Thursday, June 14, 2012: Museum Night
More than 100,000 people were expected to join the hunt for free cultural treasures at Prague’s annual Museum Night last Saturday. Indeed, sometimes it seemed that all 100,000 were standing in “your” line outside the top treasure troves in the city’s center.
But at smaller, more remote places you could walk right in to mine the free cultural rewards just waiting to be discovered.
For example, at the “Galerie” at HAMU – the photography gallery at GAMU, not the famous Galerie concert hall at HAMU – you go down an enclosed staircase to three unmarked doors to the bottom. Now what?
Suddenly, one of the doors opens. “Pojd’te dál! Pojd’te dál! Pojd’te dál!” (“Come in!”) sing-songs a smiling, beckoning woman. A balding man, two young women searching for the site hesitate, then move through the door cautiously. “Aaano, aaaano, pojd’te!” (“Yes, that’s right, c’mon!”), the women encourages, sweet as a granny in a fairy-tale.
In a cellar room, under a vaulted ceiling, about 15 compfy chairs wait in front of a small black stage.
The fairy-tale granny beckons more visitors in, to sit. It turns out she’s actually Doc Dr Helena Kazárová, a choreographer and researcher who teaches in the Academy’s tiny mime and dance department. (Who knew that mime is actually a university subject you can still research and study in Prague?)
Dr Kazárová tells Opus Osm that the mime and dance department offers its seven current students studies in three branches: choreography, theory, and pedagogy. The theme for this year’s Museum Night performance is authentic Commedia Dell’Arte, from the year 1716. “Little tastes” of the classic entertainment are presented at 8 pm and midnight, with the full, main show, “Flirtatious and Immortal Harlequin,” in the courtyard at 10 pm.
The dance researcher and artistic director expects a total of about 1,000 people this night.
Suddenly the lights in the little room darken, a hush falls on the little audience, and a Harlequin dancer springs onto the little stage. Soon he’s joined by a Harlequina, his female partner, and they dance a flirty, yet precise, dance to the classic accompaniment of recorded drums, lutes, and other Early instruments.
Next, a woman in a classic Spanish costume proudly dances alone, snapping her castanets. Then two simpletons (acting, we trust) grunt and gesture hopelessly. Suddenly the audience understands they mean it’s time to leave.
But not entirely. The two, still hunched and gesturing, herd the audience to another small area, this one under spotlights, with a simple set representing a manor. The cast of five, including mime Prof Ctibor Turba, presents a classic Punch-and-Judy type of short play. Mime, tumbling and pratfalls, cuckoldry, chases, and trickery are all accompanied by a percussionist playing snare drum, triangle, and other simple sound-effect devices.
Live, 18th-century Commedia Dell’Arte performed by serious students and scholars of the 300-year-old art, right in the Baroque heart of the biggest living museum, Prague – what could be a more appropriate treasure? — oo
– Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička