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This post was written by Guiri Guest writer: Meghan Modafferi.  Meghan is from North Carolina, USA. She is currently living in Prague and working as an English teacher. In her free time, she’s a freelance writer who’s particularly interested in politics, performances, and personalities. 

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A Stage Review, and an Expat’s Impression of Czech Humor

One of my favorite things about the Czechs is their sense of humor. I’m usually against overgeneralizations, but I’m struck by how much the Czechs truly seem to have a cultural sense of humor that permeates to the individual level. It’s difficult to explain in theory; it’s much better seen onstage.

Recently I went to see The Builders at Švandovo Divadlo, a Czech theater that projects English subtitles onto the wall above the stage. The play follows an attractive young couple as their house is renovated. Their live-in builders are slow, incompetent, and ultimately swindlers. Both halves of the couple, as well as several of the builders, repeatedly fall out of the house upon exit, or into it upon entrance. Throughout the play, the missing porch steps are promised and never delivered, providing a constant reminder of work left undone.

The head builder reprises, “It’s too complicated for laymen to understand…” as his pre-chorus for demanding more money and evading explanation or responsibility. The wife placates her angry husband, dreaming with increasing desperation about the beauty their house will eventually embody.

As in a Shakespearean comedy, every problem quickly intensifies from inconvenience to exasperation. The shingles hit the proverbial fan when the husband accidentally pushes a female builder down the indoor staircase, where she promptly dies. Terrified (as this is only his first murder, and practice has not yet made perfect), the husband shakily approaches his wife, who helps him hide the body in their cellar.

Gradually, the theory and practice of murder become more natural to the young couple as they off every last builder. The weapons become increasingly extreme and comical. They started off innocently enough, with no gore or flamboyance from a fall down the stairs. The climax, though, is all the drama of a microwave on a head, plugged into a wall, with the electrical chord strummed like an electric guitar.

Sitting in the audience I was, to my knowledge, the only English native present. Through the wonders of live theater subtitles, I was able to read every line in English, and laugh along with the audience of black-humored Czechs. Granted occasionally, my reading speed or the speed of the projections caused me to laugh ten seconds early or late, but for the most part, I felt like one of the group. The play was a joy, but to be able to participate in the culture was invaluable.

I’m an English teacher for adult professionals. On more than one occasion, from more than one student, I’ve heard horror stories about their home renovations. Sitting in the audience of the theater, I imagined each of my students watching this play and personally relating to the ineptitude of the builders. And that’s what I mean when I say I got the opportunity to “participate in the culture.” It would seem that this play has quite a strong grounding in reality, murders notwithstanding. And this is my perception of the Czech sense of humor. Take a humdrum and pervasive annoyance, expose the absurdity, add the intensity of the darkest thoughts that you’d never say out loud, and stir well.

*I should note that in its original form, The Builders is a Danish play. Still, it was translated to the Czech language, performed by immensely talented Czech actors, and enjoyed by a Czech audience- making it a thoroughly Czech experience. As for the Danish sense of humor, I’ll have to take a trip to Hamlet’s hamlet and see for myself.

The Builders is running through February 2013 at Švandovo Divadlo.

9.1.2013 [sold out]

5.2.2013

23.2.2013

 Visit Svandovodivadlo.cz for more information.

Food for Thought

October 15th, 2012 | Posted by Karolinad in Food and Restaurants | Karolina | What's Happening Prague - (Comments Off)
If you are a food lover, want to know where to get the best produce in Prague and get your hands on great recipes, check out The Prague Basket.  This clever blog is written by three food enthusiasts who seek the best quality produce and intend to inform you about it through their own experiences.

Performance Review: RGB

October 15th, 2012 | Posted by Karolinad in Entertainment | Guiri Guest | What's Happening Prague - (Comments Off)

The performance review was written by Guiri Guest writer: Meghan Modafferi.  Meghan is from North Carolina, USA. She is currently living in Prague and working as an English teacher. In her free time, she’s a freelance writer who’s particularly interested in politics, performances, and personalities. 

RGB

For inexperienced attendees of modern dance performances, Sebastian Belmar’s RGB may at first seem a bit dizzying. It opens with a man in tight, white underpants trying to escape from below a sheet of plastic in a candy wrapper imitation of birth. I watched his hands flail from below the clear plastic sheet, and wondered if this is just too niche-group for new patrons of the Ponec Theater to understand or enjoy.

But soon, I began to buy in as the next character entered the stage with a small, red plastic bag. His interactions with it were at once playful and strangely domineering; a stark contrast to the desperate escape of the first character from his plastic womb. From that point, I was able to begin building a narrative from clues about the characters. And I’m sure the meaning I found wasn’t “correct” in any sense of the word, but I was able to find it, and I think that’s the point. Absurdist art aims to make the audience uncomfortable because they can’t find solace in clarity of meaning. This performance exists somewhere between the security of clarity and the tension of the absurd. And that’s what makes it so special.

The two women in the cast disco and dispute with their male counterparts, and while their individual personalities are not distinguished as sharply as the men’s, they bring both more lightness, and more intensity to the piece as a whole. The men’s interactions with the women loosely mirror their interactions with the plastic pieces in the opening, which brings delightful coherence to the plot-driven mind. When all four dancers are onstage, the energy is electric. Whether their bodies are pulsing to light-hearted music and calm colors, or the sounds of chaos paired with red, the chemistry between the four is captivatingly portrayed.

 Belmar is clever and precise with color choices throughout the piece. At times, it’s difficult to even notice the color changes because it’s only right that the air should be red when the dances evoke the intensity of relational abuse. It’s only right that the world is green for disco.

The final scene holds red, fiery tension for an almost unbearably long time, as the actors switch partners and repeat dances like complicated
addictions or relationship patterns that you just can’t quit. While at first the viewer may flounder at the lack of familiarity or congruity on the stage, by this point there is something that everyone can relate to.

