Publication details

A Constant Struggle for Freedom : Edward Albee in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic



Year of publication 2023
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Czech productions of Edward Albee’s dramas have been a drama in themselves, revealingly aligned with crucial phases in the country’s political history. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was first staged in Czechoslovakia in 1963, coinciding with the author’s visit to the country during rehearsals. Albee’s instant popularity among audiences ran parallel to an intense critical dispute over the nature of his writing. While one group of critics argued that the play was realist and critical of American values and thus prevented potential censorship, another welcomed Albee as a representative of the fresh, young, and progressive absurdist strain of theater reflecting a general thawing of the Communist regime in the country at the time. A second phase in Albee’s reception began with the Czech production of A Delicate Balance in 1969. That play, understood as a commentary on the 1968 Soviet invasion that effectively ended the Prague Spring, marked Albee as a problematic author for Czechoslovak censorship, a stigma that lasted until the end of the Communist regime in 1989. In the phase unfolding since then, Czech productions of Albee have seen continuous struggles over interpretation. The Czech “director’s theater” staging tradition led to a disregard of stage directions, prescribed scenography, and actors’ ages, thus shifting the plays’ message significantly. Through case studies of several landmark productions in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, this chapter presents a history of Czech Albee productions and criticism as a constant struggle for freedom of various kinds: of interpretation, speech, and artistic expression.
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