Black Light & Musical Theatre


Black-light Theatre as a Stage Genre and its Historical Development


Black-light theatre is based on an optical trick (the black cabinet trick), which takes advantage of the imperfection of the human eye: it cannot distinguish black on black. The trick itself is very simple in practice in the theatre: the audience cannot see an actor dressed in black against a black background. Before our eyes items and props controlled by actors dressed in black become capable of moving on their own. Inanimate objects become the bearers of dramatic action, to the extent that they become equal partners for live actors.
           The basic black cabinet trick is more than ancient. It was invented in China and used to amuse Chinese emperors. It crossed to Japan in the 18th century, where it was used in Japanese bunraku puppet theatre. George MELIÉS used the black-light trick in filming at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. A play with props was performed using an actor dressed in black in the 1950s by avant-garde French puppeteers, of which George LAFAYE, in particular, is regarded as the father of black-light theatre. Last but not least, we should not forget that the trick was employed by some of the greats of the theatre, for example STANISLAVSKIJ in his famous “Blue Bird”.
          To make the black-light trick a sufficient basis for a theatre performance, it had to be raised from an end to a means. The trick’s effect is not the result of a statement, but the starting point for dramatic work. This led to the invention of a new stage language, which became famous all around the world primarily thanks to Czech black-light artists. Since its beginning in the 1980s, the TA  FANTASTIKA Theatre has brought more intensive work with actors and dramatic situations to the poetry of black-light theatre. It is starting to use unique and patented technical tricks, for example actors fly in space before the audience’s eyes, and combinations of large-screen projections with live action and larger-than-life puppets, but we also take advantage of creative elements such as original parts of visual performances, work with music and live singing. All this makes the TA  FANTASTIKA Theatre markedly different from other black-light theatres and has given its performances a perfect artistic symbiosis of all technical and theatre elements. The TA  FANTASTIKA Theatre offers this uniqueness to both promoters and theatre-goers!
 

Owners of TA  FANTASTIKA Private Theatre



Petr Kratochvíl: owner, artistic director and producer.
Date of birth: 23rd July 1951 in Brno. He started as an actor at the prestigious Czech Ypsilon Theatre in Prague and, after emigrating to the USA, worked as the artistic director of the CALDWELL theatre in Florida. He established his own TA FANTASTIKA black-light theatre company in 1980 and travelled the world with it. He has written visual black-light theatre performances. In 1986 he won THE  BEST  CHILDREN’S PLAY award, Young  Audiences Program, Florida, USA. He returned home in 1989 and in 1993 obtained his own theatre building in the historical centre of Prague – the Unitaria Palace, which became the home of TA FANTASTIKA PRAHA Theatre.


Lucie BÍLÁ: singer, actress, producer.
Date of birth: 7th April 1966. She has been the most popular singer and musical star in the Czech Republic for a number of years. Starting out in music in 1986, she first sung in rock bands, then in successful musical projects such as Les Miserables, Dracula, the Pied Piper, the Garden of Earthly Delights and Excalibur. She also worked in classical music as a part of the 1998 Prague Spring International Music Festival. She has recorded six solo albums and contributed to another ten, she has played the lead in nine films, has won a Grammy as the best female singer of the year in the Czech Republic three times, the Music Academy award three times, the Golden Nightingale for the most popular female singer seven times and the Tý - tý award for the most popular artist in the Czech Republic.
In 2000 she won the Thálie award for her performance in the title role in the musical Joan of Arc.
In addition to her work as an artist, she works intensively and regularly for charities focusing on handicapped children.
 

