Ludek Horky: Do Children Exist?
About children and their theatre with Daniela Fischerova, Jan Borna, Iva Perinova and Miloslav Klima
FRIENDS IN THE CHILDREN’S THEATRE, IN ASSITEJ…
This is the title in the heading of the official proclamation of the International Day of the Theatre for Children and Young People on the occasion of this year’s twentieth of March. Personally, I believe that it is not a new, empty anniversary which would like to stress one calendar anniversary over another for the purpose of promoting a high cultural and political level of nations concerned. Certainly not. The theatre for children is a specific field of artistic creativity, the entire history of which is from its very beginning up to the present time a legacy of the 20th century. It is a field, the specifity of which is indisputable, the standard considerably unstable and its position in relation to the theatre environment exceptionally variable. Against all logic it maintains a pioneering character particularly in the sphere of drama, despite the fact that it has had many a success and has filled quite a few theatre halls with a grateful audience. Possibly this is because the programme is aimed at a narrowly defined age group or other social category, an unusual and surely unwanted phenomenon in the theatre. Children and young people are, without a doubt, the only characteristic, non-universal group requiring a specific non-universal system of stage means of expression. And as often is the case, what one author considers a challenge, another considers a convenient alibi for dilettantism under the motto “it’s only children”… One could carry on in many directions leading to speculations about the creators, their work and their consumers, but that is not the issue here. The issue is the International Day which does not consider itself to be an ordinary international day, but an unusual everyday event which would help promote the financially demanding and as yet not clearly defined field of the theatre for children and young people in 65 countries of the world, member countries of ASSITEJ. ASSITEJ is an international association of theatre for children and young people. It was founded in Paris in 1962. Since then it monitors and supports the activity of professional drama companies, playing for the youngest audience. On the threshold of the new millennium, the various national centres are also opening up for independent theatre projects, puppeteers, theatres with children performers and quality amateurs. March 20th is mainly intended to be a time period for concentrating theatrical events for children and giving a new opportunity to make them more visible. Suzanne Osten, a producer and artistic director of the Unga Klara company from Stockholm, the author of the proclamation further states.
DO CHILDREN EXIST?
This is a paradoxical question, which I am forced to ask adults throughout the entire time I direct plays about children and for children. We all know that in creating our art we must primarily fight against the ideas of adults about children and it seems as if their ideas on what children are at times made the contact with the actual public more difficult.
In artistic ventures, which we create in the theatre, adults are involved as buyers of our work and their ideas and opinions about children. After all they, our real customers, they also have own their ideas what children understand and what they are capable of accepting.
But children – are they so different from adults?
Certainly, we admit that their physical dimensions when compared to ours do not prevent them for having the same strong emotions: sadness, anger, passion, euphoria and curiosity. Despite this it seems that the physical dimensions and verbal abilities are indirectly proportioned powerless in the majority of societies. Children have very little authority in decision making although they have the same needs as adults. They move when we are moving, they become children of divorced parents and lose their parents, when we have problems.
Fifteen years ago I tried to express my approach to the children’s theatre in a single phrase: Nobody wants to be a child. This nobody was a child as well as an adult. The majority of children wants to grow up fast and become adults; they want to gain power over their lives and find freedom.
When I was young and worked as a producer in the Unga Klara company which was just starting out, I dealt with the problem of the low statute of the children’s theatre in our relatively well-developed theatre culture (with a centuries old tradition of court, national and regional theatre, alternative groups, etc.)
However now I am more troubled about the fact that adults are more and more abandoning the environment of children and young people, thus further underlining the low statute of children. We classify generations into different age groups according to the standards of the outdated industrial society (and then force immigrants to live under shocking conditions).
What once looked like rational social planning, turned into segregation. Actors as well as spectators are abandoning the children’s theatre. An interconnection between the audience and the society should come about. Everybody should be there.
