Interview with Daniel Hrbek – Director of the Productions PROTEST/DEBT

Svanda Theatre from Prague, Czech Republic will be presenting their production of PROTEST/DEBT at The Rehearsal for Truth theater festival in honor of Vaclav Havel. The festival takes place from 25 -30 September at The Bohemian National Hall and is presented by The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation and The Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association. These two one-act plays will be performed on Wednesday, 26 September 28, 2018 at 7:30pm. We spoke with director Daniel Hrbek about the production.


What is your role/function in the production and how long have you been part of this company/show?

I am a director of the production Protest/Debt. I am also the managing director of the SVANDA THEATRE since 1999. This theatre started in 1881 and it is one of the most successful theatres in Prague right now.

SVANDA THEATRE: Theatre of Personal Testimonies. A theatre that poses questions. A theatre that encourages discussion. The Svanda Theatre is a free cultural space on the left bank of the Vltava River. We invite the audience to participation in a theatre experience, to a dialogue that we attempt to achieve through novel dramaturgy and a formulation of distinct attitudes through politically and artistically clean-cut theatre productions. We are seeking surprising ideas that reverberate within us, help us define and reflect on the present time and everyday life and see them more clearly in the broader context. We build on a strong ensemble of outstanding actors that are apart from generational proximity also connected by team spirit and the ability of personal contribution.

 What/who was the inspiration for the creation of this production?

During the Velvet Revolution in 1989 I was eighteen and for the first time I had the possibility to read Havel ‘s Protest and I felt in love with this play. I had just had a recent experience with STB (state secret police) a month before in November 17, 1989 and I was sure I would direct the play in a future.

About four years ago I found a play from Marek Hejduk, Debt. It is a play with the characters from Protest after the break in 1989. This was the inspiration to put both plays into one evening.

Why do you think the work aligns strongly with the theme of “Rehearsal for Truth?”

It is Vaclav Havel play…

What is your favorite moment in the show?

Vanek ‘s final monologue in the end of Protest.

How do you think Vaclav Havel still influences theater creation in Europe?

I think the language of Vaclav Havel is very universal but to enjoy and understand Havel you have to want to think. And it is not popular right now. But for example, Debt, is a proof of Havel’s influence.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to NYC to perform?  

I am waiting to see how audiences will react to our English and I am also looking forward to see the stage reading of Night Before The Funeral and Pankrac 45. Both plays were written for SVANDA THETRE. Both are great and I am very happy we can introduce these Czech plays to the NYC audience.

What American TheaterCompanies/Performers/Playwrights do you like?

I like Tracy Letts, Neil La Bute, Edward Albee, Woody Allen, David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill


Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 7:30 p.m.

Presented by: Svanda Theater, Prague, Czech Republic

Playwrights: Vaclav Havel and Marek Hejduk

Director: Daniel Hrbek

Cast: Robert Jaskow, Tomas Pavelka, Jacob Erftemeijer, Tomas Korenek

Supported by City of Prague, Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York, Czech Center New York and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the UN.

Thirty-three years separate two one-act plays that are connected by absurd humor and the characters of Vanek and Stanek. What happens when two writers meet—one who is not allowed to write and the other who writes whatever he wants? What if the first one has a surprising proposal for the second one? And what if the two of them meet years later when they can write freely but it is not working? Vaclav Havel’s dialogue confronts the dramatic attempts of a debuting author. To sign or not to sign? To act or just to talk? Did the elites fail or did we? Protest? Debt!

Svanda Theatre is one of the oldest drama theatres in Prague. It´s focused on contemporary plays and also on the bold adaptation of classics. Besides its own repertoire Svanda Theatre also offers a wide range of supporting events such as concerts, talk shows, independent theatre group productions, stage readings and also the best of Czech regional theatre work. It was also awarded the prestigious Alfred Radok´ award for its dramaturgy.

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