|Andre Krob's daughter plays, a busker watches|
Yesterday afternoon was all about seeing shows and finally meeting up with everyone. It started with the three Vaněk plays, being held in a small courtyard at the Castle. They were directed by Andre Krob, whom I had met briefly a few years ago. He had been Havel's stage manager back in the days when his shows were first being produced (before they were banned), and after the Velvet Revolution he became a director and staged a number of Havel's plays. There were three little stages set up, and a table with snacks (and lots of beer), so the performances moved from one stage to the next, with Andre's daughter playing in between shows.
Paul Wilson, one of Havel's translators, was there, as were a number of the people organizing the festival, who I had the opportunity to meet at last. One, Petr Oslzlý, who runs Theatre Goose on a String, pointed out my name in an interview with Havel in the program--he had said he was inspired to do the fest because of me.
It was sort of a smallish crowd at the Vaněk plays, but the in crowd really--I think most people had ignored these plays, which everyone has seen before, choosing instead to attend the more hyped events. But that made the whole thing much more intimate.
This was particularly nice when Havel decided to show up. It is unusual to be able to talk to him without a swarm of people surrounding, and there were some of the usual distractions--a news team came and interviewed him, he was constantly being filmed by a documentary crew, and of course there were the Czechs thrilled to see him in person, many of whom asked for autographs. But despite all that, everything seemed much more relaxed.
Adre Krob does not really speak English, so most of the conversation was in Czech, which was hard for me. Havel scolded me a little for not having learned more, or at least I felt like he was scolding me when he commented that surely I had picked up some more Czech in the last few years (it may have been just an observation, but since I was getting lost in the conversation, I took it as a scold). I have learned some, but I wish I had picked up more... Reading Czech is still much easier for me than understanding spoken Czech.
|A scene from Unveiling|
In any event, the first show started (Unveiling) The sun was almost unbearably hot--they found an awning for Havel and the director but I decided to sit in the shade on the grass instead and take a few photos. I know the Vanek plays well enough that I could sort of follow in Czech, using my limited language skills as markers. I was a little disappointed with the production, but enjoyed the atmosphere.
The, after a break and more beer/chatting, then we all moved seats to watch Audience. I began by sitting with Havel in back but then someone from the fest rushed to get him out of the sun again and placed him next to a woman who was thrilled to have her former president find room on her bench. I once again moved to a side perspective and took a few photos.
|A scene from Audience (Havel to the left, in blue)|
Then a break again--I was going to miss the third performance and change before the night's events, but with everyone there I realized I couldn't walk out. So I stayed for Protest, which was fine, but much more of a talky enterprise so much harder to watch in pure Czech.
Still, a wonderful afternoon. I should have probably just stayed in what I was wearing for the evening and watched the puppet performance of Mistake as we waited for the main event at 7pm, but instead I ran back to the hotel (which meant, in practical terms, a 15 minute descent, as my hotel is just at the bottom of the hill on which the castle sits), a quick change, then a 15 minute ascent.
When I returned everything was much more crazy--the main courtyard of the cast was completely filled, and the ticket taker was incredulous that I wanted to see the show when I obviously didn't know enough Czech. A festival worker helped and found me my tickets--or rather, found me new tickets, because unbeknownst to me I had tickets waiting for me back in the hotel. The unfortunate ramification of that mistake was that instead of sitting next to Havel I was sitting on the other side of the audience.
|A scene from The Pig|
The Havel character looked nothing like Havel, but his speech patterns were exactly right, a very funny imitation.
As for everything else--I have no idea. It seemed political, and it was a huge spectacle, with bright costumes and lots of singing. Havel was constantly matched with one woman or other (a commentary on him?), there was a pig, the pig was slaughtered, then at the end Havel was sort of dressed as a pig...who knows. I am hoping Paul Wilson can explain more when I see him next.
The opera was Smetana's The Bartered Bride.
NOTE/UPDATE: Paul just explained that the original text was an anecdote in which Havel searched for a pig to roast for a celebration at his summer house, and ran into an ever mounting series of complications. He imagined explained these events to a (confused) American journalist. Everything else was the director's invention.
In the audience, I secretly fulfilled the role of the confused American.
I finally just followed a rush of people through the pouring rain, and we ended up wandering through the catacombs of the castle where the former prison used to be. But we had gone the wrong way, and though I was sort of enjoying the adventure in one sense, I have to say stuck in endless narrow corridors with a crowd I couldn't communicate with was activating my claustrophobia.
|Party in the dungeon!|
Havel finally arrived and then a concert that had been rained out was moved inside as well. This was a bit crazy. The singer stood at one end of a the very long, very then main passageway, some people crowded in to see her, but it was much too packed and much too crowded for many people to get near.
I decided to give up for the night and go home--my jet lag made me exhausted, and I just couldn't last through the party/performance in that crowded space.
The rain had just let up, but there were no lights (the storm had knocked out all the power), so I made my way back to the hotel by walking through dark, slippery paths down from the castle...a bit unnerving. This morning there are downed trees everywhere, sort of glad I didn't get knocked in the head. But home safe and ready for more adventures this morning.