If you’re not a regular at the Ponec, RGB might be a step out of the comfort zone of your ordinary trip to the theater, but it’s not a step off a cliff. It’s thought provoking and visceral, inviting the viewer to fill in the unspecific storyline with his or her own.

Ponec theatre
Husitská 24a/899, 130 00, Praha 3
phone / fax:  +420 222 721 531
GSM:  +420 724 123 882
e-mail: ponec@tanecpraha.eu
Web: http://www.divadloponec.cz
Information about the performance: RGB 

 

The summer is around the corner, and if you plan on travelling around in the Czech Republic or  elsewhere in Europe by train, it may be a good idea to sign up for the In-Karta with Ceske Drahy.   Because I recently moved to Vienna, I have signed up for an IN25 card (with Rail Plus), which gives me a 25% discount on all of my regular tickets and returns.  All I have to do is show my card when I purchase my ticket and again when the conductor checks for tickets on the train.  I paid a total of 990 Kc, for a three year card.

There are different types of programs you can sign up for: N25, IN 50, IN 100, IN senior, IN junior or IN business application has been recorded where you can purchase discounted reservations for SC Pendolino trains.  The cool thing about an InKarta is also, that it allows you to use it as an electronic wallet and charge it up with money, and then purchase your tickets around the Czech Republic at the vending machines or the ticket office – and you get a bonus for utilizing this function.  If you are living in the Czech Republic, you also have many other discounts available to you on public transport and event cultural events.

Overview of In-karta card discounts

IN 25 (Cost depends on your age and how many years you want to purchase it for, check here, you will pay 150Kc for a year if you are 15-26 yrs old) is intended for all passengers, including children, students who take the train regularly to school or work. It is also worthwhile for frequent travel. With an In-karta IN 25, passengers receive a 25% discount on one-way, return and commuter tickets (in weekly, monthly and quarterly variants), and a discount on SporoTiket Česko and ČD Promo tickets, and discount on reservations for SC trains as well.

IN 50 (Cost depends on your age and how many years you want to purchase it for, check here – you will pay 1,300 Kc for a year if you are 15-26 yrs old) is suitable mainly for regular trips by youth from 15 to 26 years of age and adults, with a special price for pensioners. With an In-karta IN 50, passengers receive a 50% discount on one-way and return tickets, a 25% discount on commuter tickets, and a discount on SporoTiket Česko and ČD Promo tickets, and discount on reservations for SC trains as well.

IN 100 (Cost is 22K per yr, 45K for 2 yrs, 67K for 3 yrs, more here)
is intended for regular travel with a higher level of comfort. Without having to purchase additional travel documents, passengers are entitled to unlimited travel on ČD trains in 1st or 2nd class, a discount on reservations and tickets to destinations abroad (with the RailPlus discount), discount on reservations for SC trains, the option to transport one piece of oversized luggage free of charge, free travel on Airport Express connections, and free use of the ČD cableway at Ještěd.

IN business
is a version of the IN 100 discount (without RailPlus) suitable for corporate clients. The card is issued to the company (not to an individual), is transferable and helps resolve issues surrounding business trips.

IN senior
is intended for passengers over 70 years of age. With the IN senior discount, passengers need not purchase any additional travel documents for travel on local (Os) and limited-stop (Sp) trains. For journeys on fast (R) trains and higher-category trains, passengers can take advantage of a 50% discount off the regular fare or the return fare, 25% discount off the commuter tickets and a discount on SporoTiket Česko and ČD Promo tickets, and discount on reservations for SC trains as well.

If you plan on travelling abroad the Czech Republic and you apply for the In Karta, you must be sure to let them know at the ticket office, as you can only get discounts on international travel with the Rail Plus option.  It just means you need to purchase your discount for a longer period of time, rather than just a 3 months period for example.  So for the IN25 discount that I got, I had to sign up for 3 years, which totaled at 990 KC, still very much worth it.

More details about the In Karta can be found here.  Whether you decide to purchase the discounts or not, be safe and bon voyage – or shall I say šťastnou cestu!

PRE energy company has prepared an exhibition, at their Jungmannova Street location, of new electric bikes.  In addition, they have moved their rental bike station there from the old one that was located at Mánes.  They started their rental program last year in June and saw great interest so the program will expand.

The selection consists of 12 bike models that are ideal for getting around Prague. Currently, there are 10 PRE charging stations around the city.  You can view the locations here.   There will be about 22 charging stations in Prague. The first new charging stations will be in Výstaviště Holešovice and then one in Prague 22 and Prague 13. PRE is working with Shopping centers around the city to set up new stations.

Charging Station

The PREkolo (PREbike) is available to tourists to see the city as well as PRE customers who can receive a discount by just showing identification and a PRE invoice no more than a year old.  Currently PRE customers have 50% discount. Prague’s hilly terrain is difficult for an untrained cyclist but the electric bikes make it possible for anyone to enjoy the city on a bike.  The PREkolo will easily get you up the Petřín Hill and can also get you from the Dancing House to the Prague Castle in 15 minutes.

You can rent the bike to tour the city, run errands or just go on a leisure ride.  The website has some recommended routes you can explore.  The website is only in Czech for now but I am sure you can get the gist of it with the help of Google translate.

There are about 30 electric charging stations around Prague.  The 10 PRE  charging locations will provide energy for free, the non-PRE stations are at about 110 crowns. Here is a map of all the charging stations around the Czech Republic.

 

PRE Rental Location:
Jungmannova 747/28 (Palác TeTa), 110 00 Praha 1
GPS coordinates: 50°4’55.308″N, 14°25’21.036″E
www.prekolo.cz 

Reservation form in English can be found here.

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