In the year 2000, I found that the chasm between children and adults grew further in Sweden. Cuts in education, particularly in the area of teachers’ salaries, in health care influence children’s perception of themselves. They have less and less adults who see them. Young people react by suicide.
Unfortunately I wrote a topical play. Unfortunately – because it is based on reality. GrTMnsen deals with the suicide of two French girls, aged twelve and thirteen. Every day we meet children and their teachers and tell them what the play is really about. About a feeling of impotency? Possibly Valentine and Aurelia died by mistake , possibly they did not understand that what they are doing is irreversible, maybe they only wanted to make themselves visible, maybe it was a call for help. They write in their diaries that they want to be joined with Kurt Cobain. Possibly the play is about the desire to run away from the stress of the school environment, or about the yearning for love, or maybe about turmoil?
In our play the audience is confronted with questions of life and death, the sense of life. Yes. Life and death are fighting over the souls of these girls. However, it is the adults who have the greatest fear of this taboo of speaking to young people about death. We, the adults are afraid of what the young people will feel when seeing this play. The teachers who have to go to the theatre with the young people and then see their reaction in school, are alarmed by the feeling that they will not be able to cope with it. We carried out a careful analysis and worked with a teacher for over half a year to enable her to go to schools and help her colleagues to interpret the main idea of this play to the children. The number of attempted suicides among young people is growing in the entire western world. In my opinion, many of us want to hush up this problem for safety reasons.
Our teacher participated in our course on clowning, in discussions and internal work of the theatre giving her the possibility of understanding how we work and think in the theatre. Now she is holding her own workshops with colleagues and sets up plans of imaginative courses for interested parties using various materials and objects. Despite this I believe that what we are now doing fully professionally is the theatre.
Our entire culture is filled with death. After all we are the only animals who know that we must die and suicide is a usual dramatic motif. Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet are the most popular plays performed all over the world and they are being performed by young people.
On Swedish channel Net you can chat with Kurt Cobain and obtain information on suicide.
The film Suicide of Virgins produced by Sophie Coppol is being shown in cinemas. Without a doubt. Life goes on without a safety net. There are some people in the theatre who feel responsible for telling the truth. But when I pose the question whether children exist, I also want to get an idea about conditions suitable for children: to live among adults and suddenly being forced to become adults themselves
The Unga Klara Company exists 25 years and I go to playgrounds for 25 years and talk to young girls and boys, I sit on the floor with teachers in nursery schools, kindergartens, and work in certain intervals in leisure time youth centres. I try to look at the world of adults from a child’s perspective to see how this child approaches this world. But in the internal work of the theatre we try to recall the feelings of our childhood, everything we have successfully hidden. Absolute abandonment.
Relentlessly and everywhere I searched for a child and found only individuals. But even this individual has conventional concepts of what children are. Some children say that children younger than ourselves are more stupid. Other opinions can be very optimistic and can reflect the upbringing by loving adults; to find self-confident children is a joyous experience. In good schools and poor regions we find children who have the same need to be noticed by adults. They all yearn to be of significance.
What is a childish child? Is it happy, innocent and playful?
Certainly, such a child also exists. But it is not static, such a child is rather a reminder of our entire creative potential in the theatre. The children in the audience often think of the future. They are being stimulated by tragedy. They can immerse themselves in laughter and serious debates as well. They believe that problems can be solved.
Could this be so because they differ from us?
Just like we do, like I do, the young audience wants to see on stage the same as we who are performing do, something true, important and playful. I put plays for children on the stage because I want to do something important, I want to do something which will make an impression. A good performance viewed by a young person at an early age has a powerful impact. This also presents a great responsibility as to what basic concepts should be implanted into the mind a such a young person. When I create plays and films for adults, we often meet in a furnished apartment where everything has its place. With children it often happens when they are on the stage with us, their experience is so strong. as we can see in the reflection of their eyes how they change in the course of the performance. We are the first magic room where things can then be placed
To make a strong impression. That is, without a doubt, the goal of our work. This is what it is all about, what we theatrical workers are doing in the theatre.