The Foundation of Ta Fantastika Theatre and its Repertoire


A few steps after completing a fascinating walk over Charles’ Bridge, you find yourself in the picturesque Karlova Street, which is the main artery of the Royal Way and links Malá Strana and the Old Town Square. Halfway down Karlova Street, in the UNITARIA Palace is one of the biggest cultural tourist attractions – the world-famous black-light TA  FANTASTIKA PRAHA Theatre.
The company was founded in 1980 in the United States, to which founder Petr Kratochvíl had emigrated from the former Czechoslovakia. After the revolution in 1989, Petr Kratochvíl returned home, where in 1993 he obtained the UNITARIA Palace in the historical centre of Prague and turned it into the home of TA FANTASTIKA Theatre.
The new theatre immediately made a name for itself both in the Czech Republic and abroad and in the last few years it has toured in more than thirty countries across three continents. In contrast to other black-light theatres, the repertoire is made up of large, classical performances based on novels, such as “Don Quixote”, “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Little Prince”, as well as original plays such as “Magic Fantasy”, “Dream” and “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. All these performances by our theatre are, however, nonverbal. The only language is movement, music, black-light and mechanical effects, puppets and, in particular, large-screen projections, which communicate with the actors. A visual, creative world, space for fantasy, the poetry of the magic lantern – all of these come together to make up the world of the TA  FANTASTIKA Theatre. Thanks to these approaches, which are comprehensible by all and which break down language barriers, our performances are successful and popular throughout the world. “Aspects  of Alice”, which has been running for an unbelievable 15 years, has been performed more than 4,000 times throughout the world. Our newest show, the “Little Prince”, and the following Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” have the same high ambitions.
 

Current Repertoire of Ta  Fantastika Theatre



“ASPECTS  OF  ALICE”


A classic black-light theatre performance based on “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. A performance whose imagination, poetry and perfect technical effects have been admired by audiences in more than thirty countries across three continents. It is not an exact stage copy of the book, but begins when Alice stops being a little girl. On the stage, with the help of your imagination, the author enables Alice to go through all the beautiful and sweet stages of growing up, first loves, awakening to adulthood, gathering experience, laughter and tears, happiness and sadness. All against the backdrop of old Prague, its architectural jewels, its rich history and also its role as a crossroads of Christian and Jewish culture.
Before your eyes you will see the Cathedral of Saint Vitus come to life, as it was under Charles IV, you will pass through the mysterious environment of the Jewish cemetery in the Old Town and you will later taste the freedom returned to a country in the heart of Europe, to the accompaniment of Smetana’s wonderful music.
           The creative design, the large-screen projections, the animated film produced specially for this performance, the puppets, the unique stage tricks and black-light effects, the wonderful contemporary music by Petr Hapka, the classical music from the My Country symphony by Bedřich Smetana and the Slavonic Dances by Antonín Dvořák and your imagination – all this comes together to bring about the resulting theatre experience, which cannot be seen in any other theatre.
 

“LITTLE PRINCE”


This black-light performance by the Ta Fantastika Prague Theatre is based on one of the most famous works of modern world literature – Antoine de Exupéry’s “Little Prince”. The Little Prince comes to our planet from a mysterious place in the universe, to meet the author of our story somewhere in the desert and reveal the secret of his remarkable life’s journey to him. It is a metaphorical story of love, responsibility, attitudes to life and interpersonal relationships. Meeting the Little Prince is actually like meeting the better part of ourselves, the good that is in each of us. The wonderful original music by Michal Pavlíček, one of the most outstanding contemporary Czech composers, the costumes and production by Richard Maška and the impressive filmed sections, together with black-light and magic lantern effects, will give each of you a unique and unforgettable cultural experience.  
 


“OLD PRAGUE LEGENDS – FRANZ KAFKA IN GOLDEN PRAGUE”


The life of Franz Kafka took place in the unbelievably small space of Prague’s Old Town, whose spirit greatly influenced him. This performance uses black-light effects to visualise the mental world of the world-famous writer, the numerous events of his life, the atmosphere of the period and the cultural influences that affected his mental state.
Franz Kafka is a lone walker who tries to get from the Old Town, embodying everything that is dragging him down, to Prague Castle, symbolising the castle in the clouds of his dreams. He therefore tries to cross Charles’ Bridge, which links the two banks of the Vltava: the bank of reality and the bank of the impossible. He walks against the tide, in which modern visitors to Prague mix with historical figures, Kafka’s contemporaries and the heroes of Prague legends which fed Kafka’s imagination. The people he meets return him to the past. He experiences his fate and wages a constant battle with the other people. Later, tired by this hopeless contest with the current of people, the walker falls to the ground. However, the metamorphoses around him continue. All this takes place against a fantasy rendering of the magic of black-light theatre, without words, only with the help of magnificent music, the magic lantern, large-screen projections and black-light effects.
 
