English-Language Theater in Prague, Part 2

Where to see it, who´s doing it and a preview to this year´s Prague Fringe Festival

Jacy Meyer

Written by Jacy Meyer Published on 09.04.2010 14:58:00 (updated on 09.04.2010) Reading time: 5 minutes

Welcome to part 2 of our look at English language theater in Prague. The first article shared thoughts from three local theater directors on the current state of Prague theater, as well as the direction it may be headed. This article is simply a resource to many of the Prague venues and companies putting on theater productions accessible to non-Czech speakers.

One of the highlights of the local theater scene is the annual Prague Fringe Festival. Now in its ninth year, the festival aims to bring contemporary, international theatre to Prague. Music, dance, comedy and theater will be spread amongst 40 different shows spread out over its nine day run. Creative scheduling and venue coordination means you could conceivably see five shows a day. Centered in Malá Strana, the Fringe is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself is some hilarious, original and occasionally quirky shows. We spoke with Steve Gove, the founder and director of the Prague Fringe for a preview of the 2010 festival and to get his thoughts on local English theater. He shared some advice on a couple acts to keep your eye on this year.

“It is always incredibly difficult to choose one thing from the amazing range of shows that there is on offer but one company to look out for is Multi story theatre from England. This will be their third visit to Prague and their show is a brand new piece called Seal Skin,” he advised. “Last year they won the Prague Fringe Creative Award.”

Gove also mentioned music fans should check out Scot Andi Neate who is back for the eighth time and will perform songs from her new album Crows Rooks and Ravens. Horror fans might want to watch out for La Rinacita’s The Fugitives which is described as “live performance with interactive multimedia to create an unforgettable world where ghosts have power and terror takes physical form.”

Gove has been producing the Fringe for nine years now, and believes its an important part of the non-Czech theater scene.

“The Fringe is the only festival in town that offers such a huge variety of shows in English,” he said. “In the early days of planning the Fringe we felt that there was a definite gap in the cultural scene for expats. Now around 30 different nationalities attend the festival each year so the audience is as eclectic as the range of shows.”

Living in Prague for 13 years, Gove has seen a lot of changes in the theater scene.

“When I moved here in 1997 there were bits and pieces happening; some of them good and some amateur. It was one of the main reasons we decided to start a Fringe festival to increase both the quantity and quality of what was on offer,” he said. “There’s more around during the year now. Prague Playhouse usually does a good range of stuff and of course the Expats.cz and Prague.tv Playwriting Competition is a great addition to the scene too.”

Gove believes there´s a large audience out there for English language theater as he says about 30 percent of the Fringe´s audience is Czech; and that number grows every year.  The Prague Fringe Festival runs this year from May 28 to June 5, 2010.

As most of the companies don´t have permanent homes and may produce anywhere from one to five or more shows a year, it does take a bit of dedication to find out what´s happening where, when and by whom. Facebook fans can connect with the English Theater in Prague group. Six local theaters have joined together to promote English theater in general and their productions in particular. Other “theater-ish” events are sometimes listed as well.

The Bear Educational Theater has been putting on theater productions mainly for schools since 1995. Their repertoire includes such classics as The Christmas Carol, and staring in April 2010, Romeo and Juliet. We met Black Snow Theater Company director David Peimer in our original article. Blood, Love and Rhetoric is dedicated to providing quality English language theater in Prague. They just finished productions of three short comedies by Chekhov. Dinner theater can be enjoyed with Cabaret Macabre Prague, who performs Czech Legends and Ghost Stories in a comedy/horror style. Miloco is an international ensemble focused on creating and performing physical theater. We introduced you to the Prague Playhouse last month. They organize the annual Playwriting contest as well as other productions throughout the year. Shakespeare fans will want to keep an eye on the schedule for the Prague Shakespeare Festival. You can read more about the history and upcoming schedule of PSF in the original article. Teatr Novogo Fronta also specializes in movement and dance theater. They are a travelling company, but you can usually catch their performances at Palac AkropolisTheater Akanda creates non-conventional movement production and performance art pieces.

While the above companies primarily produce plays and other works in English, there are a number of venues that accommodate non-Czech speakers. Archa Theatre, often called the alternative National Theatre, shows a variety of music, theatre, dance and other occasionally avant garde performances.  From time to time, you can catch a theater piece in English. The theater strives to offer no language barrier performances and many shows are accompanied by written English material. Alfred ve dvoře supports independent artists and their projects. They are a venue for live art like physical theater and visual performance. If you are looking for something truly different, original and most likely a bit unusual, visit Alfred ve dvoře. Švandovo Theatre subtitles all their plays. Their repertoire is quite extensive and includes a mix of classic and modern plays. I attend plays here fairly regularly and for the most part have enjoyed all of them. If you need the subtitles, sit in the balcony on the right side, facing the stage. Unfortunately, the subtitles are hit and miss. Some shows we´ve sat for nearly five minutes with the same subtitle while the action merrily continues on stage. The theater also offers musical and other performing arts performances.

Fans of singing and dancing should visit Hudební divadlo Karlín . The Karlín Music Theater subtitles their performances as well. The current repertoire includes Carmen and The Producers. The State Opera, Estates Theatre and National Theatre subtitle their opera performances. Let´s not forget the “famous” black light theater. Whether this is interesting for you or not, it is an entertainment format open to all. A couple theaters include Image Theatre, Ta Fantastika and Laterna Magika. And we can´t neglect to mention our puppet friends. Marionette theater has a long Czech tradition and Divadlo Na Můstku and the National Marionette Theatre both perform Mozart´s Don Giovanni. For something more contemporary, Divadlo Na Můstku also puts on Cats.

For general information on the theater in the Czech Republic, visit the Theatre Institute, an organization dedicated to spreading information on the country´s performing arts. You can also get a good idea of the range of theater performed daily in Prague at TicketPro. Do a “theatre” search to discover the options. Unfortunately, most of them are in Czech.

Where have you seen some good accessible theatre in Prague? Please share you recommendations and discoveries below.


Photos courtesy of performers at this year’s Prague Fringe Festival:
#1: Sealskin
#2: Poste Restante
#3: It’s News 2 Me

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