Credit: National Theatre of Brno

Feminista by Marek Šindelka Will Premier At The Reduta Theater

Feminista encompasses all the points of views of the characters in an university environment where the abuse of power is prominent. Photo credit: Brno National Theatre.

The new play “Feminista” (The Feminist) by Marek Šindelka, two-time winner of the Magnesia Litera award and the Czech Lion for best screenplay, will have its world premiere at Brno’s Reduta Theater on Friday 17 February. The play, which will be staged in Czech, is themed around abuse of power in the university environment, an issue which is shaking up universities today.

The play focuses on university teacher, Vladimír, who gets drunk at a school party and jokes inappropriately at the expense of female students, triggering the creation of a student movement that opens up the topic of discrimination and abuse of power by educators. The initially conciliatory attitude of the school management soon changes, the attitudes of the students are uncompromising, and long-hidden events come to the surface.

The production is premiering at a time when the topic of abuse of power in schools is again resonating strongly. Cases of offering credits in exchange for sex at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University or harassment by pedagogues at the Faculty of Education of Masaryk University are once again filling the media space and demanding a discussion of this problem. The issue previously entered the social consciousness in 2021, when the initiative Ne!musíš to vydržet (You don’t have to put up with it) was created at Prague’s Faculty of Theatre (DAMU).

“Marek Šindelka and I worked on the play for almost three years – back then, the topic of protests and trials at universities was not as explosive as it is today. But we knew from the beginning that it was a fundamental topic that would become more and more important for Czech society,” said the play’s dramaturg Jaroslav Jurečka. The play includes all of the voices participating in the debate today: predators, victims, educators, students, disinterested observers and silent supporters.

“The problem of abuse of power and the debate about it is not black and white and there are not only bad and only good people, but there are situations in which each of us can make bad decisions,” said director Aminata Keita. “I am not looking for culprits in the production, I want to show the audience a picture of how situations arise in which we commit violence against other (weaker and dependent) people. And that we all have the opportunity to decide where we want to belong in such a situation.”

Keita is an established director on the stages of the Brno National Theatre; the divine comedy Amfitryon, which she directed last season, is among the company’s most visited drama productions. The director is well aware that the controversial theme of the play will probably arouse heated reactions, as there are probably no viewers who have not encountered abuse of power in some form. 

“Insults, attacks, harassment and violence at work, in schools, in hospitals are often considered normal and tolerated,” she added. “This is because the confrontation and subsequent reflection of what has been experienced is a sensitive and painful experience even for those who participate in such a situation only as observers. We prefer to pass over such behaviour; we internally condemn it, but we do not publicly stand up for our feelings. This is how conformity arises, which in this case of a social problem makes us all accomplices.”

The societal discussion about the abuse of power also took place among the actors, and a passionate discussion was sparked at the very first readings of Feminista. “I have never experienced a more stormy and contradictory reaction to a text than with Feminista,” said Keita. “This is great because abuse of power definitely needs to be talked about, talked about loudly and with everyone. If we were all in agreement, it would probably make no sense to stage such a play at all.”

The stage and costumes were designed by Ján Tereba. Together with the author of the video projections, Rebeka Kopkáš Uličná, he created an authentic environment for the Department of Documentary Production. The environment of an art college is chosen on purpose, because the relationships between students and teachers in such a small department are more personal, and abuse of power by teachers may not be so blatant. 

The author Marek Šindelka himself studied at the Film and TV School Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). “Of course, one remembers some situations when pedagogues behaved at least strangely, when it was over the line. Abuse of the position of an educator is something you will encounter at this school.”

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