ABOUT ” CUS” VYS
One of the entries discussed was this year’s contribution to the Czech Theatre for Children and Young People, by the National Theatre of Prague drama section, in its world premiere of a new dramatic text by Daniela Fischerova – Firebird
Discussions on the sense and purpose of a specialized drama theatre for children has been led for years. Puppet companies have proved their usefulness many times, as documented by theatrical history. This can be said only with some hesitancy about the actors working solely for children as there is a certain deformation of the actor here. What is your opinion on this?
If I would believe that drama for children does not make sense, I would not be doing it. I would be spitting into my own soup….. Naturally it does make sense but it is distorted by the fact that children have free access to the media, particularly television. They can watch what they want, what television offers them, and therefore the differentiation between children and adult genres lost its contours. It fell apart. Children and adult audiences gradually ceased to perceive what is meant for the child spectator and what can be watched by everybody….As I see it, the risk of dramatic work for children lies in just this loss of boundaries.
The opinion that a child is a little adult also exists…. This basic opinion leads to the allegation that work created for the youngest consumers exclusively brings along a tendency of mediocrity and lack of quality. Do you feel that texts for the theatre, and films directly specialized for the young audience should be written?
I know that the first opinion expressed, which I know is not your own, is plain stupid. There is another aspect which I support: Things primarily intended for children can and must always aim “cus” higher. They have to be a bit above the children’s head but not too much. In psychotherapy there is a motto – a good therapist aims his work directly above the presently existing possibility of the patient. Things for children should be partly unintelligible for them. Or they should not be primarily understandable. This bit which is over their possibilities to understand, should in the future be within sight, not within reach. The objection that children will not understand is erroneous. It is like a joke which you know since childhood but will understand it fully only in fifteen years.
I spoke about the gradual deformation of the work of dramatic actors, who have. for long years, systematically specialized solely in work for children and young people. Do you believe that such a company has a substantiated right to its existence?
Who would give them this right? The only one who could give it to them is the one who attends the theatre. And whether it deforms the actor? Possibly in a certain way. The acting nature of man who truly and firmly decides that he will devote his entire life, his acting career solely to acting for children…Such actors probably exist but there are very few of them. It would be difficult to form a company with them. The usual process of such a thing is that actors will remain in this company for a while and then it will become too stifling for them and they will go elsewhere, to swim in other waters, to breathe another air. And that is quite natural.
Is this a reason not to build such a company?
No. All a priori reasons are suspect. When such an urge and will arise spontaneously out of the matter of life, let it prove itself and demonstrate the right to go for such a courageous attempt. This then entitles him to some subsidy. However, if after a few seasons he gives up and fades into the general theatrical life, where something new will come in to being, it is absolutely correct. There is no a priori.
What made you write the Firebird?
First of all there was an order for it. But that was not the only reason and not the substantial one. At my age, one is damned to think about what to devote oneself to in our working life, as one knows there will not be too many opportunities. After a lot of hesitation I agreed to the proposal by the National Theatre, as I like the genre of fairy tales, and myths, everything that can be stowed under the canvas of the tent…my second motivation was stronger than the first one – the order. However I do not know whether I would have taken such a risk without the existence of such an order. But this is only a guessing game, but probably I would have stored the idea into a prosaic and not dramatic file.
What did the order actually sound like?
Namely, Mr. Klima, the literary adviser who for years worked with Josef Krofta of the Drak Theatre had a daring plan. Josef Krofta as the master of his field at the peak of his creative forces was to produce a great drama cycle in the course of three seasons, a sort of human space where he could show his skills. It was to be a fairy tale, mythical subject. A flight of fancy. Three Czech dramatists were to be invited to give him some sort of runway. I had never worked with Mr. Krofta. At the time the offer came, I heard that he did not accept any firm text, that he is not one to accept a completed screenplay, salute and goes on to direct it. It was thus a question of submitting certain possibilities on which a team would then work on for half a year. The original order read: submit a fairy-tale mythical literature as viewed by a magical eye and then turn this literature into excerpts for Josef Krofta. Thus dozens of synopses and ideas were turned into a springboard. This plan never became reality for some entanglement in relations outside of them. The plan disappeared and the only thing that remained out of my great offering in the hands of the National Theatre was the Firebird. They invited me to continue working on it. Alone. With the assumption that a director would be found later.
