Earlier last month, many of us were alarmed when castle wardens warned that Czech castles and chateaux may have to be closed down before the end of the season due to a lack of money. We gave a sigh of relief when we were assured from the National Heritage Institute that the necessary funds had been acquired to keep the tourist attractions open - one more reason for the Kratochvile Chateau to celebrate and for those of you in the Czech Republic or bordering countries to celebrate with it. For the seventh year, the Continuo Theatre has launched the international theatre project Kratochvílení and until August 5, visitors will be able to see artists use the space of the beautiful summerhouse for unusual and interesting performances.
Over the years, Czech artists have been joined in the yearly project by participants from Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, France, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Venezuela, the USA, and other countries. These include professionals, amateurs, and students of theatre and art. For a period of three weeks, all participants work together in the so-called Plum Courtyard in the nearby town of Malovice - a former farmstead, which is now home of Continuo Theatre - to prepare several performances that can and will only be held on the grounds of Kratochvíle Chateau. The group of artists, who have never worked together before, who speak different languages, and have different social and cultural backgrounds, meet and have very limited time to produce a theatre project that has to satisfy a large and enthusiastic audience. Three weeks of collective work have in the past years resulted in unique cultural experiences. The extraordinarily creative atmosphere of the whole event is therefore also shaped by its international character.
Artists have to make full use of the chateau space and the period it represents. They have to work with elements such as fire and water as well as dance on stilts, juggle, sing, wear masks, and use wooden constructions, puppets, figures, and other objects. The stage design, which is given much attention, is inspired by outdoor theatre of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. I spoke to the artistic director at Continuo Theatre, Pavel Stourac, to find out more:
"Kratochvileni is the summer project that we have been organising for seven years. It is a site-specific theatre project, which means that our theatre performance is prepared especially for the area of Kratochvile Chateau and the space of this Renaissance castle plays an important role in the inspiration of the performance. This means that it's not the text and the story but rather the space and the architecture and the specific condition of this area that are influential."
How many artists are participating in the event this year and where are they from?
"Well, around twenty-five artists are participating this year. Besides the regular actors at Continuo Theatre, there are young jugglers, actors, amateur theatre actors, as well as professionals. They come from the Czech Republic as well as from France and Belgium. We love the co-operation because it gives us new inspiration and new power for our work."
This is the seventh time the summer festival is being held. How does it differ from last year and how many visitors do you expect this time?
"We can say that we have started to become partners of this Renaissance castle space. It is a strong partner and we have learned, in turn, to be its partner. We started to listen to it and the conditions of this specific area. We enjoy this very much because it's like love between partners and we can say after the seven years that we have started to understand it. This year we work a lot with the surface of the water that is around the castle. All performances are set in this water ditch. We are expecting between 350 and 400 visitors every evening. So, if we perform nine times, we expect around three to four thousand visitors in all."
Why did you choose Kratochvile Chateau? What does it have to offer that the numerous other castles and chateaux do not have?
"I think it is the magical feeling of the space. It was built by Vilem of Rozmberk in the sixteenth century and it was dedicated to pleasure in the art of the time. Artists very often came here to perform and the castle owner had the dream to invite artists and create this atmosphere in the art of the time."
How much is admission?
"For adults, it costs 170 crowns for the full evening and ninety crowns for children. A special family package for two adults and two children costs 350 crowns."
What else can people who come to the area from elsewhere do while visiting Kratochvile Chateau?
"We are in southern Bohemia which is rich of architecture and interesting buildings. There are many beautiful towns around. I recomment Cesky Krumlov, Ceske Budejovice, the Middle Age town of Tabor, Pisek and there are many castles around. The most well-known is called Hluboka. So, there is much to see for those who will come to the Kratochvile performances."
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