Two performances by the famous Japanese dancer Mina Tanaka, the 13th edition of the Akcent International Documentary Theater Festival or attractive concerts by The Tiger Lillies and the BERG orchestra, Laurie Anderson and the Philip Glass Ensemble.
These are just some of the items on the program of the last season of the Archa theater, which has been presenting the work of important foreign and domestic artists for almost thirty years. Its director and founder Ondřej Hrab was able to create iconic spaces in the Na Poříčí house, where Prague residents and visitors from outside Prague used to go to expand their cultural horizons. From January 2024, a new team with a different name and concept will enter the theater.
One of the world’s most recognized dancers and choreographers, Min Tanaka, started the Archa program in 1994 together with musician John Cal. This year, the famous Japanese will symbolically close the closing theater with his two performances on December 18 and 19. His performances will be the culmination of the Archa’s final season.
“I asked Min to come to symbolically close the Archa. At the same time, his two solo performances will be a kind of ceremony, which in its spiritual dimension will go beyond the premises in Na Poříčí Street,” says theater director Ondřej Hrab.
Archa will start the last season with a trip to the international festival Divadlo Plzeň on September 18 with a production of Eight Short Compositions from the Life of Ukrainians for a Western Audience (Jana Svobodová/Anastasiia Kosodii et al.). A few days later, he will perform this production with an international cast at the theater on September 23 and 24. At the same time, the two-year Theater for Democracy project culminates, during which the artistic team of the Archa Theater in Prague and the pedagogues of eight Prague schools spent two years dealing with various ways of connecting theatrical creation with pedagogical practice. The project will be concluded with the conference We learn (with) theater and the methodical publication of the same name. In September and November, the audience will also say goodbye to the literary-musical cabaret EKG, which has been presented by Igor Malijevský and Jaroslav Rudiš since 2007. The dance company 420 People will present one premiere (HeArt of Noise) and one finale (InspiraCe) in the fall, both choreographed by Sylva Shafkov.
From November 5 to 25 in Archa, the theater program will blend into the thirteenth edition of the Akcent International Documentary Theater Festival. The festival imports two productions from Portugal. Eastern Loves is a production of the theater company Hotel Europa, which is based on authentic stories of citizens of the former Portuguese colonies of Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, who fought against colonization and were trained in the socialist states of Eastern Europe. Another Portuguese contribution is the feminist-engaged production Are You Coming? of the Lobby Teatro file. In co-production with the Prague Theater Festival of the German Language, Akcent will present the production of the Hamburg Theater Thalia Doughnuts, which was created for this German stage by the Japanese director Toshiki Okada. The end of the festival will include the production of the Brno Theater Goose on a String, directed by Jiří Havelka. Akcent will include a multimedia installation by the British resident of the Documentary Theater Center Sofíe Veléz called Much Better Now. The production Everyone Has Two Wolves with members of the Vietnamese community and the Legacy of the Spielraum Kollektiv ensemble will represent the best of domestic documentary theater production.
One of the last works presented on the Archa stage will be the theater installation Those Who Speak For Themselves. An impressive production directed by Jana Svobodová will transform the Archa hall into a huge gallery on December 12 and 13, whose exhibits are the authentic life stories of eleven women. It will then be up to the audience to decide whether they will experience all the narratives or only some parts or in what order they will perceive the stories.
For three decades, Archa’s dramaturgy has included concerts by respected foreign musicians and a careful selection of Czech musical projects. That is also why the management of the theater decided to devote space in its final program to the music that created the spirit of the Archa. Already on October 4, the Agon Orchestra will return to Archa with the Brutální muzika program. It is the return of a project from 2000, when, on the initiative of Ondřej Hrab, the Agon orchestra connected with Filip Topol in arrangements by Petr Kofron. These songs will be heard in a new arrangement with Filip Topol’s voice from the recording.
Legendary music composer Philip Glass belongs to the Archy profile. For many Czech artists, his first concert with the poet Allen Ginsberg in 1996 was an initiation. This time, the Prague audience has the chance to hear Glass’s music performed by an orchestra composed of virtuosos who are authorized to interpret it. On October 12, the theater will present the Philip Glass Ensemble (PGE), which will perform the composer’s early work in a program called Early Works. “Today, PGE represents the most authentic interpretation of my music. I’m glad they’re promoting my music and pushing it forward. They present a unique repertoire to new generations,” says Philip Glass,
Multimedia artist Laurie Anderson will also be coming to the Archa on November 21 to play a cross-section of her work, from her masterful debut Big Science (1982) to the present day. A new, stylishly polished shape will be given to her music by the renowned New York group Sexmob. The concert is presented by the theater in cooperation with the Respect festival.
The British band The Tiger Lillies found their Prague home in Archa. She played here quite recently, in December she will return to present the Bohemian Nights project with the Prague Berg Orchestra for the last time. Songwriter and group leader Martyn Jacques thematically returns to the wild nineties, when Prague was the first foreign destination of the now famous band. Nostalgia, irony, harsh humor and plebeian language are among the basic features of their songs to this day.
“The work was the result of more than a year of collaboration between Martyn Jacques and Michal Nejtek. The recording of their first performance at Archa was also released on a critically acclaimed album called Devil’s Fairground. I’m always happy when an unusual encounter works. It’s great to watch how the band and the orchestra spark happily,” reminds Ondřej Hrab.
During its existence, the Archa Theater introduced the Czech audience to artists such as Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, Min Tanaka, John Cale, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Schumann, Anne Bogart, Wim Vandekeybus, David Byrne, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Einstürzende Neubauten, Diamanda Galas, The Residents, The Tiger Lillies, Heiner Goebbels, Patti Smith, DV8 – Physical Theatre, William Kentridge, Forced Entertainment, CAMPO, Gob Squad, Dogtroep, Josse de Pauw, Pieter De Buysser, Lou Reed and many more.
For many years, Archa has been discovering world representatives of documentary theater for the Czech audience – they include Lola Arias, Rimini Protokoll, Milo Rau, Wen Hui and She She Pop. In 2008, Václav Havel chose Divadlo Archa as the producer of the world premiere of his play Leaving. In addition to its own projects, the Archa Theater hosts productions and concerts by Czech artists. He regularly invites, for example, productions of the Brno theaters Husa na provázku and HaDivadlo to Prague.
Archa also creates projects abroad, in addition to Europe, in the USA, China or Japan. Two years ago, the Archa Theatre’s production Ordinary People, directed by Jana Svobodová and Chinese choreographer Wen Hui, was presented in the main program of the Avignon festival and soon after at the Autumn Festival in Paris.
Archa Theater organizes the International Summer School of Documentary Theater every year, which is regularly attended by young theater artists from all over the world, from China, South Korea, Iran to Ireland and the USA. From 2024, Ondřej Hrab and Jana Svobodová will work in the new organization Archa – Center for Documentary Theater at home and abroad on projects that connect education and creation in the field of documentary theater.