   

Past Repertoire of Ta FANTASTIKA Theatre – History




“GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS”


Visual, artistic theatre based on the paintings by Hieronymus BOSCH.
The situation in which the human race has found itself over the centuries: today, during the Thirty Years’ War, under fascist and communist dictatorship – love, anxiety, hope, sensuality, eroticism, happiness and terror – all this is reflected in the paintings by the ingeniously farsighted Dutch painter Hieronymus BOSCH (around 1450 – 1516).
This is not expressed only by his paintings – his life is also a remarkable metaphor for human fate in the world. We know he married a rich woman to obtain economic independence and the opportunity to work freely. We also know that in the end his wife ran off to join the Adamites and that he remained alone, experiencing the images of his paintings. At the end of his life, tired and alone, he regularly met a nun in a convent...
Our story is based on these facts – it is a story of destructive foresight, a split personality, the Calvary of a creative man in the middle of the world, a story inspired by Bosch’s triptych PARADISE – THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS – APOCALYPSE.
The means that are used in this performance are primarily the naked human body, song, music and artistic, moving pictures. For a moment we leave the language of black velvet and luminescent lights, because the aim of this performance is not an illusion or an excellent optical effect. We want to put a picture in motion, to breathe life into the fantastic and transcendental art of Hieronymus Bosch and give a new dimension to his large triptych, which hangs in the Prado Gallery in Madrid.
The design by leading Czech painter Josef Jíra, the music by Ondřej Soukup, which marries the madrigals of Monteverdi with excerpts from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, projections of the painter’s internal world contrasting with his surroundings – all of this and the concluding Pieta almost dazzles the senses, but also presents the “eternal comedy of life, which is passing.”
 

“DON  QUIXOTE”


The extraordinary adventures of the legendary Don Quixote, the sad knight, and his servant Sancho Panza, this time on a journey to the last entrance “to the planet Venus”.
A romantic tragicomedy about the most famous hardships of the incorrigible dreamer, constantly driven by his inner desire to search for a distant star.
The unique techniques of the TA FANTASTIKA Theatre are mixed with attractive comedy, black-light theatre, visual effects, projections, sound, light, music and dance. They offer the opportunity to break the bounds of reality and take the audience to the imaginary world of Don Quixote – a world of dreams, fantasy and the ideals of honour and pride. It is a celebration of mental indomitableness and the ability to hang on to ideals despite repeated battles with “windmills”. A time without scruples, without respect, creating violence, produces its own new heroes who attack the audience with their aggressive illusions and win admiration. Is there any room left for the aging, laughable, old-fashioned Don Quixotes, Baron Münchhaussens, Casanovas and so on?
Old man Quixote, discarded with distaste, feels he his no longer needed and thinks that he has been losing his mythical life as the centuries passed. But the animal stubbornness of Sancho Panza frees Don Quixote from his melancholy thoughts and gives him a new strength. At this moment there is a new reason to live, to fight for something, to dream of something, to convince someone.
The world still needs Don Quixote and people infected by the “virus” of fantasy, love and the undying battle against “windmills”.
Absolutely everybody has their dream, their Dulcinea...!


“MAGIC  FANTASY”


A black-light surrealist circus, the fantasy and playfulness of which breaks down the greyness of everyday life. Artistic fireworks, in contrast with minimalist acted etudes, create a theatrical mosaic of skills, effects and scenes. By getting the audience involved, the performance becomes interactive and enables alterations to the course of the performance.
 
Other Activities of the Ta Fantastika Theatre

Musicals:


In addition to black-light theatre, Ta Fantastika also produces original musicals, which are written by leading pop and rock composers and performed by leading pop and rock signers. Three musicals have been premiered here: the Pied Piper (1996 – 1999, 600 performances), Joan of Arc (2000 – 2003, 850 performances), Excalibur (2003 – still in the repertoire).