Did you take the children’s theatre into consideration at the very beginning?
Does this represent certain restrictions for the author?
Certainly there are some restrictions. And not only as far as workmanship is concerned – the language level must necessarily be somewhat simpler and more comprehensible than the work intended for adults. Now I recall – when I started this work, the writers community held an all-day conference on fairy-tales. I attended as a matter of interest. The literary adviser of Czech Television, Katerina Krejci, intrigued me. She had a long, interesting speech on fairy tales in television. The speech was stimulating because she said that it is the most watched genre (except for the Nova TV news). Watching fairy-tales on television is today a four generation matter. She said an interesting thing. Namely that the absolute, strict qualification on the part of spectators of all generations is a happy-end. In the course of years television produces fairy tales, there were attempts to have other than happy ends and this met with a total rejection by the audience. The hidden, inner postulate of man who conceives a fairy tale as a fairy tale is: it must turn out alright. This may seem naive, excessively so, without compromise, a quest of illusion. But this is not so. It is not stupid. Actually, this requirement is quite profound. If a certain subject is offered to the child spectator a happy -end is practically of primary importance, something the author must respect. I have never in my life written a happy-end. When I look over my dramatic literature through and through, I find things which turn out extremely bad, ironically …..the happiest ends which I committed were open ends. Happy-end is not in my book.. But a fairy-tale must have it. A happy-end is, from the point of view of art theory, a means whereby people themselves say that things are not what they really are but what they should be according to their most profound wishes. It is one of the strongest violations of human experience. In a fairy-tale it is an obligatory element which I respect.
If there is a restriction, does the targeted creation for children also bring some liberation?
I would like to say that this is so, but my personal experience says that it is not so. Certainly not for my disposition. There surely are people who have chosen literary work for children as their life’s calling, thus a seal, the know why they are doing it. They could possibly reply otherwise. For myself I say no.
We spoke about television. What does this medium take from and give to children?
You the editors like to pose questions which would require a doctor’s thesis to answer. I gladly reply, but before the parenthesis I would like to remark that I am reading this from a paper. Television gives everybody but mainly children who get into contact with it at the earliest age where they suck it in, when the patterns of perception are only beginning to form and take shape, when the “plaster solidifies” two dangerous things. Firstly, television is a great means of desensibilation. Pain, cruelty and death is dealt by television with a highly inflationary method. Children immersed into the media environment up to their ears, get us to the idea that suffering, blood, death and pain are not to be taken too seriously. That this is a sort of fiction, a convention between myself and the media,which in reality is invalid, does not have a real value. Television production is a peculiar experiment carried out by people with themselves. It desensitizes us. Another thing, that rains upon children from the TV screen, is the wiping out of differences between reality and fiction. It is difficult even for the adult to differentiate e.g. in a documentary whether he watches a recorded reality, a treated pre-cooked reality, or whether he is seeing pure fiction, a creative act. Not even an informed adult viewer can at times distinguish this clearly, how then can children, who do not have a defining line between image and reality and thus the degree of fantasy do so. Where will this phenomenon lead to within a generation or two. God only knows.
To what extent do topics of fear, anxiety, death belong to the work for the youngest consumers?
