Described by The Guardian newspaper as the country’s “alternative National Theatre”, with its two blackbox spaces, Archa is one of the best-equipped small and mid-sized venues in Europe for drama, concerts, dance, physical theatre and multimedia performances. It is one of the few venues in the Czech Republic that has moved beyond the principle of repertory theatre to also function as a production house. The shows are often interactive and use new technologies in original ways. In addition to staging plays in Czech, Archa often hosts international performers in a variety of languages, including English.
Archa Theatre takes its name from the Czech word for “ark”. The allusion to the biblical story of Noah is intentional. Like Noah, Archa gathers the most diverse collection of animals onto one vessel. Over the years, the theatre has presented an enormous variety of fascinating artistic specimens, from opera to drama, dance, concerts and mixtures of all of these. Archa’s first show in 1994 – featuring American musician John Cale together with Japanese Butoh dancer Min Tanaka – proved indicative of the theatre’s mission and programme of tearing down national and artistic boundaries.
Fourteen years on, Archa Theatre has introduced local audiences to a host of important Czech and foreign artists, while at the same time creating many of its own projects. Artists from scores of countries and every continent have performed at Archa. In addition to touring Europe, Asia, and Africa, Archa has been moving its shows outside of the traditional theatre space with its “social specific” performances. As part of Archa’s ongoing work with refugees, professional artists and residents of the Bělá pod Bezdězem – Jezová refugee camp turned the camp into a theatre with “At 11:20 a.m. I Will Be Leaving You!”
Archa is also proud to be the venue that introduced Czech audiences to internationally renowned artists and groups such as David Byrne, Philip Glass, Einsturzende Neubauten, DV8 Physical Theatre, PME, Ultima Vez and Wim Vanderkeybus, The White Stripes, Bang on a Can, Cheek by Jowl, The Royal Shakespeare Company, Blindman Quartet, Rinde Echert, Jan Kodet, Anne Teresa de Keersmeaker and Rosas, Robert Wilson and Deja Donne. In 2008, Archa staged the biggest event in the Czech theatre season, the world premiere of Vaclav Havel’s new play Leaving.