theatre as a part of the two theatres' joined project called "Summer in Celetna". And later that month as well as at the beginning of September you will have a unique chance to see the famous show Purple Sails on the Forman Brothers' Boat again.