“Theatre Night” promises exciting behind-the-scenes look at theatre productions

Photo: Official Facebook page of Theatre Night

Saturday, November 21, sees the return of Theatre Night in the Czech Republic. In its third year, the countrywide event promises visitors, including families with children, a thrilling look at how theatres are run and productions staged. For anyone attracted to the theatre stage, this is an event not to be missed.

Martina Pecková-Černá,  photo: Vilém Faltýnek
Ahead of the Theatre Night, I spoke to one of the organisers, Martina Pecková-Černá, asking about the original concept.

“Theatre Night is not a Czech invention – it was founded by our colleagues in Croatia in 2008. But since then, other countries joined the project, becoming part of a European Theatre Night network. The countries are mostly from eastern and central Europe but also include, for example, Belgium.”

What is the main idea behind the event? I imagine it promises attendees and unusual experience?

“Definitely. The main idea is the open theatres but to offer something that audiences don’t normally see. An additional goal is to ‘amplify’ the overall visibility of venues and ensembles. Often, people have a favourite theatre they go to again and again: the hope here is to get them to branch out and to explore other venues and other poetics. It’s a good chance to visit other theatres and cultural centres. So in this way the night is also a tool to help attract new interest and new audiences.”

We will talk about the different theatres involved in just a moment but since we are talking about this behind-the-scenes emphasis, what is important is not just what goes on, on stage, right? You have the actors and direction buts also many of the other professions represented, from props to stage design…

“The main aim of Theatre Night is to offer something audiences normally wouldn’t get the chance to see.”

“That’s right. And many of these professions are part of the main programme of many of these theatres on Theatre Night. It is basically to break the border between the audience and performers. People are interested to meet theatre personalities, of course, the actors, so some theatres have open rehearsals and some even let people come up on stage to try lines from plays to get a sense of what the real experience is like.”

I read that visitors of some venues will even get the chance to help take apart a set…

“Yes, that is the case at Divadlo pod Palmovkou and a few other theatres. It is yet another way of looking at how productions come together, how much work is involved among different technical professions, and so on. It is another way to show, very attractively, how theatre illusion is constructed.”

It is not at all a small event: how many theatres are involved nationwide and perhaps we could talk about a few?

Photo: Official Facebook page of Theatre Night
“This year 130 theatres are involved in 36 cities and towns across the Czech Republic. The event has grown. When we first began, the first year 80 theatres were involved in 25 cities and towns. There is plenty of proof that theatres really enjoy taking part.

“Looking at different venues, of course major ones like the National Theatre, offer rich tours in magnificent settings and halls and hallways. Smaller venues also offer tours but come up with different ways to attract visitors, with special programmes, workshops, performances or workshops for children and other things for children and adults alike.”

Last year Theatre Night was reportedly attended by some 50,000 visitors, correct?

“It is difficult to tabulate but that was the number and that made it the most successful Theatre Night in the European network.”

“This year 130 theatres are involved in 36 cities and towns across the Czech Republic.”

It seems that ‘night’ events enjoy a fair amount of popularity in the Czech Republic in general. You also have Museum Night or something like the Signal Light Festival, so this is something that Czechs are attuned to and look forward to annually… Are there other ways that you are able to measure the impact or after effect? That it can inspire young people, children, by exposing them to the ‘magic’, some of whom may one day pursue careers in the theatre themselves?

“We run a poll for visitors and collect data which also allows the theatres taking part to get important feedback about their audience. And with regards to younger people, yes of course, there is always that chance, which is why we show them everything from how costumes are put together to props and so on. Definitely, Theatre Night is motivational…”

Photo: Official Facebook page of Theatre Night
Is there a strong online accompanying programme with some of the theatres? I am wondering whether you have any live camera feeds or reports on what is going on…

“Well, we did it last year. There is a bit of a disproportion between the number of theatres taking part in the capital (one-third or so) and the rest of the country so we wanted to show what was going on outside the capital. So last year we had an online screening at our info centre in Celetná Street in the centre of Prague. But we are not doing it this year. The reason is because we feel that people really want is a direct experience and vivid contact with the theatre community.

“Visitors will be able to even take part in the dismantling of the set at some venues, to see what some of the different professions are like.”

“This is really the purpose of Theatre Night and theatre in general. We do have a rich facebook page with information but the real experience is to to choose among the venues and visit the theatres themselves. There they can see different programmes and at the end of the day, people who take part in Theatre Night are there because they want to go out and experience these things directly.”

Find more information about the programme, in both Czech and English, at www.nocdivadel.cz