The Rehearsal for Truth International Theater Festival Reveals Programming

Enjoy free performances from June 12-23 at Bohemian National Hall in NYC.

By: May. 24, 2024
The Rehearsal for Truth International Theater Festival Reveals Programming
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The Rehearsal for Truth International Theater Festival honoring Václav Havel, has unveiled programming for this year's fest. Entitled Dark Dreams, the festival runs June 12 – 23, 2024 at the Bohemian National Hall, located at 321 East 73rd Street in New York City.

Rehearsal for Truth International Theater Festival is an annual showcase of contemporary Central and Eastern European Theater, founded in 2017. It is a shared endeavor of the Václav Havel Center and the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association in partnership with numerous other cultural and performing arts organizations. The festival honors the artistic and political legacy of the Czech playwright/dissident/president Václav Havel. They support exchanges between American and European theater professionals and celebrate the power of the theater to transform our lives.

This year's festival (including the May reading series) features work from Austria, Belarus, Estonia, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Much of the work featured this year is surreal or dreamlike, finding ways to comment on past and present tragedies, from the legacy of the Nazi and Soviet years to the current war in Ukraine. It explores fascism but also beauty, darkness but also laughter.

The festival begins with one of the oldest authors in the vein of the dark and comically surreal, Franz Kafka, on the 100th anniversary of his death. It continues on with not only theater but dance and music. This year, for the first time, film is included in the lineup, specifically film of theater and dance. Most programs include discussions with either the authors, experts on some of the subjects addressed, or both.

Artistic Director Edward Einhorn states, “Rehearsal for Truth is a rare opportunity to hear artistic voices from Central and Eastern Europe. We are at a time marked by war, and once again the region finds itself in the center of conflict. These plays comment on past and present tragedies, from the legacy of the Nazi and Soviet years to the current war in Ukraine. It explores fascism but also beauty, darkness but also laughter.”

Tickets to all programs are free with a suggested donation of $10 per person. Schedule varies - for exact days and times, to reserve tickets, and for more info visit

“Man is not an omnipotent master of the universe, allowed to do with impunity whatever he thinks, or whatever suits him at the moment. The world we live in is made of an immensely complex and mysterious tissue about which we know very little and which we must treat with utmost humility.” – Václav Havel


Wednesday, June 12 at 7:30pm

A Report for an Academy, A Message from the Emperor (Austria/Czechia)
Written by Franz Kafka
Translated by Mark Harman
Original Music for Emperor by Martin Bresnick
Academy directed by Henry Akona
Music Theater performance

Mark Harman's new translations of Kafka shorts. The first is about an ape who has learned to be human. Read and performed by Markus Hirnigel, directed by Henry Akona in a music hall vein. The second is a new music by piece Martin Bresnick with speaking percussionists (Makana Madeiros and Chad Beebe). Part of a book of new translations being released in honor of the centenary of Kafka's death.

Thursday, June 13 at 7:30pm

Blood, Sweat, and Queers (Czechia/Germany)
By Tomáš Dianiška
Staged reading directed by Barbora Schnelle and Henning Bochert
Translated by Edward Einhorn and Katarina Vizina

One of the most successful plays in contemporary Czech drama. It deals with a sports scandal of the interwar period that was hushed up in the Czech Republic for a long time. Inspired by the life of the successful athlete Zdena Koubková (1913-1986), celebrated in the sports world of the time as a “wonder woman” and holding several world records until she was identified as intersex in 1936, changed her gender, and underwent surgery to become Zdeněk Koubek. Together with the main character's life story, Dianiška's play also describes the increasing fascism of the 1930s, permeated by homophobia, transphobia and gender stereotypes.

Friday, June 14 at 7:30pm

The Feminist's Handbook to Eastern Europe (Estonia) featuring Kaisa Ling Thing
Cabaret performance

A young woman born in independent, post-occupation Estonia sings of the Soviet residue that pollutes the minds of some of her fellow countrypersons and restrains feminist progress. The Kaisa Ling Thing (vocalist plus piano) paints a vaudevillian blues portrait of modern life on Russia's doorstep.

Saturday, June 15

Jumpcore (Poland)
Choreographer: Pawel Sakowicz
Dance performance

It is not entirely clear if Fred Herko planned to finish his intimate performance with a suicide death. He took a bath, turned on Mozart's Coronation Mass and began to dance naked in his friend's living room. He approached an Open Window several times. When Sanctus resounded, he ran and jumped out the window of the apartment on the fifth floor of New York's Cornelia Street. Ballet dancers are said to believe they can fly. And indeed, suspended for a second in a jump, they do.

