World Premiere of original play on the turbulent life of Bedřich Smetana, “The Father of Czech music.”
PRAGUE – Nationalism, art, revolution and what it means to be Czech are questions that burned through Prague society in the 1800s. Deaf Empire, an original play by Stephan Delbos, and produced by Prague Shakespeare Company, reimagines the dramatic turns in the life of “The Father of Czech Music” Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884). The notion of what it is to be Czech, and art as the urgent heartbeat of nationalism unfolds in this play directed by Amy Huck at the Kolowrat Theatre on March 3, 4, 5, 9 and 10.
Set in the late half of the 19th century, the play stars acclaimed British actor Gregory Gudgeon (The Lion King, Shakespeare’s Globe ensemble) as the fervent Smetana, with 2016 StarDance winner Zdeněk Piškula as the ambitious young conductor Adolf Čech. Smetana insisted on the validity of Czech melodies and themes in classical music and opera, and achieved significant social prominence. But he was not immune to tragedy. The death of his wife and children and complete loss of hearing seemingly destroyed the composer’s career. But in the final decade of his life, while suffering from deafness and worsening mental health, Smetana composed some of his most famous music, including Má vlast (My Homeland), an orchestral portrayal of the landscapes and legends of Bohemia.
William Valerián (Úplné Zatmění, Klicperovo Divadlo) stars as the revivalist poet Jan Neruda who, alongside Smetana, becomes enchanted by the pursuit of nationalism through art. Recreating Smetana’s struggle for artistic integrity amid the cultural imperialism of Austro-Hungarian rule and the limits of his own ability, Deaf Empire is a meditation on music, artistic dedication and the vicissitudes of fame and fate.
Playwright Stephan Delbos’s previous play, Chetty’s Lullaby, about Chet Baker, debuted at StageWerx in San Francisco in 2014. He is the editor of From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology (Litteraria Pragensia). His co-translation of The Absolute Gravedigger, by Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval, was published by Twisted Spoon Press. He is the author of the poetry collection In Memory of Fire, and a founding editor of the web journal B O D Y.
“Smetana’s story is inherently dramatic, from his struggle to be taken seriously as a Czech composer, to the deaths of his wife and children, and his perseverance during his own physical and mental decline,” Delbos, author of Deaf Empire, said.
“Deaf Empire explores the complex conflicts of Smetana’s life and music, and through that we also learn something about the roles of friendship and art in times of crisis, both personal and political.”
The world premiere of this telling of Smetana’s complex, passionate and turbulent life comes amid a political climate in our modern world heavy with questions of nationalism and the place of art and resistance within the social order.
Director Amy Huck brings to life the tension and passions of cultural revivalism with an ensemble of award-winning actors and musicians.
“The play explores not only this fertile period in European history which generated a burgeoning nation’s art, literature and music, but also the timelessness of ancient melodies that have traveled the globe and inspired artists for generations,” Huck said.
“Smetana’s melodies originated in ancient folks songs from peasants and traveling Yiddish theater companies, and later emerged in American jazz and sustained themselves into rock music today. We find that there is a common song in all of us as human beings, regardless of our nationality or religion, and it originates in the soil of the earth itself.”
Huck has previously directed Titus Andonicus for PSC and is Head of the Acting Department at the Prague Film School.
Prague Shakespeare Company thanks its partners of the production the Kolowrat-Krakowsky family, the City of Prague, International School Prague, the British Embassy Prague, and Barrandov Studio a.s. Prague Shakespeare Company thanks JUDr. Dominika Kolowrat-Krakowska, Maximilian Kolowrat-Krakowsky and Francesca Kolowrat-Krakowska for their selfless and generous support.
DEAF EMPIRE – FACT SHEET
PRODUCER: Prague Shakespeare Company, Guy Roberts, Artistic Director
PLAY: Deaf Empire by Stephan Delbos
DIRECTOR: Amy Huck
DATES: 3, 4, 5 and 9, 10 March, 19:00
SURTITLES: Performed in English with Czech subtitles
TICKETS: 350Kč General Admission, 200Kč Students/Seniors. Tickets available online through the PSC website
LOCATION: Divadlo Kolowrat, Kolowratský Palác, Ovocný trh 6, Praha 1, 110 00
MORE INFO: www.pragueshakespeare.com
PRESS CONTACT – English:
Derek DeWitt, Prague Shakespeare Company
About Prague Shakespeare Company
Prague Shakespeare Company is Central Europe’s only professional English-language Shakespeare company, presenting professional theatre productions, workshops, classes, lectures and other theatrical events, of the highest quality, by a multi-national ensemble of professional theatre artists, with an emphasis on the plays of William Shakespeare, bringing to the Czech Republic, European and World audiences English-language based performances that are fresh, bold, imaginative, thought-provoking, and eminently accessible, connecting the truths of the past with the challenges and possibilities of today.
Tickets: 350Kč General Admission, 200Kč
Students/Seniors All performances at 19:00
Divadlo Kolowrat, Kolowratský Palác
Tickets available online: http://www.pragueshakespeare.com