Mapping Losses and the Set of Measures to Save Culture
On March 11, 2020, the Czech government introduced extraordinary measures in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Arts and Theatre Institute in Prague has been mapping their impact on the cultural sector since March 12. The first data was collected from organisations and individuals working in the independent arts scene. Subsequently, a methodology for mapping losses in the cultural sector was developed by the University of Economics, Academy of Performing Arts, and the Arts and Theatre Institute. This study aims to calculate the economic impact on selected cultural sectors. The first results were due to be available after May 5, 2020 (after this briefing was written).
In addition to the measures to mitigate the economic impacts, which were announced by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Czech government passed Minister of Culture Lubomír Zaorálek’s set of measures to assist culture on April 9. The total amount assigned to this programme is 1,07 billion CZK.
Dancers and Austerity of Movement
During the period of Covid-19 lockdown, the majority of dancers, across all genres and styles, have been training at home in spaces of just a few square metres. Many of them have been posting their daily training regimes on social media as a motivation for others, or as lessons for their students.
The internet cannot replace live teacher-student contact, but online lessons help to maintain both community ties and the participants’ conditioning. They also, to some extent, offset the economic difficulties affecting the entire arts sector.
The National Theatre’s ballet company had great success with an online video featuring dancers’ home rehearsals and the streaming of an Easter gala ballet. Many independent venues which specialize in contemporary dance, non-verbal theatre and new circus (such as: dance venue Ponec or Cirk La Putyka) use the virtual space to promote their performances and to keep in contact with their audiences.
Huge support has come from TV Mall in collaboration with the crowd funding platform Donio, which allows spectators to view broadcasts and send their contributions directly to specific artists and companies. Prague’s Councillor for Culture has launched an initiative called Festival NIC 2020 (Festival of Nothing 2020) in collaboration with theatre ticket sales web portal GoOut. The project has the humorous slogan: “Buy a ticket to nothing.”
Theatre on Screen
Czech theatres, like many of their counterparts elsewhere, continue to deliver theatrical experiences to their spectators, albeit remotely. At first, this was through live broadcasts of closed performances. Increasingly, however, it was also been by means of archive recordings of past and recent productions. Some theatres are also offering improvised talk shows, messages from actors and serialised readings.
Last, but not least, as all schools are also closed, theatres are producing educational videos focused on the classics of dramatic literature, such as the National Theatre’s Tahák series.
There are also online workshops, such as those offered by the Cirque on Centre for Contemporary Circus, and other programmes for children and young people produced by puppet theatres. The Chrudim Puppetry Museum is offering online tours in Czech and English, and the National Museum provides a digital access to the exhibition Kindly Enter the Theatre. The PQ Studio of the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space has offered online resources, stories and an educational platform.
Apart from creative activities, Czech theatre artists are highly involved with other volunteer activities. The spontaneous initiative of Zlín City Theatre inspired theatres across the country to engage their costume workshops in the sewing of protective masks required by hospitals, social services and individuals. Spectators may also take part in these activities, but they can also support theatres through donations or by refusing refunds for cancelled events.
*Martina Pecková Černá, PhD. Theatre researcher, translator, cultural manager. Since 2010, Head of the Department of International Cooperation and PR at the Arts and Theatre Institute, Prague.
**Michal Zahálka is a theatre scholar, translator and dramaturg, employed as a book editor at the Arts and Theatre Institute
***Jana Návratová is a theatre scholar, dance writer, journalist, curator and researcher at the Arts and Theatre Institute,Prague