Stage reading of Petr Kolečko’s Poker Face at the Altre Parole festival in Rome

Petr Kolečko, the playwright and now the scriptwriter and film director, offered his original point of view of Czech society after 1989 in his play Poker Face to the Italian audiences on 26 March 2021 at 8 p.m. The stage reading of Kolečko’s play took place at the Altre Parole festival, which took place online due to the coronavirus pandemic this year. The reading was preceded by an interview with the author. The partner of the Czech participation at the festival was the Czech Centre in Rome and the Arts and Theatre Institute, which was associated with the festival back in 2012 when staging Alice Nellis’s The Floods and residencies for Czech translators from the Italian language.

The 15th edition of the theatre festival Altre Parole has staged more than 100 theatre plays from all around the world as stage readings took place online at the Youtube channel of the Roman theatre Argot Studio from 22 to 27 March at 8 p.m. The festival is one of the most important annual gatherings of professionals and theatre audiences who want to learn about the best of international theatre.

Petr Kolečko’s Poker Face is a cynical tragic comedy, with the main heroine being the poker star, millionaire and cynical 40-year-old monster, who used to be a girl with ideas and faith that “good and love must prevail over lies and hatred”. Now she has a 20-year-old daughter with a 14.3% probability that her father is Václav Havel, and she does not know what to do with her. The family’s well-being is disturbed by the fact that the daughter’s boyfriend longs for the mother’s money and the mother herself. The pre-recorded interview preceding the stage reading in Italian featured author Petr Kolečko, Italian researcher specializing in Czech Gaia Seminara, director Marco Belocchi, actress Daniela Poggi, director of Czech Centre Rome Petra Březáčková and the head of the International Cooperation Department and manager of Generation Icons project Martina Pecková Černá. Italian partners and theatre-makers were interested in the social and cultural context of Kolečko’s play, the role of theatre before and after 1989, and the current contemplation on Václav Havel at the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his death.

Petr Kolečko’s Poker Face was written for the European project Generation Icons in (Central) Europe, which was coordinated by the Letí Theatre with GUnaGU Theatre in Bratislava and Wiener Worstaetten in Vienna in 2011-2013. The project was based on the association of theatre, international author, and international director. International cooperation was the basis for texts and coproduction performances. The topic was inspired by the interest in what connects and divides three neighboring countries. The project also featured quantitative research with high school and university students. The outputs of this research were available to the authors Petr Kolečko, Viliam Klimáček, and Bernhard Studlar. The project partner was the Arts and Theatre Institute that published the final three plays as a book and e-book in Czech, German, English, and Spanish translation.

Apart from Petr Kolečko, the festival presented the plays written by the Spanish author Miguel Del Arco or Gur Koren from Israel. On display was as well a theatre poem by Canadian artist Martin Bellemare or a theatre version of Francis Ford Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but also a play by Slovak playwright Viliam Klimáček, which was staged in the Aréna Theatre in Bratislava for the first time.

“My play Operation Romeo – Czechoslovakia, 1984 has been staged in Italy twice already; audiences could see it in three Czech towns, Paris, Orleans, so I hope it will be successful in Rome as well. After the performances, discussions followed and I was surprised at the audience’s interest in everyday life in the totalitarian state, such as former Czechoslovakia. They were probably touched by the story of a persecuted intellectual, who signed the contract of cooperation with the secret police to protect his family. I did not expect such a vivid discussion about our history when the characters were so fragile, but I understood that our totalitarian future and misery became an export commodity surprisingly enough. Export misery… the audiences immediately understood that they did not want to live like that,” said Klimáček.

The festival program in Czech is here:

Program in the Italian language is available here:

You can watch both presentations on the YouTube channel of the Argot Theatre in Rome:

Antonín Brinda a Martina Pecková Černá