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Reaching For… the Opening of PQ07

Article by Zuzana Mala (CZ) Photographs by Kristian Kubak (CZ) Theatre Studies students from DAMU, Prague, Czech Republic. Video by Nathalie Holman

Micheal Ramsaur photographs the crowd

Micheal Ramsaur photographs the crowd

The 11th Prague Quadrennial has been officially opened.

The key signature as well as the whole opening ceremony gave the image of a montage of gala and provisory that probably anticipated the style of the entire festival. Half chaotic, half strictly organized, half official, half informal. Long red carpet and official guests on one hand, carton boxes and sticky tape on the other. Hopefully it can work together in a similar way like when the rain and sun made a rainbow as a crown of the ceremony.

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Out of the Box

The event was opened by mouths of five spokesmen, entering the platform through a plywood packing box looking partly as a coffin, partly as a fragile and precious cargo coming straight from the airport. In the speeches given by Mr. OndÅ™ej Černý, Mr. Václav Jehlička, Mr. Manfred Beilharz, Mr. Michael Ramsaur and Mr. Arnold Aronson all the main topics and mighty words appeared: confrontation, diversity, tradition and progress, intercultural and international communication, opportunity, generations, inspiration, protection and promotion. Great expectations, reaching for the heavens. On one hand PQ is carrying huge tasks and responsibility from the past and traditions, is happening in very serious context of world wide peace and cultural politics. But in the same time it is colorful and lusty festival of play and free creativity.

Photo Opportunity

Michael Ramsaur, OISTAT president, took pictures of the audience, stressing the importance of people coming to join PQ. It had to be a satisfying view. The Czech minister of culture Václav Jehlička shortly but pertinently mentioned the question of the relationship between scenography and theatre as whole. (Much weaker was the idea of theatre in between shortcut and reality, that is facing the theatre mirror.) The president of ITI Manfred Beilharz mentionend the importance of presence of plenty joung people coming to PQ in different roles as students, workshop attendants, exposing artists, visitors etc. That is the essential importance of Scenofest, however. Arnold Aronson shortened his speech because of rain and he was speaking some Czech. His words were dynamic, kind of provisory, fitting.
Then the huge crowd moved towards to the long fancy red carpet  “another great expectation” but only three silly bands passed by, so the visitors used the carpet themselves and overflooded the Industrial Palace, to join the whirl.

ZFX Dancer

ZFX Dancer

The topic of ascendance, filling dreams, going up, rising, searching language is represented by the Babel tower, of course. After the “Reaching for the heavens”performance there has been a new topic added: how much limited the reaching is. We were watching a flying dancer Kim Badira Kwaaitaal from ZFX Flying Effects group, who was slipping and swinging in the inner space of the tower. It was nice to watch  pity that not enough attention was paid and also that it didn’t have more concrete form of performance. Later volunteers were offered the chance to try the flying themselves anyway, anybody can fly – but it was flying in a very limited space.

Opening Night Video

What else can we fly?

What else can fly, asks the teacher and the kids answer zeppelin, balloons, penguin, lady bug, and hut with flying bicycle. The output of workshop dedicated to flying objects that could “Reach for the heaven” resembled a bit works of art lessons, hanging at school corridors. And reminded one of Jules Verne, first aviatics or the famous Czech promoter of flying on bicycle, Jan Tleskač. They were more or less illustrative and childish, not pretending to be a piece of art, just made and enjoyed. What is noticeable, that whatever you do and accompany it with colorful light-design and mysterious electronic music and sound, it seems interesting, serious, art. (Somebody next to me commented, that “song Stairway to heaven would fit better.”) We saw that Reaching for the heavens had a very concrete ceiling in its way. Anyway, better to find there is one than let the Babel Tower fall down. The real blessing from the heaven there already was in the form of ceremonial rain, without any hard trying-

In his speech, Mr. Jehlička said that “The Industrial Palace is going transform into living theatre stage”. While walking around the pulsing halls I was thinking how we are going to hold out in differentiating between what on this stage is exotic, inspiring and interesting and what is only weird and crazy.

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