The Kutná Hora Theatre Festival – Divadlo X10

Ewa Zembok is a theatre director active not only in Prague (Meetfactory, A studio Rubín), but also on Moravian and Silesian scenes, among others in Brno's HaDivadlo or Olomouc's Tramtárie Theatre. She is the co-founder of Prague's Divadlo X10, founded in 2013, where she was a tribal director, while she is also engaged in the shifting regular activities of the Theatre in Kutná Hora and the Theatre Festival Kutná Hora as well as in international cooperation. The Divadlo X10 is an open platform not only for contemporary theatre, but also for other kinds of live art. One of the projects of the Divadlo X10 is also the Kutná Hora Theatre Festival, which this year takes place from 10-12 September 2020.

Ewa Zembok: I wish that alternative culture in Kutná Hora were far more visited

Ewa, how has the Prague's Divadlo X10 come to organizing the festival in Kutná Hora? Can you briefly describe this journey and the link between the Divadlo X10 and Kutná Hora?

In 2005, the association Kulturní Invaze, Kryštof Koláček (Manager of Divadlo X10), together with Vojtěch Varyš founded the festival with the aim of bringing alternative art to historic Kutná Hora. The Divadlo X10 has been a permanent guest of the festival since its beginning, while providing it with production support. After the death of Vojtěch, we decided to take over the festival fully because in connection with the move of the Divadlo X10 from Strašnice to the centre of Prague we ended the Festival strašNICE. The revival of non-traditional venues and public spaces with live art has been close to us since the establishment of the Divadlo X10, and so all the circumstances naturally resulted in our decision to organize and produce the Kutná Hora Theatre Festival (DFKH).

Where in Kutná Hora does the festival take place and what partners have you got in Kutná Hora?

In the early years the festival was spread throughout Kutná Hora, in various places. For example, in Synagogue, the indoor and outdoor spaces of GASK, on Palackého náměstí and the former brewery in Sedlec. Sedlec is a peripheral part of Kutná Hora where both Kostnice and Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist are located. Last year, for the first time, the entire festival was concentrated in the area of the Sedlec Brewery, because we felt the need to consolidate the festival and give it a solid background. Our close cooperation with the brewery's owner Mr Jan Chejn was affirmed, so we decided to continue with DFKH on the brewery premises. Starting this year, we have also been implementing a regular cultural programme there. In addition, we traditionally play fairy tales and performances for families downtown on Palackého náměstí. Newly, we cooperate also with Bar 22.

How is the dramaturgy of your festival conceived? Does it change every year, or do you regularly focus on specific themes, areas, genres?

Since the beginning, the festival has been focused on independent and authorial alternative theatre. The dramaturgy naturally intersects with the dramaturgical direction of the Divadlo X10. As far as the topics are concerned, we focus on burning, social and up-to-date issues. The DFKH has been given an international dimension. We are open to a wide range of genres, we are interested in performance and installations. Regularly, we introduce puppet and object theatre. This year we included community activities for local residents, but also for guests from abroad, discussions with Czech and foreign guests and networking meetings. Each year we present a festival premiere, production or performance, prepared directly for the brewery premises. Here, the possibility of artistic residencies has also been open. We have a lot to offer, which is to some extent our specialty. This is also why this year's festival will be held for the first time for three days, from Thursday to Saturday.

What can audiences look forward to in this year's edition?

The corona is still interfering with our plans, so will not know until the last minute if we can get the programme fully implemented. However, one thing's for sure - the DFKH will take place this year. The region will be strongly represented by the Continuo Theatre with their last premiere of Monstrum_and here I am blind and the Slovak, rightly said Rusyn Theatre of Alexander Duchnovič with a production Pieskovisko. We will also have a strong Slovenian representation in the form of the Ljubljana Glej Theatre and two productions of Matija Solc. Puppet productions of LokVar and T601 proving that puppet theatre is not just for children will surely find their viewers. The Divadlo X10 will be presented by one of the last premieres Otcovrah and community event Y: My Garden Is Your Garden, which has been developed within Division Y - a self-contained platform linking theory, contemporary performance and immersive installation.

Personally, I am very excited about the P/ST concert and the premiere of No More Theatre! – a performance by Jakub Gottwald, our permanent collaborator and Janis Povilaitis from Russia, who participated in networking meetings last year. Janis, for obvious reasons, must stay in Russia, but the performance will be given a new dimension as a result. In fact, the Covid 19 situation can also be inspiring. For example, due to the fact that a number of invited guests – attendees of the originally scheduled discussions – cannot arrive, we have a new panel on the agenda dedicated to Belarus. As part of the View for Bĕlorusko event I will initiate the sending of postcards to the regime's prisoners, which is one of the tools how to support them and manifest that the international public is monitoring the situation there. The other discussion will focus on the independent sector and its advocacy. Last but not least, I would like to mention my favorite performers from Hungary, the Szeri-Páll-Muskovics trio, although their involvement is uncertain at the moment due to the Covid. I'm also curious about the stage reading of Miriam Šedá by Martin Macháček, directed by himself.

What has made you happy in the culture lately?

I'm delighted that independent theatre has first come to be referred to as a strong and important part of the culture and we've become visible as a sector. It is a matter of political and strategic nature rather than purely artistic, but I consider it to be extremely important. The bottom line is that dialogue between the various institutions, such as the Independent Theatre Association or Nová síť and governmental authorities has been established and I hope it will continue.

On the contrary, what has disappointed you?

In relation with entering of the independent sector into the public debate, it was once again shown how big the gap between a certain section of the public and culture still is. Despite the fact that we were able to respond flexibly to a critical situation, that many of us provided social assistance, that we were able to provide a variety of offers, culture, creators and cultural operators have once again come under attack, which seems to result from an absolute misunderstanding of the nature of culture.

What would you like?

To close this gap and make people generally aware of the contribution of theatre and culture to society. And on a smaller scale, I wish that alternative culture in Kutná Hora were far more visited.