Akcent festival starts at Archa

A play called New Bohemia has its world premiere at the documentary theater festival

The Akcent festival, already in its seventh edition, brings a different sort of theater to Prague stages, and most of the entries are English-friendly. The festival runs Nov. 10 to 27 at divadlo Archa.

Documentary theater tries to break the barriers between artistic creation, social problems and politics. It is based on actual texts, documentary evidence and interviews relating to real events and issues.

“In the theater world here it is a new term, and that is why we founded this platform,” festival director Jana Svobodová said.

“The festival provides a way for Czech theater talent to link with people from beyond the borders who have the same visions and points of view of what theater can be,” she added. She came to documentary theater a bit by accident, after have worked in dance and puppetry. She then realized she was interested in real people and their stories, and giving people who have “small voices” the opportunity to be heard. The projects can include dance and other forms otef expression, and nd to be very emotional.

One of the highlights of the festival is New Bohemia (in the Middle of America), a new play that will have its world premiere at the festival on Nov. 12 and 13. It grew out of workshop that Svobodová held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The play started with no preconceived ideas and came from the participants, including actors, musicians and a videographer. The music is by Jan Burian.

“We interviewed people and from real stories we made the performance. For me this performance is about responsibility. It is about how we are connected to other people and how we think about other people, how we question who we are and who we can be in our world,” Svobodová said.

Portrait photographer David Van Allen became the central figure of the piece, as his photo studio, located in a Cedar Rapids' neighborhood called New Bohemia, provide a starting point to get beyond the flat representation of a person as a photograph and exploring their stories more in depth. He said that playing himself on stage was actually very hard, as he has to say his own words the same way every time. “I am imitating myself,” he said, adding that he also has to step back and look at himself from a new perspective. The story revolves on people going in and out of the studio. “It is like a collage,” he said.

Another actor in the play, Chad Willer, was drawn into the production due to his interest with refugees. A friend suggested he go to the workshop. Willer will be helping to relay some other people's stories and experiences. “I feel the show is very important because it is highlighting the very current issues that every country in this world is dealing with: Who are we, where do we come from, what do we need. It is the human experience,” he said. The play and the festival as a whole show how we are all connected and impact on each other.

The third main cast member is Minny Deol Olson, who also became involved through the workshop, but she thought it would only be a few hours and not a long project. She was simply looking for something to do one weekend. She was born in India, raised in Canada and has lived in Cedar Rapids for 28 years, and now identifies herself as someone from Cedar Rapids. She likes that the show helps reveal the many layers that people in the area of New Bohemia have. “The depth of who they are and where they come from is gradually revealed,” she said. The play doesn't work only on a surface level, but also has many layers and can give the audience a lot of things to ruminate over, she said. In the long term, the group hopes to present the finished play again in Iowa and at festivals.

The Akcent festival begins Nov. 10 with Busking Un/Limited, which presents some popular street performers but also asks questions about how people in Prague feel about street art. Other notable presentations include The Notebook, by Forced Entertainment. It tells the story of twins hiding during World War II. The film FC Roma looks at a Romani football club that other teams refuse to play. Czech group Ultima Vez stages a production called In Spite of Wishing and Wanting, a controversial dance piece with an all male cast.

For more information visit www.festivalakcent.cz (ENG)

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