Recent statistics revealed that every tenth inhabitant in the Czech capital is a foreigner. Ever since the fall of communism, the English-speaking community has been one of the strongest parts of the city’s cosmopolitan culture. This week, Christian Falvey visited the Prague Playwriting Contest, which has become a staple event of that community’s cultural calendar.
The Prague Playwriting Contest has become a main event on the local English-speaking community's cultural calendar over the last three years. This year the event enjoyed a large crowd of foreign visitors, among them Czech English students, long term residents and everyday arts-buffs. One Prague resident, Joanna Jenkins of Philadelphia, was an actress in the competition in previous years and told me what the event means to local theatre enthusiasts.
“It’s very interesting, I think Prague draws people with a great deal of aspiration, and the Prague Playwriting Contest is an opportunity to really hone and develop their talent. So there are a lot of people who have English not necessarily as a native language but as a communication language, so it’s an opportunity for people who may not speak Czech fluently or who may simply want to improve their English, and for the people who want to work: who are actors who are writers who are theatre people and they want an opportunity to do what they love.”
In its relatively short history, the contest has managed to tap into a groundswell of interest. Aspiring writers were drawn to the mystique of post-revolution Prague in the early 90’s and began a tradition of starry-eyed desk-drawer writers, and enthusiasm for a city commonly referred to as “Paris in the 1920s”. Dagmar Pikhartová, the producer of the Prague Playwriting Contest, told me about the history of the event.
“The show started three years ago and when we started it we didn’t know what to expect, we thought it would be good to support local culture and local artists, because there are a lot of them. And we made a call for scripts, we received a hundred scripts, which was amazing, we didn’t expect that. And from then on we’ve received more than 50 scripts every year.”
Attendance at the event has been rising solidly, which is a good position from which to create what could perhaps in time be a truly large scale event. I asked artistic director, Brian Caspe, where the contest is going from here.
“I think our real growth potential is in the Czechs who are here who are more confident in their English and able to come to a full-length play in English and maybe we’ll help them a little with a plot synopsis or a lecture beforehand but they’re really able to handle a full length play in English and I think that’s really exciting.”
The Prague Playwriting Contest is run by the Prague Playhouse, which puts
on a new production outside the scope of the contest every two months. If
you’re interested in having a go at the limelight yourself but aren’t
in Prague, don’t despair. The thirty-minute scripts are accepted from
former residents of the Czech Republic as well.
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