Prague City Theatres

Prague City Theatres are one of Prague’s most significant cultural institutions with a rich history dating back to 1950. Since its establishment, it has been a theatre organisation with an acting ensemble performing in several different venues around Prague’s central Wenceslas Square. The venues changed over time, but the spirit remained mostly intact, with the most famous era being the one led by director Ota Ornest (from the 1950s to early 1970s) when the theatre’s ensemble was considered one of the finest in the country, well known for performing contemporary drama (even from western countries) and, at times, also overtly political reinterpretations of classic works of drama. In early 1960s, the world-famous Czech director Alfréd Radok was a frequent collaborator.

Beginning in 2018, with a new management headed by Daniel Přibyl as managing director and Michal Dočekal as artistic chief, Prague City Theatres will be comprised of three main venues: Rokoko, ABC, and Komedie Theatre, all located within a few minutes’ walk on a single street in central Prague, Vodičkova Street. In addition to those venues, activities and productions in the open air or in various non-theatrical buildings are planned. All in all, the aim is to transform Prague City Theatres into a theatre institution with international connections, one that will tackle deep issues of the modern day and play an active role in the development of Czech and European theatre and society.
 

ABC

The ABC Theatre is the largest of the three theatres. A venue with a proscenium stage and an elegant auditorium that can seat almost 500 spectators in the stalls, boxes and on balcony, it was built in the late 1920s for the popular Liberated Theatre headed by actors-managers Jan Werich and Jiří Voskovec. Their politically charged musical revues and comedies, with music by the renowned jazz composer Jaroslav Ježek, are closely associated with the theatre to these days, even though the era ended with the advent of World War II, and while Voskovec spent much of his life in exile as film and theatre actor in the USA, Werich eventually returned to the theatre in his later years and was its manager from 1955 to 1960. Shortly afterwards, the theatre became part of Prague City Theatres. While the venue is mostly considered as a space for comedy and musical repertoire, the vision is to shift its focus partially towards more serious repertoire, with strong personalities of modern European stage direction invited to stage contemporary drama as well as daring new looks at classic plays.
 

Rokoko

The Rokoko Theatre is a smaller venue right off Wenceslas Square. Originally a cabaret that first started operation in 1916, it is fairly intimate space with faux historical ornaments and a very direct contact between the stage and the auditorium (seating 200 spectators). Throughout its vibrant and dynamic history, numerous personalities of Czech cabaret, songwriting and theatre performed at the venue in the 1920s and 1930s, including actor-songwriter Karel Hašler, writer and journalist Eduard Bass or comedians Vlasta Burian and Ferenc Futurista. In the 1960s, director Darek Vostřel led the theatre as an eminent music theatre venue, with revues and concerts showcasing the talents of a number of future Czech pop music stars including the internationally famous Karel Gott, Helena Vondráčková or Marta Kubišová. The theatre became part of Prague City Theatres in 1975, but didn’t always share the same artistic leadership. Notable eras were headed by Jakub Špalek and Michal Dočekal in the early 1990s – or by Thomas Zielinski and Tomáš Svoboda in their notable, albeit brief stint in 2005/2006. Nowadays once again part of Prague City Theatres – and a space for the ensemble’s more intimate productions of the works of contemporary playwrights – it is intended to go back to the roots and harbour extravagant cabaret-style productions. Playwright and director David Drábek is bound to be a perfect author of the theatre’s new direction.
 

Komedie

The Komedie Theatre is situated in a landmark funcionalistic building from 1930 and was originally built as the venue for popular comedian Vlasta Burian’s private theatre. One of the venues of Prague City Theatres since mid-1950s but closed for reconstruction for a number of years in the 1970s and 1980s, it gained particular renown in mid-1990s when Michal Dočekal became its artistic chief (and Jan Nebeský, a key figure in the history of Czech post-modern theatre, a resident director). Following Michal Dočekal’s departure to become artistic chief of Prague’s National Theatre Drama company, the theatre became seperate of the Prague City Theatres organization – enjoyed saw another major era as a venue operated by Prague Chamber Theatre, headed by the (now internationally famous) Czech-German director Dušan D. Pařízek, receiving numerous prestigious awards and attracting an almost cult following. Becoming part of Prague City Theatres once again in 2018, it is not intended primarily to serve the needs of the Theatres’ resident ensemble, but rather to become an open space for independent companies, co-productions, visiting performances by regional and international playhouses, special events and festivals. Particular emphasis is to be given to works aimed at a teenage audience and works created by emerging artists.

 

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