Tuesday, 22 July 2014

PRAGUE EVENT: Street Theater Festival "Behind The Door" (Za Dveřmi)

Text and Photo are by my beloved Wolfie

Prague, July 14-18, 2014

The annual International street theater festival took place at Prague’s Wenceslas square in the week of July 14-18, 2014. In its sixth season already, the festival Za dveřmi (Behind the Door) really caught on. There were four performances a day, beginning at four in the afternoon and ending at ten in the evening: a total of 20 performances featuring 18 or 19 troupes from nine countries including Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Ukraine, Israel and Germany, and of course the Czech Republic.

Clowns, puppeteers, acrobats, mimes and other colorful street artists took over the Wenceslas Square in the city center and created a very dynamic, animated and spontaneous atmosphere. This time the overarching theme was freedom and personal liberty. In that context, one of the topics was support for Ukraine. On Monday there was a „parade of hope“ backing up Ukraine and also a performance by the Ukrainian troupe Teatr Voskresinnia.

© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)

© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)
© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)

In artists’ performances the elements of Physical Theater and nouveau cirque (New Circus) met cross genres like „dance grotesque“, musical cabaret, fire show, acrobatics, slapstick, installations or land art. Add to it wandering theater, contemporary modern dance, juggling, the list goes on, and you get the idea.

Among prominent acts we can name “Mr. Hunger” performance by the Polish troupe Teatr Biuro Podrozy that has been inspired by the literary work of Franz Kafka, particularly his short story “The Hunger Artist” – the artistic idea was to create a new, contemporary form of so-called “mysteries of death”, historically represented by market circuses or freak shows. One of them was Kafka’s Hunger Artist who in his obsessive fasting becomes a saint as well as a masochist or a provoker.

Portuguese, Berlin based Teatro Só brought its haunting, poetic performance about loneliness in old age. In the twilight of life, one can easily get stuck in a big lonesome bubble. It takes a brave man to keep seeking for joy and friends. He has remained young at heart, although trapped in a time-constrained body. For lack of time, in the name of progress and of the rapid evolution of society, the elderly are being forgotten, sometimes even abandoned by friends and family. Gone are their successes, their conquests, their dedication to work over the years and they are simply ALONE. Alone. At a bench. In the emptiness of a day...

© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)
Zadam Company, a project based Hungarian contemporary dance group, using highly stylized visual elements, brought their I'M PRO project: not a specified show but a series of performances based on structured improvisation. They seek to interpret the elements of theatrical shows in a brand new context. Each part of this series is a unique unrepeatable artistic experience for the public and for the performers as well. Their Friday act featured whips.

© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)
© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)
© +Jiří Sedláček  (2014)
One of the headliners was the a Czech/Slovak duo of lady clowns, Vanda Hybnerová and Lucia Kašiarová, who in their touching pantomime Angel-y became heavenly clownesses. Nobody is as lonely as angels, guardians at the heavenly gate. They are waiting, but nobody comes. Silence. Time goes on. They are useless. They have to amuse themselves, somehow... Come and have a look at a mixture of clichés of various sorts, at two cynical women, who are not afraid to be pathetic, at two bodies under the burden of wings that should have lifted them, but nobody knows where. We share the awkwardness and primitive poetics with them...

To sum up the spirit and impact of this festival and the street theater as such, we asked one of the performers:

“Street theater has a huge advantage in the fact that you don’t have to translate it into other languages. Mostly, you work in a body or silent language which has no barriers. The context is sometimes political, and then you don’t need any explanation, but mostly street theater focuses on life stories, themes understandable to each one of us. So, that’s a great thing about street theater – you can tour all of Europe and everyone will understand you.”

And the organizer’s view?

“I think it is fair to say that the festival has found its audience since it was founded six years ago. That first year we were in city center but not in the square proper, and there might have been more foreigners in the audience. That has changed. Czech theater lovers know about us and attend, sometimes planning to spend the whole day. It’s definitely not just passers-by running into us by chance. We are very happy with how things have developed and it is a big difference from when we started.”


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