We are a theatre where young actors and authors with Down syndrome meet with professional actors without a disability. In this connection (and dialogue), we see a chance for the creation of professional productions with distinctive theatrical poetics.
We believe that people with Down syndrome have a unique understanding of the world as well as specific performative abilities.
The theatre was founded in 2008 and, in 2014, it established itself as a theatre of actors with Down syndrome.
We do not have our own venue. In Brno, we perform in the Barka Theatre and the Leitner Club. We perform at festivals. We organize workshops for schools, which help the students to grasp the idea of the stage creation, and also enable them to become closer with people with Otherness.
We collaborate with the Theatre Faculty of Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno on various research projects and reflect our work in the form of artistic research. We strive to establish a fully professional theatre (both operationally and artistically), drawing inspiration from similar groups abroad.
Even though we did not work with the actors with Down syndrome at the beginning, we shared one thing:
- We wanted to do theatre differently!
- We wanted to look for advantages in disadvantages, opportunities in disabilities!
- We were open to challenges and adventures!
I WANT TO KNOW HOW THE COLLABORATION WITH ACTORS WITH DOWN SYNDROME STARTED (the year 2014 and later)
THE COLLABORATION WITH ACTORS WITH DOWN SYNDROME
In 2013, the director and Divadlo Aldente’s founder Jitka Vrbková gave birth to a daughter with Down syndrome. It was not clear how demanding the care for such a child will be. Many feared that it would be the end of the theatre. They did not anticipate that it was only the beginning – the beginning of the actor-specific dramaturgical line.
The term actor-specific is our own term, based on the principle of site-specific: site-specific renounces the theatrical space and looks for untheatrical space, which, even though not meeting certain standards, offers a number of additional possibilities – especially a specific atmosphere. In a similar manner, actor-specific theatre is based on the unexpected abilities of the actors with Otherness. The theatre wants to be inspired by these abilities and share the actors’ unique understanding of the world with the audience.
Half a year later, the first production with actors with Down syndrome was staged: Maminko, jsi důležitá jak šraňky v tunelu! (Mommy, you are as important as boom barriers in a tunnel!). The production featured ten-year-old children with Down syndrome and students of the Theatre Faculty of JAMU in Brno.
The title originates in the short-story collection by Denisa Střihavková, an author with Down syndrome. In one of the stories, a dad wants to find himself a mum, measuring her qualities by inquiring whether she is as important as the boom barriers in a tunnel. This story was the inspiration for the theatrical production.
We still collaborate with some of the original actors. The child actors became teenagers and adults. We have regular acting training, perform more and more often, and the actors with Down syndrome are becoming professional. Our actor Milan Kosmák says: “I don’t like amateurs. I am a professional because…
…I am a professional because I take theatre seriously. Not only as entertainment. It is my mission.”
In the beginning, we have preferred the authorial work, leaving enough room for improvisation during the performance. As time goes by, we gradually adopt a regular dramaturgy, i.e., staging selected texts including the classical drama.
THE BEGINNINGS OF ALDENTE (years 2008 – 2014)
It is September 2008, and under the towers of the “Petrov” cathedral, a group of students of JAMU, DAMU and theatre studies at the MU meet to rehearse the impossible.
Such possibility was found in the prayer of Rosary: thirty-three times repeated Hail Mary seemed to be the real challenge. Using additional texts (Song of Songs, Book of Job), a production named A Song for the Virgin was created. It was an open-air performance performed under the arches of St. Peter and St. Paul church. One time, it was even performed during a storm. Some spectators still remember how lightning emerged above the statue of the Virgin Mary.
Poetry, movement, visual imagery, live music. That is how one could characterize the productions of the early years. They call it synthetic theatre.
For instance, the production Pelech (Nest) by Lenka Lagronová was created in this way.
It is definitely not anything artificial!
On the contrary: all theatrical elements become equal, spoken word, logos, does not stand above the remaining elements. The message of the production stems from the combination of all these elements. It is theatre, which wants to be perceived with all senses.
We confess that we have not always been faithful to dramatic texts and went philandering with poetry. What often happened was that we were unable to stay contained in space intended for theatre and have often expanded outside.
For example, to the children’s playground on Kraví hora, where we performed bloody Roman tragedy Octavia, bohové nejsou! (Octavia, there are no gods!).
…the rehearsal, when we found a homeless man, lying on our stage (i.e., the children’s castle). We thank him for always (despite his numerous insults) vacating the place for our rehearsal.
And the special snow-machine and ice-rain-machine, that we have used (completely free of charge!) during the closing night were also worth it!
Until 2014, we have staged approximately twenty productions. Majority of these have been influenced by poetry or were conceived as site-specific performances. We resembled a train where someone had suddenly pulled the emergency brake. We cancelled the planned projects and gave back the received funding.
But it wasn’t an end; it rather was a restart.