Digital Underground

Kryštof Pavelka

DAMU – DISK THEATRE / PRAGUE CITY THEATRES

Eva Salzmannová

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND “You’re not particularly interesting. A bit of meat on an imperfect bone structure.” A mountain hotel. The employees of an IT startup arrive for a teambuilding session – or, rather, to celebrate a success. They have developed a product that no one else in the world has. However, relations within the company are far from ideal. The chief programmer has problems with fatherhood, his colleague with masculinity, the human resources manager has taken feminism so far that she hates women, and the social media guy is about as funny as an appendix operation… But someone else has arrived at the hotel. And SHE has a bit of a problem with the whole of humanity.

Digital Underground is an auteur-style text, written for 4th year students at the Drama Faculty. Against a tragicomic background it looks at themes peculiar to contemporary society and the young generation in particular: the networked nature of the globalised world, the merging of reality and cyberspace, radical internet subcultures, the crumbling of social ties and above all the clash between human consciousness and successor forms of digital existence.

“ Once again we see how ideal it is when a young author writes for young actors. The common wavelength cannot be overlooked. It was clear that the actors had found themselves in this wild and grotesque poetics, loud humour and excellently observed speech. In all the contemporary newspeak generated by social media and the permanent sharing of everything in cyberspace. It is bitter ridicule and a discreet memento, because it is not impossible that in the end our viral world will eat us and chew us up into prime numbers. Anyone who survives will live in a cave with a bit of flint and be glad of that. The gang that the author brings to life lives its lives mostly on the networks. They all have their inferiority complexes, their artifice, and are essentially no longer capable of entering into and maintaining normal human relationships. They are – how else – employees of an IT startup, and they come to a mountain hotel for a teambuilding session, but also, or rather, to celebrate a major success. What they have created and hope for so much from, however, gradually gets out of hand and starts to live its own life. The plot gradually spirals into a mad, almost apocalyptic ride, and the author, inspired a little by Čapek and maybe also by Havel (and not only on the linguistic side) gets out of breath in the last third as the realistically-played story breaks up into feverish chaos, but the ferocious energy is unabated. The young actors play dotty and derailed IT types with amusingly abbreviated characters, but then there is She, an artificial being without feelings, who only eats data. Anežka Šťastná plays her as a strange amoeba, fragile, insidious and cold as ice.
——JANA MACHALICKÁ, Lidové noviny

EVA SALZMANNOVÁ (1957) After graduating from DAMU, Eva Salzmannová spent several intensive years at Divadlo na okraji (Theatre on the Edge). After the company broke up, she found it difficult to settle in a new place – as she herself says, she became an absconder, leaving various engagements and returning to them. Finally, however, she dropped anchor for a second time in the National Theatre’s drama division, where she spent almost quarter of a century, and above all in the 1990s and the following decade she created a number of important roles in both the classic and contemporary repertoire. At the same time she took part in various studio theatre projects, frequently innovative, working for example from the beginning with Divadlo Letí, which focuses on contemporary drama, and founding the Studio Továrna with Viktorie Čermáková. She has also taught intensively at DAMU theatre school for a number of years. Eva Salzmannová has never been afraid to take risks and depart from the established path – in 2018 she left the National Theatre in order to join the new creative team at the Prague City Theatres.

DISK THEATRE is part of the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. It started in 1945 as the Theatre of the State Conservatory. Over subsequent years it then provided a regular picture of the result of DAMU students’ preparations for their professional careers, but also – and often much more distinctively – of the state of society and the influence of the regime on the youngest theatre work. The repertoire theatre’s productions are always created by the future graduates of the Drama Theatre Faculty, but projects are also presented here by graduates of the Faculty of Alternative and Puppet Theatre. Students of the Faculty of Theory and Criticism organise DISK_USSIONS with audiences, during which visitors have the opportunity to meet the whole creative team. The theatre’s variability and equipment make it one of the most modern Czech theatres. Some productions are shown in the Studio Řetízek chamber theatre.

PRAGUE CITY THEATRES Since the theatres were founded in 1950 the acting company has appeared in several theatres in the environs of Wenceslas Square. One of the famous eras in the history of the Prague City Theatres came at the very beginning, with the legendary director Ota Ornest (1950–1972). The theatres showed a classic repertoire, plus plays from modern Western theatre. The repertoire also included comedies and original Czech work. Thanks to Ota Ornest and his colleagues, including Alfréd Radok, Miroslav Macháček, Václav Hudeček and Ladislav Vymětal, the Prague City Theatres had a good-quality acting company, which for several decades defined the nature of Czech acting (Rudolf Hrušínský, Lubomír Lipský, Václav Voska, Dana Medřická, Jaroslava Adamová, Jiřina Bohdalová and many others). The Prague City Theatres functioned as a single-company theatre until the Velvet Revolution, when the individual theatres became independent from each other. The theatres were not rejoined in terms of artistic programme and operations until 2006 under the leadership of Ondřej Zajíc and Petr Svojtka. The 2018/19 season was the start of a new phase for the Prague City Theatres: Daniel Přibyl took over the leadership, together with Michal Dočekal as the artistic head. Their common goal is to transform the Prague City Theatres into a respected cultural institution that plays an active role in the development not only of Czech and European theatre, but of society as a whole.