There is no answer to this in a simple yes or no. It is a question of degree. A Latin proverb can be loosely translated “Only the dose makes the poison”. Everything in the world is poisonous, only the dosage varies. I do not doubt that fear and anxiety does belong to children’s literature, to the theatre. To create an environment without poisons, germs for children would not be a good service. It is a question of doses, and a question of context. Blood, pain, death, suffering, broken bones, shooting in the back, the cries of victims – all this is not a question whether such elements should be erased from the art for children. The problem is that they are being used in a frenzied inflation. And what is redundant loses its significance. Redundancy and significance are in indirect proportion. The more there is of it, the less significance it has, although this does not mean anything. It has intensity. Naturally, this intensifying also ends, it is used up, it evaporates.
What role is radio playing in this spectrum of media and artistic fields?
You have probably noticed that I am an author of broadcasting plays. It is the genre closest to my heart. Radio screenplays is as if made for my type of world perception. Calibrated. I perceive the world through my ears rather than with my eyes. In the theatre itself everything visual confuses me. I am a fundamentalist of texts. A child can always take two basic courses. I see an apple and my mind tells me – apple. Or my mind thinks apple and represents some concrete apple. That is an ambigious concept. Television gives us things visually ready and thus does not give us a chance to develop a sort of childish imagination. When a child hears only words, he has to develop it in his mind, directing it, sewing the costumes, giving it the decor, doing the lighting, and then it becomes a beautiful and valuable result, which unfortunately is now fading away, drying up. Today, television has toppled radio. A child does not hesitate which medium he will give preference to.
IF THEY COULD SEE PAUL
One of the most noteworthy production on the Czech stage for children and young people in the last three years, nominated by ASSITEJ for an international award was the production of the Theatre at Dlouha – “How I Got Lost or a Little Christmas Story” directed by Jan Born, who adapted and edited the text of Ludvik Ashkenazy.
You are a member of the ensemble of the Theatre at Dlouha, a theatre the statute of which is aimed and percentually anchored in the work for children and young spectators. Do you feel that it is correct that some theatres are statutorily committed to concentrate on work for the youngest audience?
You know that is the problem of all statutorily committed theatres. How can an idea or artistic conception be statutorily committed? There should be positive pressure to have a theatre for children. By this I mean advantages in the form of subsidies and grants, because normal theatre performances for children are a certain luxury.Thirteen candidates entered the competition to the then called Old Town Theatre and we were the only ones, who at least partly, played for children – out of conviction. The constant attacks against us are ridiculous, because regardless who out of the remaining candidates would have won, there would be no theatre for children at Dlouha at all. All other circumstances are a question for the municipaliaty, not for us. Personally, I am only an occasional producer of theatre for children and young people. I devoted my entire life to it but only when I had an idea. You said you had an interview with Iva Perinova. That is an entirely different case. One of the best Czech authors of plays for children, a woman who is doing it all her life and does it really well. I myself feel a bit guilty when I am called a classical producer of theatre for children. I like the theatre as a game. An open game into which one can see. And that is something close to children that why I like doing it. But I stress again: I have to have an idea. I left the Drak Theatre the moment I realized that I would not be capable of producing two fairy-tales a year. I cannot even imagine it.Ordered: a performance for children. It was traumatic. Upon order, I cannot even do that for adults. I always have to discover a topic which attracts me and if this should be close to children I would be extremely glad. In the first place, I am interested in the topic and shape and only then the manner of communication and thus also the addressee will evolve. Now I am attracted by the type of communcation which also appeals to children. The production by Ashkenazy is still a mysterious experience for me – At the moment we started working on it, when it was taking shape, I said to myself: This is about a meeting with children. I will think back about my own childhood and will invite the children to join me. We will play this story together. And suddenly the adults forced us to play the Little Christmas Story for them as well. They really forced us. Even today, after many repeat performances,when I arrive in the evening, I am afraid that the adult audience will not come and if so whether they will acceept us. When the presentation came into being, it was not intended for adults at all.The possibility to perform for adults showed itself only after the opening.
