CULTURE

Prague’s blacklight theater back in town with imagination a key element

“Imagination is, I think, the key word for the future of theater and art in general. Artists must always come up with new ideas. Art cannot remain stagnant; if it does not move forward, it becomes pointless.» The Second Blacklight Theater Festival, which will start tomorrow at the Coronet Theater, will present all the different aspects of blacklight theater, a drama form highly popular with Greeks. The series of performances, which will run to the middle of December, starts with the traveling troupe of the Prague blacklight theater Ta Fantastika, which has put on several productions at the Athens Concert Hall. Under the artistic direction of Pavel Marek, the blacklight theater group will present «Gulliver’s Travels,» a production which received an award at last year’s Edinburgh International Festival. The show combines actors on stage with the simultaneous screening of a film. The storyline tells the tale of Gulliver, the seaman imprisoned because he dared describe the experiences he had in unexplored and mysterious lands. «Gulliver is one of my favorite heroes, maybe because he represents a proud man with a free spirit,» said Pavel Marek in an interview to Kathimerini. «The story is simple. What is the message? You may throw me in prison, you may torture me all you like, but you cannot take away the freedom of my thoughts and my imagination.» The play is a spectacular show with giants and dwarves and is based on Jonathan Swift’s novel «Gulliver’s Travels» and Jack London’s novel «The Star Rover.» It is an allegory on the great power of faith, mental freedom and the unfettered imagination. Blacklight theater originated in the imperial courts of Asia and the technique of the black cabinet: Puppet-players dressed in black would move on a tiny stage covered in black cloth so as to make them invisible, appearing as objects lit up by candles. The technique spread to Europe and in 1961 Jiri Srnec founded the Black Light Theater of Prague after experimenting with black light and its applications on stage, while working on his thesis at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. In blacklight theater technique, artists are invisible to the public because they move on a stage which is covered in black velvet dressed all in black, from head to toe, with the use of «black» (ultraviolet) light to create reflections. «We have been touring Europe for a year with the version of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ that we will present in Greece. What is new about the show is the use of technology alongside the classical blacklight theater techniques. We use a screen so that actors can carry out a conversation with the images that are being projected. The result is magic,» said Marek. «Blacklight theater has a long history. It is impossible to cut it off from tradition and there is no reason to do so. Yet it keeps evolving every year. Blacklight theater is very much alive and I believe it will continue this way for many years.» Visual theater Pavel Marek’s group is highly visual, using all the means at its disposal. Actors on stage coexist with colorful constructions while flying objects move around them. The group tours all over the world. The Ta Fantastika blacklight theater was founded in 1989 by Petr Kratochvil, who had spent 10 years in the USA. Back in 1983, his friend and former colleague Pavel Marek founded a new theater company in Prague, the PanOptikum. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 in Czechoslovakia, the two theaters merged to form a new group, Ta Fantastika Prague. «Blacklight theater provides the opportunity to create an imaginary world. We create illusions with special techniques. It is very interesting, providing an escape from daily life.» The performances The Ta Fantastika shows will run to November 2. They will be followed by two original productions by the Image Theater, which made successful appearances at the Coronet Theater last year. The Image Theater will initially act the play «Cabinet,» from November 7 to 17; the show is about a cabinet which functions as a gate that transports the audience into a mysterious universe, full of bizarre yet fascinating creatures. The leading character is Professor Prazak, who appears with his many inventions. The same group will perform «Kaleidoscope» from November 19 to November 30, a show in which dancers create colors, patterns and images resembling a live kaleidoscope, with the aid of special effects. The Second Blacklight Theater festival will end with the performance of «Peter Pan» by the Jiri Srnec Black Light Theater of Prague, Srnec being the founder of blacklight theater. «Peter Pan,» a show including fairies, lost children, striking flights, magic powder and Captain Hook’s crocodile, will be on stage from December 3 to 14. Coronet Theater, 11 Frynis, Pangrati, tel 210.701.2123 and website www.coronet.gr.