Menstruation, sexuality, contraception. The Ostrava production Two dashes offers total theater of the highest quality

On Wednesday, the premiere of the Two Dashes project took place on the alternative stage of the Ostrava Puppet Theater (DLO), which is also the name of the production based on the text of the play by the new playwright of the Puppet Theater, Tereza Agelová. The performance deals with female sexuality. Openly, without the slightest shyness and at the same time very tastefully.

The Ostrava production of Two Dashes was directed and dramaturged by Tereza Agelová and produced by Petra Hlaváčková. Scenographic cooperation was provided by Tomáš Volkmer, Petr Dvorský and Vojtěch Šmíd, the music was composed by Vojtěch Lukáš.

The work is not included in the theater’s official program, because at the moment it is a de facto foreign project, connected to the Ostrava puppet scene only by the person of Tereza Agelová under the banner of the Jednu association. She herself and the two actresses who appear in it, as well as some members of the production team, started working on it several years ago. Now, thanks to the hospitality of the management of the Puppet Theater, they have been able to use the space of the alternative stage for rehearsals and the premiere. That it was a happy decision, for which the theater director Jarmila Hájková and the artistic director Václav Klemens were publicly thanked by the creative community even after the premiere, is more than obvious given the result achieved.

The text won second place in the competition for the Evald Schorm Prize in 2018. The Evald Schorm Prize is awarded annually for the best original play, dramatization or translation of a play (not yet translated into Czech). It is intended for students of DAMU, JAMU, FFUK, FFMU, FPF and FFUP. In the same year, Tereza Agelová, together with her colleague from JAMU in Brno, Mariá Mlatečková, as co-authors, became the winners of the entire competition with the text of the play called asi.milováni.

According to the annotation on the Dilia agency server, Two Dashes is a chamber play for two actresses. The work thematizes concerns about pregnancy and coming to terms with emerging sexuality. It maps the feelings and states of the two main female characters in that strange period between puberty and the onset of adulthood. It is a period full of confusion, searching for ways, misunderstanding, (self)destruction, asking questions and redefining the world, because the optics of the children’s world are no longer valid and the optics of the adult world are not yet valid.

The performance lasts approximately one hour without intermission. A scenic language which Tereza Agelová as the director and dramaturg of the production she chose, is very contemporary. The director demands a very dynamic performance from both representatives of many characters. Both actresses often quickly transform from grown women into very young children, only to immediately embody pubescent girls, even in dialogue with their mothers.

Although the audience often smiles with amusement or laughs loudly during the performance, there are moments when the amusement turns into deeper reflection. This happens in the moments when an upset or even angry mother suddenly shouts at her child in front of the viewer or when words about the risks of its use are heard after a humorous scene about hormonal contraception.

They act in the roles of two women Karolina Hýsková and Anna Bangoura. What they perform can without any exaggeration be described as an acting performance of the highest quality. At the beginning, two young women are reorganizing in the waiting room of a gynecology clinic, but soon they begin to move in the figurative sense of the word in space and time. One moment they’re girls getting their first menstrual bleeding during ninth grade class, the next they’re mothers overburdened with motherly duties. Immediately they speak into the microphones in the disinterested voice of statisticians or the grotesque speech of doctors promoting various types of contraception. They move around the stage in all possible ways, using elements of movement theater and scenic modern expressive dance. Everything is accompanied almost continuously by very rhythmic music.

From the left, Anna Bangoura and Karolína Hýsková. (Photo: Tomáš Rossi)

Both play with great commitment. It is quite obviously their personal issue. The stage performance of both is a showcase of a wide range of acting means of expression. The speech is very varied: ordinary speech alternates with rhythmic recitation and singing in the rhythm of rap, immediately followed by a pure drama dramatic monologue and dialogue, or even two monologues intermingling with each other. Ordinary civil speech alternates in a sharp cut with stylized spoken passages, in which there is no lack of clear irony or absolutely precise expressions of anger, joy, fear, surprise, irritation and even rage.

Of course, puppetry is present, both the traditional play with the puppet and the dialogue between the puppeteer and the puppet itself, the dialogues between the two puppets, who are brought out in bright red with big eyes to represent menstruation as such. With a simple and quick costume adjustment, the performers become puppets representing female hormonal contraception. And of course the puppets speak not only to the audience, but also to each other, there is a dialogue between the puppet and the actor. Comedy and comedy are always present. Simply total theater containing almost all stage genres you can think of, including improvisation directly among the audience in the auditorium. The entire production is conducted at a sharp pace and distinct rhythm from the beginning to the end.

Ostensibly, the play is about women’s issues. But boys, young men and married gentlemen younger or older sitting in the audience can think about how well they know all the problems that their first and lifelong loves and the mothers of their children solve not only for one week every calendar month, but also every day. “And that, please, for up to forty years!”, as the protagonists say during the performance.

The performance has a strong potential to appeal to girls and boys from the ninth grade of elementary schools, the first and second years of secondary schools and colleges, not only through its extremely current topic, but mainly thanks to the very engaging and extremely entertaining theater that it offers from start to finish. However, it is a source of information and very good entertainment not only for teenagers, but also for older generations, including the middle generation. It opens up a taboo subject in a way that contains a high dose of humorous insight. He discusses very intimate issues quite openly and at the same time very tastefully and respectfully.

However, two commas are not only about the fact that talking about things like menstruation can be talked about openly and without the slightest signs of shame and shyness. The game also has a much deeper theme: the current pharmaceutical industry and the impact of pharmaceutical products (medicines and preventatives, including hormonal contraception) on the environment of planet Earth and on human health. And last but not least, the issue of parenthood and declining fertility and birth rate are discussed here.

Tereza Agelová during a conversation with the audience after the premiere. (Photo: T. Rossi)

In a conversation between the production team and the audience, which followed a short break immediately after the end of Wednesday’s performance, they revealed Tereza Agelová, Anna Bangoura and Karolina Hýsková a lot about the genesis of the production and what they experienced during its staging. They also spoke quite honestly about what they experience during the performance. Immediately, a very lively debate started between the audience and the performers, and many talked about the necessity of playing Two Dashes, especially for school youth.

Then when the promise was made that the current management of the Puppet Theater would not oppose the adoption of Two Dashes into their program and reenactments for schools, on the contrary, everyone welcomed it with great joy.


The article is in Czech

Tags: Menstruation sexuality contraception Ostrava production dashes offers total theater highest quality

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