Nine years ago I became ill with multiple sclerosis and actually started all over again. It looked as if I would no longer be able to direct. I had to learn to walk once again and had no strength. I worked only with the ensemble which was used to me and which accepted my limitations. I discovered a great playfulness in the actors. I do not like imaginary theatre. A theatre which strives to create illusions of reality. I like a theatre of illusion. This means a theatre of fantasy. A theatre like a meeting in a game. I have loved the Ashkenazy book for years and the main interpreter, Pavel Tesar, fascinated me. When I pictured him and then imagined the children who constantly see Dada Patrasova, the idea came upon me: If they could see Pavel how he gets a matchbook in his hands and turns it into a spontaneous, unrepeatable clowning performance…. The idea of a meeting with Ashkenazy and with Tesar, and Ashkenazy and Tesar and Tesar with children inspired me and thus the Little Christmas Story came into being.
Why are there so few plays for children in the theatre programmes?
In the past, I never throught I would devote myself to the puppet theatre. When I founded Vizita together with Jarda Dusek, I did not think about puppets at all. I worked only with the fantasy of words. Accidentally I got into Drak and that was a tremendous discovery for me. The discovery that fantasy of the word and fantasy of the image, both creative metaphors, have the same power. I felt a need to share this discovery with children. And another coincidence came about. A group of people I met at the Dejvice Theatre with whom I spent a great era of four years, were puppeteers. People who think in materials. The basic difference between acting and puppeteering lies in the idea that a dramatic actor looks for the given theme n his body while the puppeteer looks for the image of the theme in materials outside his body. For me the combination of these principles represents a liberation from something in the theatre I do not quite believe in a pseudo-experience, a pretence of reality, a tokenism of feelings. I saw the Three Sisters in Moscow and Irina cried for two hours continuously. The first half hour it was embarassing and then I just wondered where all the water came from…..The liberation from psychologism lies in a combination of the reality of human acts with a metaphoric imagery expression. Some time ago we produced, together with Pepik Kovalcuk Games for Children and with Children at the HaTheatre . And that was for me a matter of principle. For the first time we defined the basic principle around which I create all our productions. It is when the agreed upon play turns into a theatrical experience and back again into the play. As if somebody would tell you a story and you would know that it is grandmother who wants you to fall asleep as soon as possible and so she talks and talks and suddenly for five seconds comes a moment when both simultaneously are touched by the story. In order for these five seconds to come about, everything must be very real. A genuine grandmother. Not a token princess in a paper castle. A common experience, a joining of the emotion of the adult creator and the child spectator, this is the moment which fascinates me tremendously in the theatre for children. Naturally, the condition is a perfect establishment of the mutual game. And it is the children who are ready to put the game to life. Contrary to adults who come to the theatre with many blocs and actually shield themselves against the endeavour of the play.
When we know that we are working for adults, we are overwhelmed by ambitions. Suddenly we are attempting to name the world. In the case of children we touch the very foundations, the archetypes. And because childhood in us is really an archetype, we touch the most inward things, paradoxically giving rise to great topics. On a rational level, the theatre will not convey something people do not know. Love is nice, that is true. It is bad when somebody is a swine, that is also true. Man should play with fate…and there are about ten such topics. The profound experience in the theatre does not come from the communication of the topic but from a meeting over the theme and the joint experiencing. In their candour towards experience, children are fascinating and for theatrical workers irreplaceable.
You spoke about what liberates you. In what way does work for children restrict you? As I mentioned before – what destroys me is work upon command. I admire when some people act for children for x years. Now I come back once more to Mrs. Perinova. I admire how she is looking for inspiration for a number of years and how she sets up seasons for the child spectator. And after so many years came upon “Psohlavci” (dog-heads) and discovers new topics. ……That she does not continuously mill around “Tri vlasy deda Vseveda” (Three hairs of old-man know all). By the way do you know that she is the most often performed Czech dramatist?
Her work is remarkable.