THE PIED PIPER


The Pied Piper! A symbol of rage and vengeance. In our story, however, these two terms are a consequence of the Pied Piper’s love of Agnes.
In the old legends about the Pied Piper and in Dyke’s version, the main mechanisms are set in motion by the town population’s behaviour towards the Pied Piper. Last but not least, the main motive for the Pied Piper’s rage is money, when he does not get paid for the work he does.
It is a little different in our story. Events are determined primarily by the Pied Piper’s love of Agnes. The Pied Piper does not get paid, but to our way of thinking this is too weak a reason to release the hatred he displays.
The fact that the mayor, who is Agnes’ father, insults the Pied Piper and drives him from his house fills the Pied Piper with one desire – for revenge.
The Pied Piper immediately, systematically and with extraordinary cynicism removes all the barriers standing between him and Agnes. This, quite logically, results in a tragedy of massive proportions. This is a very brief outline of our Pied Piper. We’ll let you be surprised by the details and we hope that there will be plenty of surprises. We were provoked to put the Pied Piper on by circumstances which affect us in our everyday life. If talking about certain things is forbidden, tension can mount – and the audience will have the opportunity to see how high. In the same way, human behaviour towards the environment may be punished in the future and this is reflected on the stage through the character of Fate. His theories about a balance between the human race and Mother Earth are often somewhat cynical, but this makes them all the more true, which each of us realises, whether he likes it or not. The aim is therefore to entertain and to warn, because we cannot do anything else.
 

JOAN OF ARC


All the participating artists and interpreters based their actions on one of the key elements of human history – the need to have heroes, myths, symbols and to use them as need be in every situation. The current condition of society and the human race, as well as the “nature of the time” we live in is pulping all spiritual ideals down into something to sell! We sell and trade in absolutely everything: our heroes, saints, reliquaries, hopes, myths, legends, the torsos of remains and false trinkets passed off as holy relics. We trade in human feelings to sell goods. We elicit human compassion to make money. We emphasise our national pride to increase takings in our shops. We appeal to man’s faith to then exploit not his spirit, but his wallet. We all do it, using our joint strength. We need our Christ on the cross, so that we can make money out of our holy relics. We need our Joan of Arc to stay on her pyre, to keep sales of souvenirs high. Only the dead serve us well, get sales going full throttle. This is one of the aspects of our performance and, well, it’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what we’re like, that’s what the time is like!

Excalibur


A grandiose musical of love and betrayal, wrong and forgiveness. The noble King Arthur swears to protect truth and love from lies and hate under all circumstances – and then does not know what to do when he is betrayed by his most faithful friend. The beautiful Guinevere loves – and betrays him. Lancelot would not hesitate to die for his king – but then meets Guinevere. The good wizard Merlin first gives humankind a magic sword – and then bitterly regrets it. The evil witch Morgana first cannot do anything – and then can do almost everything she wills. Adders, bats, jewels, riders on white horses, chalices full of ruby-red blood, the greatest love and the most despicable betrayal, wolves transforming themselves into beautiful women, the night, the radiance, dreams and a curse – that is Excalibur.
One of the greatest stories ever told.
 

CHARITY


The TA FANTASTIKA Theatre is a meeting place for not only tourists and musical-goers, but also for our handicapped fellow citizens, thanks to wheelchair access to the theatre, which enables the wheelchair-bound and their helpers to come to our performances regularly and, obviously, free of charge. Over a thousand of them come here each season! Regularly and naturally.
A few years ago these regular meetings gave birth to the idea to help our handicapped friends in another way.
And so our leading sportsmen started to travel to the Paralympics, world and European championships in the luxury TA FANTASTIKA bus. We helped them and the handicapped sportsmen brought back a bus full medals.
Further contact between the theatre and the handicapped, this time mentally handicapped children, did not take long. Thanks to co-owner Lucie Bílá and our theatre, we started to work with OÁZA; we don’t just help it out financially, but the theatre and Lucie Bílá work with the handicapped children. The highpoint of the activities was definitely the Evening of Czech Stars, when all of them got together on the television screen before an amazed public. Lucie Bílá sang, the children from OÁZA danced and that evening TA FANTASTIKA Theatre belonged to those who try to give charity another, human dimension, who want to elevate helping thy neighbour into mutually enriching co-operation between us all.
The aforementioned Evening of Czech Stars at the TA FANTASTIKA Theatre was part of a series of regular concerts by Lucie Bílá broadcast by TV NOVA under the name “Lucie na bílo”.
In this series, once every three months our first lady of pop music welcomes television viewers from the TA  FANTASTIKA Theatre.
The proceeds from both performances which are filmed for TV then go to specific charity purposes. The theatre is presented to the wider television audience as a source of entertainment, but also as a place and institution where the needy can be helped. Have fun, but don’t remain indifferent!
 
