Cimrman set to conquer America

The English version of a Jára Cimrman will be presented in the US for the first time

Jára Cimrman is all set to conquer the New World. The fund raising campaign to get money for airfare and other expenses has been successful, reaching its $6,000 goal. The cast of the English version of The Stand In (Záskok) will be performing the play in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore from April 19 through 28 for six shows. If the tour is successful, over 1,000 people will see a Cimrman play in English in America for the first time.

The American tour is due to the interest of the Czech Embassy in Washington, and has support from the Czech diplomatic missions.

The cast began performing The Stand In in 2014, and at the time many people were skeptical that the play could work in English and find an audience. Author Zdeněk Svěrák gave his permission for the play to be translated and performed, and was very pleased with the results. Since then, a second play has been added in English, The Conquest of the North Pole (Dobytí severního pólu).

While these plays are attributed to author Jára Cimrman, in fact he is a fictional figure. Zdeněk Svěrák wrote them along with Ladislav Smoljak, who passed away in 2010. His son David Smoljak will be on the American tour to make a documentary. The filmmaker said that it would be great news if Jára Cimrman became such a big phenomenon in New York that news of his arrival would overshadow President Donald Trump's tweets and other comments on social media. He admits the idea is absurd, but so is everything else about Cimrman, who even though he never existed was once voted the world's greatest Czech. Sadly, he was disqualified in favor or a real person.

Svěrák said that Ladislav Smoljak would have been overjoyed by the idea of the tour, and would have wanted to go along. “Cimrman during one of his visits to the US advised Nikola Tesla to concentrate on electric cars,” Svěrák said. Cimrman is famous for giving great advice that nobody listened to, among other things. He was also a poet, playwright, athlete, philosopher, inventor, mathematician and musician.

Cimrman, though, was plagued with bad luck. He showed up at the patent office with his idea for TNT just minutes after Alfred Nobel registered the same idea.

Brian Stewart, who not only acts in The Stand In but was also one of the translators, said that the mission to spread Cimrman across the world was starting slowly and was just in its beginnings. “The characters in The Stand In are understandable by everyone and the humor is universal,” he said.

The plays are translated by Stewart and Emilia Machalová, under the supervision of Hana Jelínková, the daughter of Zdeněk Svěrák.

The Stand In is presented in two parts. The first gives some background on who Cimrman is, and his history as an author. The second is the play itself, with an arrogant actor filling in at the last minute in a production that does not go very smoothly.

People living in the US are encouraged to book free tickets online and go to the plays, as it is not clear when there may be another chance.

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