Dance on film: Boa (Poland)
Choreographer: Pawel Sakowicz

Boa is the first choreographic play in the history of the National Stary Theatre in Kraków. Its main theme and explored space of movement is desire, how it is demonstrated, embodied, and performed. In Boa, choreographer Paweł Sakowicz wonders about paths by which desire circulates in the body; how it is created through a spatial orientation of bodies; how it can be intermediated through popular culture, discourses, and technologies, and what its embodied consequences are.

Sunday, June 16 at 3pm

Physical Theater on film: Noon (Czechia)
Commissioned by Divadlo Continuo and Divadlo Archa
Artistic Director: Pavel Štourač
Filmmaker: Amador Artiga
Music: Elia Moretti et al.

Noon combines documentary and physical theatre to tell about the events which followed after the demonstration of eight people in Red Square on August 25, 1968, using visual theatre of insistent images. It is inspired by the poetry of Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Vadim Delone and other Soviet dissident poets of the sixties and seventies, along with a live string quartet accompaniment.

Monday, June 17 at 7:30pm

Mariupol: Diaries of War and the Tree of Life (Ukraine/USA)
Documentary Theater Performance
From Yara Arts Group
featuring “Diary of War” Project
compiled by Daria Kolomiec
and poetry by Serhiy Zhadan
Directed by Virlana Tkacz

Mariupol: Diaries of War and the Tree of Life captures the resilience of Ukrainians in a live multi-media performance about Russia's full-scale invasion of the city. Directed by Virlana Tkacz, it features four diaries collected by Daria Kolomiec for her “Diary of War” Project and poetry by Serhiy Zhadan. Julian Kytasty created the music and Tom Lee designed the production with Waldemart Klyuzko. Yara Arts Group performs in English with some Ukrainian.

Tuesday, June 18 at 7:30pm

Theater on film: The Last Cyclist (Czechia/USA)
Original play by Karel Švenk
Written by Naomi Patz
Directed by Edward Einhorn
Followed by a 20 minute documentary on the film and history of Karel Švenk

The Last Cyclist, an award-winning film by Naomi Patz and directed by Edward Einhorn, is based on a dark comedy written in the Terezín Ghetto in 1944 by camp inmate Karel Švenk but banned on the night of its dress rehearsal for fear of SS reprisals. The play the actors are rehearsing in the film pits bike riders (Jews) against lunatics (Nazis), as did the absurdist original – a silly story with a deeply serious message. The power of The Last Cyclist allows audiences to bear witness, as if we too are attending that fateful dress rehearsal in the concentration camp, so while we are amused and intrigued, we are also terrified of the murderous immorality of the lunatics – not only in that time, but also in ours.

Wednesday, June 19

Dance on film: Riders (Czechia)
Director/choreographer: Lenka Vagnerová

The ability to exist in symbiosis with other creatures on the planet, the importance of respecting the value of all beings, the uniqueness of species and the struggle to preserve them – these are the main themes of the production. The force and power of nature will always find their way and do what is necessary. Riders view human action through the eyes of birds. Of the ancient inhabitants of our planet, sentient, intelligent, free beings, shrouded in mythology. Of the silent observers of our destinies. We had learned from them, admired them and worshiped them. Then we forgot. Birds are the only surviving group of dinosaurs. They were here before us and they will be here long after us.

Dance on film: Commander & Effemery (Czechia)
from Farm in the Cave
Director/choreographer: Viliam Dočolomanský
co-directed by Jiří Matoušek

Two short dance films from Farm in the Cave. Effemery is about fleeting moments. It was filmed during early Covid in a vast, empty building, with 20 performers in permanent motion. Commander is inspired by real online chats of the neo-Nazi group FKD, which was led by a thirteen-year-old boy operating under the nickname Commander. It uses the chats themselves as the text.

Thursday, June 20 at 7:30pm

Helver's Night (Slovakia/Poland)
Theater performance
By Ingmar Villqist
Directed by Anton Korenči

From Slovakia, with English subtitles. Ingmar Villqist's Helver's Night is a thrilling and gut-wrenching play that charts the relationship between Carla and her young charge, Helver. Helver is fascinated by fascism – not by the ideology, which he is unable to grasp, but by the bravura of the movement. With Diana Semanová (Karla) and František Balog (Helver).