I HAVE A SUSPICION
I admit that I did know that IVA PERINOVA is the most frequently played Czech playwright when I sent her a letter with questions about her meeting with children and her work for them.
There is an opinion that the specialized theatre for children (with a permanent cast) has no future. That a theatrical body, permanently concentrating on work for children can function well only in the case of the puppet theatre….Do you share this opinion?
I admit that I cannot recall a drama company which would devote itself solely to the work for children. If any of them do exist, I apologize. A typical “drama” for children was surely the Theatre of J. Wolker which did not have a future. This was replaced by the Theatre at Dlouha with two companies, one of which is Born’s theatre for children and not only for them There is no mistaking that its creative processes and means of expression used, are based on the education of the chair of alternative and puppet theatre – possibly without the puppets, but it is not drama. Their stagings indicate that such a theatre for instance, would certainly have a future.
Is there another difference between the puppet theatre for children and the drama stage for children other than the mere difference between puppet and drama theatre in general?
I have a suspicion, that the difference is in the quality of the stagings. Although it is true that certain embarassments and horrors occur in puppet theatres as well, you find also highly successful work there. The drama theatre productions for children is too often considered as something inferior to the rest of the repertory. It is usually given to second-rate authors or to those who are, at other times, excellent but their attitude to the audience of children is so-called platonic, in other words without experience, which can be quite tough……..Altogether I do not believe that children should look only at puppets in the theatre, but that they should certainly also have an opportunity of watching live actors on stage. But these do not come into being because of “cash” reasons when the hall must be filled.
This deforms the trend of a fulltime acting personality for children’s plays. How? What is in your opinion the solution to this? It is certainly a good thing if an actor who devotes himself mostly to the work for children, has an opportunity to play occasionally also for the evening public. Some puppet theatres have a long standing tradition of performances for young people and adults. Their authors, however, risk more than their colleagues working for the dramatic stage who mostly play for adults and “a bit for children”. Children will always attend even poor performances because somebody brings them there. If a performance of puppeteers for adults is unsuccessful, they will not play it in the evening. And this risk is a good stimulant…
Is there a good basis of dramatic texts for the child audience?
I am a puppeteer and therefore I often look with envy at drama playwrights who can select from world’s rich sources of plays, existing for hundreds of years while at the same time new and interesting plays are being added. But as the stage plays for children have, similarly as the puppet theatre, a relatively short tradition, I feel sorry for the playwrights of both medias. There is really nothing to fall back on or pull out of some stock. There is very little of that and mostly useless, and it has to be created and written for each new production.
How does theatrical and playwriting work for children restrict its authors, and how does it liberate them?
If a playwright, creating for children, is somehow restricted , he should give up. Every such restriction can cause psychological damage which is infectious and can also be transmitted to the audience. What is the role of radio in the context of dramatic work for children and young people?
I do not really know, we no longer have any children at home. However, my husband gets engrossed into a fairy-tale on Sundays after lunch and snaps at me when I disturb him with the rattling of the dishes. For this reason, I am convinced that the Sunday fairy-tales on radio have their beautiful purpose. Furthermore, my rattling and his snapping at me make me think profoundly and critically about my work. It is an evidently known fact that the heard voice supports and develops the imagination far more than the television screen.
What would you wish children and young people on the occasion of the International Day of the Theatre for Children and Young People?
Mainly good health and therefore also fewer authors who consider the work for children a fringe matter.
TO BE A TRUE THEATRE
The already mentioned contraversial dramatic novelty of the Swedish theatre Unga Klara, the discussed Firebird in the repertory of our first stage and the successful dramatization of Ashkenazy’s Little Christmas Tale at the Theatre at Dlouha were discussed as well as the drama and puppet productions in general. It is logical that the last to comment on the given subject is the playwright of the drama section of the National Theatre, Miloslav Klima.
What would you wish children and young people at the occasion of the International Day of the Theatre for Children and Young People?
To have children live in an environment and cultural milieu in which the majority would be naturally interested how and what kind of theatrical work addresses them.
