Interview: The Cast and Director of Czech Theater’s ‘Fast and Furiants’
“Please! I have a wife! And seven children!” Credit: Czech Theater.
Czech Theater has been performing Czech plays for English-speaking audiences in Brno since 2018. On Sunday evening, Natasha Price caught up with Anne Johnson, co-founder of Czech Theater, along with some of the cast who are preparing for the 2023 fall production of Ladislav Stroupežnický’s Naši furianti or, as it’s been aptly renamed, Fast & Furiants.
BD: Hello all, could you tell us your name and your role with Czech Theater?
Anne: I’m the co-founder of the theater, along with Aaron Collier and Nikki Fořtová. Aaron and I alternate directing the plays. He did our last play, The White Disease, and I’m directing this one.
Scott: Hello. My name is Scott and I play Valentin Bláha.
Lenka: My name’s Lenka Koudelková and I play Mrs. Dubská, the Mayor’s wife.
Triz: Hi, I’m Triz and I play Verunka Bušková in the play.
BD: Nice to meet you all! Is this the first time you’ve acted in a play by Czech Theater?
S: No, I was in the last play too, where I played a dictator. He was a very straight, evil kind of role, whereas this role could be a little more subtle, but we’ll have to see how it goes.
A: I haven’t acted for a few years, but I did before. This is my fifth time directing, I think.
L: I’ve been in a few of the plays in the past. I had a small role in The Trial and a much bigger part in The White Disease.
T: Well, it’s my first time with Czech Theater, and I’ve found the group to be so friendly and welcoming. I’m definitely enjoying it so far.
BD: How did you all find out about Czech Theater?
L: I’ve actually known about Czech Theater since it started because I was around people who were in it, but I was too scared to join. Every time I heard there was an audition I was like, “Oh maybe I should try it but I’m probably not good enough…”
A: But we love amateurs even with no experience! We’re not looking for any skills necessarily. We look for enthusiasm, willingness to commit … and that’s about it.
L: Yeah, so about a year and a half ago, I decided to try it. I got a small role in the production, and I enjoyed it so much that now I keep coming back!
S: I met Anne through my comedy. She runs Comedius which has a monthly pay or perform night aimed at amateur… well, anything! She was always going on about whatever play Czech Theater was putting on and one day I decided to give it a go.
T: I was at the Brno Expat Fair just a few months ago and I saw the sign for “English-speaking drama”. I talked to Anne and started following them on Facebook where I saw the post about auditions.
BD: What do you think about the idea of taking Czech plays and translating them for international audiences?
S: I think it’s wonderful because it makes Czech culture more accessible for non-Czech speakers to enjoy.
L: I love it because I have a lot of expat friends and sometimes throughout the years I’ve wanted them to see a film or read a book that is originally in Czech. So, I found this idea super nice.
T: I thought it was an amazing idea and I’m still wondering how I hadn’t heard about it before.
BD: Could you each tell me a bit about your roles?
S: I play an ex-soldier who wants to apply for the night watch position in the local village but faces competition for the role, without saying too much!
L: As the Mayor’s wife, Mrs. Dubská is set to run the village behind everybody’s back because she’s a very smart woman with a lot of influence over her husband. Everyone in the village kind of knows it.
T: Verunka is a girl who wants to get married to Václav and is very much in love. It’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet, two very dramatic teenagers and lots of arguing families!
BD: I hear this isn’t just a play but that there’s a bit of song and dance in it, too. Is that something you’re excited about?
A: In the original there is a lot of traditional Czech folk songs and dancing. We didn’t feel we could do that without doing it badly, so we figured out what dances almost everybody knows, cross-culturally, and did that instead. Just the way Czechs might all start singing the same traditional song.
S: Yeah. If we can all get it together, I think it will have a fantastic effect. If it doesn’t all go together, I still think it’ll be very funny. So it’s win-win really! More dancing! In theatre. Make it fun and exciting!
L: I personally am not that excited about that part. But I’ll do what the director tells me.
T: I agree with Lenka. I think it’s funny but I don’t dance. And I don’t sing in front of people. I like that it’s a comedy because if we mess it up, it’ll be funny and that’s the point.
BD: Had you ever heard about the play before you auditioned for it, or have you researched it since?
A: There was a short film that came out a couple years ago about the author and the fact he was queer, and I hadn’t known that. I looked into who he was, and he had quite an interesting life! This was when the Austro-Hungarian empire had tremendous influence and one way that Czechs defined themselves was through their language, and they reinforced that by putting on plays. His biography definitely added some subtext to the play, which we’ve incorporated.
S: No. And no, I haven’t.
L: I don’t really know it, but I will probably read it in Czech beforehand.
T: I’m planning to go and watch it [performed in Czech by JAMU students]. Before I got this role, I’d never heard of it. I’m excited to see how other actors perform it in the original language.
A: I wasn’t even sure we could do it. Usually, you have about 70 actors on stage and there’s no way we could fit that many people. But then I read that the greatest Czech of all time, Jára Cimrman, had directed this play with only three actors, so we should definitely be able to do it with fifteen!
BD: If you had to describe the play in two sentences…?
A: It’s a classic Czech comedy with a modern multicultural spin. Expect flirtations, misunderstandings, and a wedding (maybe!) at the end.
L: Two sentences? It’s wild; it’s fun. Full stop! And everybody should come and see it!
S: I would describe the play as a comedic study on the fragility of the human ego. Of course, as actors, we know nothing about that…
BD: When are the performances and will you all be ready for them?
T: We’re developing our characters well, and with each rehearsal we’re getting better and better. I’m really excited to see it all come together.
L: I was very skeptical at first, because it’s an older play and I wasn’t sure about the plot. But what we’re doing with the script and with the play itself is super fun. I think we’ll make people laugh, I mean, we definitely make ourselves laugh a lot!
S: Yes. I feel very confident about this one.
A: Our performances are the last weekend in November, 25 and 26, as well as the first weekend in December, 2 and 3, plus we’ve been invited to Prague to perform it there on 16 December.