The story of the swimming trunks - the Archa Theatre reopens after a difficult year


Prague's Archa Theatre has long been considered one of Prague's finest venues, attracting both young and old, Czechs as well as foreign visitors and expatriates, to cutting-edge - often multicultural - performances that make use of the latest in multimedia. But, last year came the Fall: 2002's August floods which swamped parts of Prague and the Archa Theatre beyond recognition. Few perhaps believed that just over one year later, the theatre would reopen - even with the help of millions of crowns of insurance money, support and investment from owners, sponsors, the city and the public. Luckily, it all turned out well in the end.

The Archa Theatre hit by floods, Photo: Palo OrvanThe Archa Theatre hit by floods, Photo: Palo Orvan Jan Velinger spoke to Archa's director Ondrej Hrab on the eve of its reopening, discussing the road to renewal as well as the shock of those early August days.

"It was really hard for us, you know, because we were really proud of our theatre, which was really state-of-the-art, built only recently. Coming to the destroyed space, totally destroyed by the water was really, really frustrating. We were without electricity for several weeks so you had to use a flashlight to see the damage. When the water went down and we were able to see the space what we saw was something like out of American horror movies! What was glamorous before was now just full of mud."

So much reconstruction has taken place it's no longer visible now...

"Of course it's mostly hidden. It's more in the technology which is state-of-the-art again, 21st century technology. And we hope it will serve artists in the most efficient way. On the other hand the structure of the theatre was kept pretty much the same because we realised it was the most effective way how the theatre was operating. So, at first sight you will not see so many changes."

What is the story of the swimming trunks?

The Archa Theatre, Photo: Palo OrvanThe Archa Theatre, Photo: Palo Orvan "Ah well, it was a story we only learned about fairly recently from a female employee who works in the box office. She told us that shortly after the flood somebody came to the box office with their swimming trunks and asked for a ticket for one hour! She was shocked and she didn't know what to say, though later she realised he must have mixed Archa up with a swimming pool a few blocks away. Actually, she was afraid to tell us because she found it very offensive. This is a funny story for us now but probably in September last year it was far less so - quite hard to bear!"

What about the opening weekend? You mentioned that the theme is renewal - the myth of eternal return, so to speak.

"Yes! That's the task for the artists - to create small pieces in different installations in the theatre, which reflect this perpetual renewal of nature. We take it as a sort of life of nature, the reconstruction of our theatre. As well as a 'new beginning' it is also one of continuity, something I hope we will show in our new season."