The theater of life

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Another weekend and I’m on the train again. It is Sunday morning and I am heading to Hradec Králové, a beautiful small city in the region of Bohemia. It is famous for holding some important music summer festivals like Rock for People or Hip Hop Kemp. My destiny, actually, is also a festival but this time about theater. Every June, the Theatre of European regions takes place in different open air spaces in the city center.

The train looks quite old but its brown seats are enough comfortable. I am in one of these open coaches where you can see all the other people, not only the ones who are at your side. Today, there are not many. I can have four places for myself and enjoy the silence and the breeze which came from the left window. During some time, I was lose in the beautiful views of Bohemia, until something else gained my attention.

In the next stop, one blonde woman who was about 30s sited down in front of another younger who was already there. The woman laid down in her two places and quickly fell asleep, holding her head on her red bagpack. The other one, dark hair, blue eyes, maybe still a student, took a big notebook and a drawing pencil. She started to look at the blonde one carefully, and her right hand started to move over the paper. She was drawing her. Her eyes were moving continuously from the paper to the asleep woman but in a shy way. She didn’t want the woman to notice it as if she was stealing something from her. Her privacy maybe. But she couldn’t help drawing until the last minute.

One stop before Hradec Králové she had to leave. The drawing unfinished and the older woman still asleep. She will never know there is a painting of her in some village where she never was and she will probably never be. Maybe the future artist will finish it using her memories or her imagination. Or maybe it will keep unfinished forever. What is sure is that I will never know. As she will never know I was there. Looking at them as if it was a play. The theater of life. My first play of the day even before arriving to Hradec Králové…

P1020039P1020012To be honest, I didn’t know much about the city but my first impressions were not bad at all. The area before the river, close to the train station looks really clean and beautiful although in some way it misses the identity that gives the passage of time. I was strolling through these old-new streets for a while. Almost nobody was there. Only some children with their father playing in a fountain and some tourists having lunch in a terrace close by. The atmosphere was so peaceful that the last thing you can imagine is that a festival is going on there.

Later, I knew that the plays didn’t start until the afternoon. They took place after the river, in the city center, around the main square where the cathedral and the church of St John are. And also in the park close to it, and in the theaters, and in the adjacent streets and in a big and strange-looking building, The Eastern Bohemian museum, which was used as one of central points of the festival.

This is actually one of the places where Olga, an EVS from Rusia, usually works and where Gervaise and Julian, EVS from France and Spain, would join during the festival, although all of them are from different organisations.

Olga was born in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of the Mari El Republic. For her, there is no better city in Czech Republic than Hradec Králové. It is big enough to have everything you need and small enough to not suffer from the prices and tourist mass of Prague. Here, instead, she can experience the “everyday Czech life”. She can ride her bike and enjoy the walks through the huge green parks which are around the city center. She can definitely have a comfortable life. She can feel at home…

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Inside the museum there were some natural and historical exhibitions. Some people from the organisation of Gervaise were already there preparing an event for the night. There would be a performance and a projection over the façade. As it was the place of working during the festival, I could visit the whole building. I could go to the top and enjoy the sightseeing of Hradec Králové for free. And I could also see the rooms where the workshops should take place.

These are the rooms where Olga usually works when she is at the museum. She normally participates in cultural and educational events and she also helps with the everyday work if it is required. The other part of her job is to promote volunteering with her organisation KURO Hradec Králové. She usually does it in different events and by presentations to different audiences.

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After having some lunch and missing some plays looking for the correct place, we could finally see our first show around 4 o’clock. It was a minimalist and contemporary performance which took place in the courtyard next to Klicperovo Theater. To be honest it was not so catching but it was really curious to see the contrast between the audience (common people from the city) and this kind of performance, more appropriate for a contemporary art museum with a specific public.

The next one was definitely more entertaining. A group of young actors represented a familiar comedy and people from all ages could enjoy it. Of course, we didn’t understand all but sometimes guessing can be even more fun. Anyway, we could appreciate their good interpretations and how well they connected with the audience. Gervaise, for example, enjoyed it very much.  She was born in a little village called Mortrée, in the region of Lower Normandie. To study theater she moved first to Caen, the capital of the region, and then to Parma, Italy. Now, she is doing her EVS in Prague, in the Institute of Lighting Design.  This institution is primarily focused on theater and they collaborate with many festivals in Czech Republic and abroad.

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Gervaise usually works in different fields: production assistance; communication with partners, companies and artists; projects management; workshops… It is not rare that she coincides with Julian in differents events around Czech Republic or even more abroad. In July, for example, they will be in an international street theater festival on Vlaclavské Naměsti in Prague and in another one in Žilina, Slovakia.

Within these events, Julian will also participate in ´´Take care of your square´´, a project which presents a series of interventions into the public space. It wouldn´t be true to say that he is doing his EVS in Prague, as he is doing it everywhere in Europe.  There was never a more properly job for a “European” volunteer. He’s already been in Poland, Russia, Rumania, Slovakia… and in many cities, towns and villages in Czech Republic. Always driving his van from one place to another. Not knowing what is waiting for him tomorrow…

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He is from Albacete, a little city in the region of Castilla La Mancha, Spain. Before the EVS he studied to be a sound techinician and now he is in charge of the sound effects in the plays of his theater organisation. Of course, there are also boring and exhausting issues, as he always has to help with the mount and dismount and spend a lot of time in the road driving the van. But the opportunity to be around Europe with such an interesting job makes undoubtedly up for it.

Both Julian and Gervaise took part in the main show during the night. As I said before, it was not only a performance but also a projection over the façade of the East Bohemian Museum. Sadly, I couldn’t see it as I had to take the last train to Plzeň. I left Hradec Králové with the feeling that I had missed the best part, with the feeling that my work and my trip would be unfinished forever. Like the portrait of that blonde adventurous woman, who must be now in another train around Czech Republic. Tired, after another long journey. As I am. Also holding my head on my bagpack. Trying to get some sleep helped by the rhythm of the train and the new music of The National. Leaving the views of Eastern Bohemia behind and not looking at anyone. Not this time…

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