Friday, June 21 at 8:30pm

Theater on film: Playing Earl Turner (Austria)
by Laura Andreß and Stefan Schweigert

More than a decade ago, the right-wing extremist terrorist cell known as NSU came across the novel The Turner Diaries by American neo-Nazi William L. Pierce. Initially unnoticed, subsequent trials revealed that this work served as a guide not only for the terrorists in Germany but also for other neo-Nazis worldwide. The performance Playing Earl Turner combines documentary material with fictional literature and, through the confrontation of NSU trial transcripts and scenes from The Turner Diaries, creates a disturbing scenario that fundamentally questions the common notion of lone perpetrators.

Saturday, June 22 at 2pm, 4pm & 7pm

The Zlin Project (Czechia)
Puppet theater performance
Directed by Marta Hermannová

Tomas Bata's advisor, Berty Ženatý, wanted to replace fairy-tale characters in children's stories in the 1920s with clever and skilled industrial workers.

A puppet production about the life of the city of Zlín in the era of Baťa. A production about everyday life that is functional, modern, universal, model, routine and effective. Every day, all the time. Until an error occurs.

Sunday, June 23

Romanian Theater on film: Here Moscow Calling (Romania)
by Iulia Pospelova
directed by Catinca Drăgănescu

A daughter's relationship with her father is always special, but how does it change if the father is a famous dictator? How does it feel when Dad is a “monster”? Which reality is the real one? Between family attachment and political conscience, the show proposes a live dissection of a controversial character in the history of the twentieth century. It confronts us with a sensitive process of both the past and the present, abolishing the binary morality of good versus evil.

Here Moscow Calling dynamites the idea of unique truth and proposes to the audience an intense theatrical-cinematic experience, in which the camera becomes the main character and the reconstruction of the truth a puzzle to be solved individually. Moscow (still) does not believe in tears.

Workshop presentation of Lowlands (Romania)
Adapted by Mihaela Panainte from the book by Herta Müller
Translated by Jozefina Komporaly
Directed by Ana Margineanu

Lowlands is a haunting depiction of the moral decomposition of the terminal years of communism seen through the eyes of a child from the German minority of Romania. It is based on a text by the Nobel Prize-winning writer Herta Müller. It will be followed by a talk on topics related to the play.

SPRING READING SERIES (a precursor to the festival)

Tuesday, May 28 at 7:30pm – Brief Connections (Slovakia)

By Vladislava Fekete, Directed by Patrice Miller
Translated by Zuzana Flaškov

The threads of the past and present collide and interweave as four friends and their families take radically different paths in an effort to give themselves new lives after the dissolution of their home country. The protagonist (“She”) is at the center of this web, listening to those who have stayed and tried to build new lives in the shadow of violence; to those who immigrated thousands of miles live and simultaneously in the open and in isolation; and to her teenage goddaughter, who wants to know what's wrong with all of these adults and when She can visit. Who are you when your home no longer exists on a map? Can divorce stop the cycle of violence? Is her mother's phone bugged? If so, why won't she stop calling?

Friday, May 31 at 7:30pm – The Bat (Hungary)

By Krisztia Toth, Directed by Ildiko Nemeth
Translated by Szilvi Naray
(at the Hungarian House - 213 East 82 St., a festival co-sponsor)

In a kindergarten changing room, a rubber bat vanishes into thin air, setting off a chain of events igniting suspicion and resentment among the parents. What begins as mild distrust soon turns into full-blown hatred. The story unfolds, through a series of quotidian yet deeply resonant scenes, into a darkly humorous tale of absurdity from Central and Eastern Europe. Against a backdrop of comedic chaos, it poignantly portrays the stark realities of contemporary Hungary. The Bat offers a biting commentary on a Hungarian society marked by hatred, recrimination, and ultimately sorrow.

Monday, June 3 at 7:30pm – Any Spot with Marks Left Behind (Belarus)

By Maryia Bialkovich, Directed by Edward Einhorn
Translated into English by Darya Vashkevich, edited by Apeksha Harsh

Timelessness, anti-dialogue and an atmosphere of suspense. Any Spot with Marks Left Behind is a play that has the intonation of contemporary absurdism. The heroine finds herself in someone else's apartment and doesn't remember how she got there. Strange sounds out of nowhere, overly friendly hosts and uncomfortable silence. The play has two acts that are radically different: by the end, The Collective Unconscious is transformed into a search for self-determination. The playwright (a former member of Belarus Free Theater) explores the origins of violence, social and personal norms that do not always reflect reality.


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