Written by Marni R. Balint, MFA Scenic Design Student
During this past May Term, I had the immense privilege of traveling with the Czech Theatre and History class to Prague and the Czech Republic for a twelve-day excursion around the country. During this trip with the Prague Theatre Program we traveled to several different cities and towns within the Czech Republic for many tours, shows and adventures.
Some of the highlights and favorite parts of my trip include visiting Český Krumlov, a small town a couple of hours outside of Prague. The winding streets in this town led to a large castle on a hill. It was owned and used by one family for over four hundred years that continuously renovated different parts of the castle during their residence there. During this tour we were also able to see one of the oldest, working Baroque style theaters still used to this day. The theatre was beautiful and we were also able to see original drops and costumes used in this theatre as well.
Another amazing part of the journey was exploring the fortress town of Terezín. Terezín is home to the National Museum and their large national Theatre collection. We went through the building and saw hundreds original renderings of scenic and costume designs, scenic models and original costume pieces – one even dating back to the early 1750’s – from famous designers and scenographers throughout the Czech Republic. We even toured the museum they had in dedication to the concentration camp and the artwork all of the prisoners created during WWII. Some of their artwork also included original plays, costume pieces and designs. Terezín was one of the most powerful and historically rich places we visited.
While the trip did not coincide with the Prague Quadrennial, we still were able to participate and interact with many prominent members and events of Czech Theatre. The first show we saw was an all student devised, performed and designed production of an interpretation of Romeo and Juliet from the students of DAMU – the theatre school in Prague. This was probably my favorite show we saw there. It was a great inspiration to see a work that was totally worked on by students. We also saw several other shows in Prague and Brno including: two operas, a Mark Twain production, a Tom Stoppard play and a couple of devised shows.
We also had the great pleasure of spending time and talking with Petr Matatsek (who recently co-devised aPOEtheosis), Jaroslav Malina (a famous Czech scenographer), and Simona Rybáková (a famous Czech costume designer). For young theatre students to spend time with prominent members of the Czech theatre community, it was a great opportunity to learn, grow and talk about their careers current and in the future.
The Prague Theatre Program is a great program to participate in. It has greatly helped to enhance my knowledge of theatre on an international level while learning about how history and culture can influence theatre. I look forward to visiting Prague again and strongly recommend anyone to participate in such an amazing program.