Na Poříči 26, 110 00 Praha 1, Nové Město
Metro station: Náměstí Republiky
Phone: +420 221 716 111
The main program of the 48th annual ATypI conference will take place at the Archa Theatre, an avant-garde underground theatre complex in the middle of Prague.
History and Mission
The name of Archa Theatre does not allude to the Old Testament story of Noah by accident. On board Noah's ark, the most amazing mixture and variety of all existing animals found themselves side by side, all waiting to survive the destructive flood. Similarly, Archa Theatre strives to be a place open to various and often unexpected encounters. Their purpose is to examine the possibilities of art, provide space for innovative ideas and in various ways reflect life at the beginning of the third millennium.
The first step towards the establishment of this theatre was made in 1991 when the Municipal Authority of Prague announced a public competition for the position of the director of the Theatre of E.F. Burian. The winning project submitted by Ondřej Hrab involved a radical change of the bombastic and conventional institution - a change that was to include not only a complete reconstruction of the space, but also a new style of management and organization. The owner of the building, the Czech Commercial Bank (Československá obchodní banka), together with the Municipality of the City of Prague, became the main investors of the reconstruction. The total investment exceeded 100 million Czech crowns. The work, carried out according to the architectural design by Ivan Plicka, began in September 1992. One year later, the theatre technology designed by Miroslav Melena was installed into the interior spaces. In May 1994, the last inspection of the construction took place and in June of the same year the theatre hosted its opening performance. The original proscenium stage was transformed into a multi-functional space with two halls. The first one, 15 x 28 metres (50 x 93 feet) large, seats 100 to 400 spectators (or, as in case of concerts, up to 1000 standing visitors), the other one seats up to 100 spectators. Both rooms, which can moreover be connected thanks to the system of shifting walls, serve various productions from opera or drama all the way to scenic dance or demanding multimedia performances. The foyer and the theatre club are used as exhibition spaces as well.
In contrast to the traditional repertory theatre of E.F.Burian with 120 employees, out of which only one third were actors, Archa Theatre does not have a stable ensemble. There are 22 full-time employees who are responsible for dramaturgy, marketing, technical maintenance and administration. Archa Theatre works on the basis of a production house, i.e. provides space to artists for their creative work. This style of work enables the theatre to create its own projects as well as invite ensembles and artists both from the Czech Republic and abroad.
The joint performance of Min Tanaka and John Cale, which officially opened the Archa Theatre in 1994, indicated where the theatre's dramaturgy was heading: the encounter of a Japanese dancer and a musician from the United States symbolized a connection of two cultures, two genres, two continents.
During its first five seasons, Archa Theatre introduced a great many leading artistic personalities from around the world, including director Robert Wilson, choreographers Wim Vandekeybus, Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker and Jan Fabre, musicians David Byrne, Randy Newman, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Einstürzende Neubauten, Tindersticks, Levellers and many others. Ensembles such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Cheek By Jowl, Ultima Vez, DV8, Handspring Puppet Company and Dogtroep also performed there. American poet Allen Ginsberg had one of his last performances in Archa Theatre.
One original production is created here every year. Archa engages artists who are then provided with space to create a theatre production. It is then presented in a series of performances, e.g. over the course of one month. In this way, artists such as Peter Schumann, Min Tanaka, The Residents as well as other famous personalities and ensembles created their original works under the production of Archa Theatre. This included not only foreign, but also Czech artists, as in the original Opera La Serra by Michal Vích and Jaroslav Dušek or Sweet Theresienstadt written by Arnošt Goldflam and directed by Damien Gray.
The Archa Theatre began its production activities long before its reconstruction was finished. In 1992, it presented Min Tanaka in the project called The Rite of Spring. One year later, it became the curator of the Week of Prague Theatre in Antwerp and Stockholm.
Many of Archa's projects won international repute and were presented abroad, e.g. at the theatre festivals in Bonn, Johannesburg, London, Kyoto, Tokyo, Belgrade and Brussels.
The original Archa Theatre Studio is also a unique part of the theatre's activities. It places emphasis on the process, not merely the result of the artistic creation. It enables Czech actors and dancers to participate in workshops led by foreign artists. Performer Rinde Eckert, actress Juliet Stevenson and director Ann Bogart were among those who have hosted workshops within the Archa Theatre Studio project.
Archa Theatre cooperates closely and on a regular basis with the French Institute, the British Council, Goethe-Institut, the Polish Institute, the Japan Foundation, the Austrian Cultural Institute and other foreign representations in the Czech Republic. The Dance Theatre Workshop and Arts International New York are Archa's partners in the United States.
Archa Theatre is a member of the IETM (Informal European Theatre Meeting) network.
Text: Archa Theatre
Photos: Copyright © by Pavel Štecha and the Archa Theatre.
Maps: Copyright © 2004 by Filip Blažek (Designiq), exclusively for ATypI.
Used with permission.