Alois and Vilém Mrštík


Janka Ryšánek-Schmiedtová

MARYŠA by the brothers Alois and Vilém Mrštík is without doubt the best-known and most frequently-performed Czech drama. Why did the director choose this classic play, and what is contemporary about it? “The story of Maryša seemed to me to be timeless. And precise. And not about money at all. To me, Maryša is a woman balancing on a knife edge: she’s afraid to decide differently from others, and at the same time she longs to go her own way. It is this moral dilemma that is the reason why Maryša is worth showing at the Bezruč theatre even now. Because there are still many people around us who repeat over and over again what they think of as being good, without ever really thinking whether it is what they want. And vice versa. It’s not that hard to make a decision, what’s hard is to stick to it,” says Janka Ryšánek Schmiedtová, and adds: “An important factor in my decision was that in the Bezruč company I found ideal actors for the various characters, and not just the title role. Although Pavla Gajdošíková is a revelation for me in this respect – she seems to understand Maryša even more than I do, and that drove me to work.” There have been several remarkable productions of the play in recent years, with the THEATRE festival having shown two of them in a short space of time; interpretations by Brno’s HaDivadlo (2014) and Prague’s National Theatre (2018).

There can hardly be a Czech audience member who does not know how this realist drama ends. Directors thus aim to astound with unexpected and innovative concepts. Janka Ryšánek Schmiedtová’s production at the Petr Bezruč Theatre is also surprising in many ways – in that, for instance, it does not feature tense, expressive scenes, a plethora of directorial ideas or an “alternative” ending. It shows great humility towards the original text - although both this and the number of characters have been reduced – and rather than being a village drama, it is the tragedy of one family. The producers do not forgo motifs from folklore altogether – Lucie Labajová in the set design and Ivan Acher in the music – but they use them with moderation and in today’s language. They know that a single accentuated element can have great force.
– Lenka Dombrovská, Divadelní noviny

When this production of Maryša by Ostrava’s Petr Bezruč Theatre came to Prague, its reputation preceded it, and rightly so, as the sold-out performance in the Celetná Theatre confirmed. Director and artistic head of the company Janka Ryšánek Schmiedtová approaches in a linear, direct and logically coherent way the play which we know as the story of an unhappily-married girl who poisons her hated husband with coffee. The emotion of the story still attracts us, asking permanently to be produced. But it is rare that the play is understood as something that in its dramatic value excels and is almost unique in Czech drama, providing remarkable qualities connected to its dramatic nature. The director, of course, has here an actress capable of showing the force of this dramatic nature. Pavla Gajdošíková starts as a young girl, occasionally skipping like an unruly young thing who doesn’t know what to do with herself, experiencing not only her first love but also her somewhat childlike but loving relationship with her father. Into this happy age comes the first fateful decision regarding whom she is to marry, made by Lízal and Vávra. Pavla Gajdošková’s Maryša at first resists it – as the story demands – but in the end succumbs to pressure and takes another decision, one that she knows from the beginning will bring only suffering.
– Jan Císař, Lidové noviny

JANKA RYŠÁNEK SCHMIEDTOVÁ (1983) graduated from Lincoln High School in Portland, US, and Arcibiskupské gymnázium in Prague. She studied directing at JAMU in Brno with Ivo Krobot and Petr Oslzlý. While a student she went on study stays to Lisbon and Glasgow. Her artistic activity includes directing in many Czech theatres (Pardubice, Plzeň, Brno, Zlín, Šumperk) and Bratislava, work for radio and television, auteur projects (theatre plays and theatre writing), organisational activity (Jiráskův Hronov) and non-traditional theatre activity with a social focus (the PASO A PASO project focusing on the situation of young people with experience of children’s homes). Much of her activity has been in Ostrava; she has directed the Chekhovian Smokers (20120 by Anna Saavedra at the National Theatre of Moravia and Silesia, and Perfect Days (2014) by Liz Lochhead. From 2015 until this year she was the artistic head of the Petr Bezruč Theatre, and is now a freelance director.

The PETR BEZRUČ THEATRE in Ostrava is one of the most artistically-distinguished theatres in the Czech Republic, as shown by the number of awards it has won and its reception by audiences. It focuses in particular on young audiences, and all those not afraid of contemporary subjects. As a team the company is highly regarded, with a number of actors who have appeared at the Bezruč going on to make their names nationally (Richard Krajčo, Lucie Žáčková, Tereza Vilišová, Filip Čapka, Jan Plouhar, Tomáš Dastlík). The original dramaturgy includes modern approaches to classic works, the dramatisation of interesting or “cult” works of literature and film, and last but not least, theatre with a regional theme. The Bezruč theatre made a splash this year at the Theatre Critics’ Awards, where Pavla Gajdošíková won an award for best female performance of the year in the role of Maryša.