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Travel Blog

Audition for a Revolution

Jessica Litwak

Last night saw a really marvelous piece by Argentinean artist Lola Arias.
This participatory theatre performance will allow participants of Theatre Night to enter into the roles of different actors in a demonstration that took place on Wenceslas Square exactly 26 years ago to the day. November 21, 1989 is not just a symbolic date, but the day on which the revolutionary events moved a significant step forward. Václav Havel made his first public speech from the Melantrich balcony. Visitors to the Archa Theatre will be able to decide whether to become direct actors in the reconstruction of this historic moment or remain mere spectators.

This five-hour theatre event does not need to be seen from beginning to end; spectators may freely come and go. The performance is in Czech, Spanish and English.

It was an incredibly moving experience some of the student leaders who were present on the balcony on Nov. 21, 1989 were there and participated playing themselves. Then many young people participated who had never been in a demonstration. some were not born in '89. Other people had strong memories of the Velvet Revolution. A few people were strong activists in various movements, many had no relation to activism at all.

We watched a three step process on a split screen - 1.  the actors getting dressed and made up in costumes and make up in their chosen role (of one of the people who was there that night - people up on the balcony Havel and his compatriots as well as people in the crowd and the police. 2. the actors moving to the second screen and being interviewed by Lola and then finally stepping into a film or photograph from the actual night and reading (with direction) the speech and bring us back to the reality of that revolutionary night through the fantasy of present tense imaginations and embodiment.

She has done similar shows in Greece and Germany and Argentina. I spoke with her afterwards and we tried to imagine one demonstration or revolutionary day/event in the United States that could support such a theatre piece. I thought of Occupy and Vietnam but couldn't come up with a single day's events. I thought of the night when Harvey Milk was killed. I thought of Stonewall. But she wanted something about war. I thought of the night George Bush bombed Iraq.

From My Heart is in the East:
I remember a desperate protest the night before George W. Bush gave the order to bomb Baghdad. On the Los Angeles streets with my children waving signs at traffic - hoping to bring some last minute sense to the power machine in Washington, cars honking at us, patriots spitting. At approximately 5:30 am Iraqi time the bombs begin to fall. We watch them exploding on television- small bursts of green light.  

But that certainly wasn't a universal protest. Any ideas? I'd love to bring her to the States- we need such a stirring and self critical theatre event.