The Czech Theatre’s spring play, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, has five performances at Music Lab this month and they’re all sold out. Czech Theater co-founder Anne Johnson shares some inside information about the production in this interview with Brno Daily. Image: “Fantomas” by Josef Čapek.
What is Czech theater?
The Czech Theater is a multicultural amateur theater founded by three friends in Brno with the aim of bringing Czech theater to the non-Czech speaking community and giving Czechs the opportunity to see their own culture through a different lens.
Who was Franz Kafka?
Kafka was a German-speaking Jew who was born in Prague in 1883. He worked as an insurance clerk but is of course famous for writing short stories and novels, mostly whimsical and surreal, from which we derive the term ‘Kafkaesque’.
what is The process?
The process is one of Kafka’s unfinished novels. When he died he bequeathed all his texts to his friend and editor Max Brod with instructions to burn anything incomplete. It is uncertain how Kafka intended to read his novel – some pages were unnumbered and some chapters were unfinished. Brod edited it and published it in 1925 after Kafka’s death.
Why did you choose this play for the Czech Theater?
There is some debate as to whether Kafka was “really” Czech since he spoke German, so we initially wondered if The process corresponded to the goals of the Czech theatre. However, Jan Grossman’s adaptation is fantastic. Grossman was born that year The process was published and wrote its adaptation in 1966; it was performed by Divadlo Na zábradlí. It’s definitely a reflection of Czech theater culture just before the Prague Spring: it’s sexy and weird and funny and dark. The excellent translation by Barbara Day, who studied theater in Prague in the 1960s, also fits into the vision of Czech theater.
This play has five actors playing the protagonist Josef K. What motivated this choice?
We do not know how Kafka had intended Josef K. Sometimes he seems like an arrogant fool; at other times he is pathetic and frightened. There are so many different translations and adaptations of The process, and each of them reveals a different interpretation of what the book meant and who the character was meant to be. I wanted to give several actors the opportunity to put their own spin on it, and I wanted the audience to see themselves in it too. We were all arrogant and pathetic and brave.
In this play, some actors have multiple roles. Why is that?
In the introduction to her 1993 production of Grossman’s adaptation, Lida Engelova wrote: “The men … could each begin with Josef K. [they] stand for the weakness and impotence of Josef K. on the one hand and for his Schweiksche cunning, maliciousness and dignity on the other. All of these characters partly reflect Josef K., actually all of us.” I thought that was significant, and also that the play starts on his 30th birthday, which is when you might start thinking about how you want to grow older. Will Josef become a sadistic whipper? An avuncular dolt? A silly defendant? A pompous information officer? Or was he always a mask for Kafka, who died young at the age of 40?
How did you decide on the staging?
The play definitely has a dreamlike (or even nightmarish) quality and the recurring and interchangeable imagery (the same props appear in multiple scenes, the actors are all dressed similarly) combined with a lack of object persistence (the set changes every few minutes; different Actors play Josef) should reinforce this feeling.
The opening scene is not part of the novel. Without spoilers, can you explain why you included it?
In his will, Kafka expressly stated that he wanted his unfinished works to be burned. On the other hand, he left them to his editor, the person least likely to destroy a work he thought valuable. Max Brod’s adaptation and publication of the work is why we know of it today and I felt he deserved to have a voice in the play.
What else should we know?
The war in Ukraine was on our minds throughout the production of this play and we are donating 20% of ticket sales to Czech lawyers who work for Ukrainian refugees for free. We also have a collection jar by the door for those who want to give more.
If you have a ticket, we look forward to seeing you! We have decided to add five additional seats per show on a first come, first served basis. If you don’t have a ticket but still want to come, come to the Music Lab about 30 minutes before the performance starts and try your luck!https://brnodaily.com/2022/05/17/events-in-brno/czech-theater-returns-this-month-with-franz-kafkas-the-trial/https://brnodaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/CzechTheater_TheTrial_horizo-1024×536.jpghttps://brnodaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/CzechTheater_TheTrial_horizo-150×79.jpgArt and cultureEvents in BrnoBrno, culture, english friendly, events in Brno, theatreThe Czech Theatre’s spring play, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, has five performances at Music Lab this month and they’re all sold out. Czech Theater co-founder Anne Johnson shares some inside information about the production in this interview with Brno Daily. Image: “Fantomas” by Josef Čapek.What is Czech theatre?Czech theater is…BD staffBD staff
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