There exists an opinion that specialization for children (with a permanent ensemble) has no future. That a stage body, permanently aimed at creating work for the child spectator can function well only in the case of puppet theatres…Do you agree with this opinion?
No. The danger of a rigidity and emptiness, loss of contact and vitality cannot be avoided by anyone. A good theatre is a question of contact and thus also of development as contact is nothing permanent and forever fall-proof. It has to develop and change. Should the theatre activity be aimed at children or young people, if it should make sense and fulfil its role – it will change and thus live. Is there a difference between puppet and stage theatre for children other than the one between puppet and drama theatre in itself?
There can be many differences or none at all. It seems more suitable – when the choice is the acting stage – to choose, depending on the contents and concept a communication and thus the shape of the drama work, rather than trying to force the content and form to suit the theatre at any cost. Both these extremely deliminated forms of the theatre are certainly capable of doing many things, but the concern of the creators is to find and exploit adequate means to express their message to the audience. How? What solutions are there to this problem.
I do not know, I am only aware of positive as well as negative examples. I do not know of a general and redeeming solution. There always are and will be creators of different qualities and primarily abilities of self reflection, which is more important than is usually admitted.
Is there a good basis of dramatic texts for the children’s audience?
The problem is not the texts. First of all there are plenty of them assembled in the past centuries, and secondly theatrical works are no longer depending on a so-called dramatic text – which can originate by itself for one concrete staging, but I believe that the text in itself, although very important, is still only one element of theatrical work and the shape and state of the contemorary theatre, thus also the theatre for children and young people knows this and exploits it. Essentially, no text perennials are created today. This is the realistic phase of the theatre development.
How the playwriting and theatre creation for children is restricted and how does it liberate them?
Every true and responsible drama work takes the shape, the possibilities and spectrum of perception of those to whom it is addressed, into consideration. This awareness naturally leads to limitations and natural advantages. Not all of these factors appear at the same time in one production, but rather only in the entire continuity of the theatre activity in a concrete place, where the theatre is creating.
If I want to address children or youngsters through the theatre, I must logically respect the fact that these are children and young people with everything that I am capable of integrating into my thinking and mainly into my writing. If I realize this and integrate this knowledge into my writing I do not consider this as a limitation, but paradoxically at the moment I am liberated, because I have complete freedom in this sphere.
What is the role of radio in the context of playwriting for children and young people?
Off hand I would say a great one. Due to the fact that the listeners get only a part of the communication – the sound part – the work is created so as to provoke the listener to complement it and thus developping one of the important descriptive forms of contact between the writer and the addressee: fantasy. My own experiences from my young days, when listerning to the radio and the stories, sketches, documents and discussions on it were a normal and usual pattern of evenings and late afternoons in the family. What is it like today, I dare not say and thus cannot make any conclusions.
What role is the genre of fairy-tales for children playing today?
I do not know exactly what the aim of this question is. A fairy-tale as such is certainly not disappearing and new generations will keep coming back to it. Either in the form of quotations, reproductions or variations, new interpretations, or a search of new styles, etc. In itself it will remain an important and considerable part of the work for and possibly primarily for children, even if at certain moments it will lean towards tradition or a variation on a concrete artistic trend and at times also along fashionable lines. After all, as is often documented, fairy-tales contain so much human wisdom that we are not capable of aborbing even one tenth of it.
How far fear, anxiety and death should be in the work written for chiltren?
For years I suspected that it is not a matter of selection of topics but in the method of treating them. Any predetermined limitations feel like formalism and alibism. As long as I feel the same towards the young spectator as towards my own children, I cannot deliberately harm them without telling them that the world is not by far a walk through a rose garaden.
What is the mission of the theatre for children and young people?
To be a true theatre, i.e. a creative communication environment of mutual interaction between the creators and the spectators, in this case with the awareness that the spectators in this instance are children or young people.