In addition, the TA FANTASTIKA Theatre has a long tradition of charity work. Our theatre has always been ready to help both individuals (the operation for Nikola Drgová, money for OÁZA and others) and groups of people who needed our solidarity at one time or another (concerts for people affected by the floods, performances for NADĚJE – modernisation of a children’s home in Otrokovice, building a senior citizens’ retirement home, etc.). Our sole motto always was: help a specific entity efficiently where it is needed. And we have always kept to this!
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The TA FANTASTIKA Theatre also uses its attractive space in the very heart of Prague, on the Royal Way, in Karlova Street to present artistic activities of another type, not just theatre performances.
Since its opening (in 1993) the theatre’s foyer has housed exhibitions of work by leading painters, photographers and other creative artists. The audience has the opportunity to view interesting paintings and photographs and artists have the opportunity to present their work to the almost a quarter of a million people who come to our theatre every year. Very few galleries in the Czech Republic have that many visitors!
While we are on the subject of the gallery – the TA FANTASTIKA Theatre has excellent underground space in the UNITARIA Palace.
This newly fitted space is partly used as the ART CLUB Lucie Bílá, a small theatre hall for 100 people, with a small stage, backstage area and sound booth, which can be used both for small theatre and musical performances and as a presentation room for clients and employees of companies in various businesses. The pleasant, homely environment is equipped with top-quality DIGITAL PROJECTION equipment, which enables workshops, video presentations and various social and business events to be held here.
 

World Festivals and Tours Made by TA  FANTASTIKA Theatre from its Foundation until 2003:

1980 - 81        Première in New York City, USA

1982    USA - Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska,    
                    Indiana, Pennsylvania
        Venezuela - Caracas, Maracai, Maracaibo
        Europe - France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco,
                   Switzerland
        France - Sigma Festival, Bordeaux

1983    USA - New York, Pennsylvania
                   Annenberg International Theatre Festival,
                   Philadelphia, Pa.

1984    USA - Florida base established
                   International Puppetry Festival, California

1985    USA - New York, Florida, North Carolina
        Germany - International Theatre Festival, Freiburg

1986    USA - New York, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania
        Spain - Madrid
        Taiwan - Taipei, Tainan, Kaohsiung
        Italy - International Theatre Festival, Arezo
        Jordan - International Theatre Festival, Jarash
        Hong Kong - International Theatre Festival

1987    USA - Florida, Texas, Connecticut, North Carolina
        Canada - Montreal

1988    USA - Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina,
                           Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia
        Italy - Turin, Rome, Verona, Florence, Palermo
        Canada - Montreal
        Indonesia - Jakarta
        Hong Kong
        Taiwan
        Singapore - International Theatre Festival, Singapore
        Austria - International Theatre Festival, Innsbruck

1989    USA - Florida, New York
        Italy - Rome, Milan
        India - Bombay, New Delhi, Calcutta
        Taiwan
        Hong Kong
        Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur

1990    France - Paris
        Spain - Madrid, San Sebastian, Bilbao
        Portugal - International Theatre Festival, Lisbon

1991    Italy - Rome, Milan, Bologna, Cagliari, Udine
        Belgium - Brussels
        Taiwan - Taipei, Taichung,
        France - International Theatre Festival, Cannes
        Germany - Sisinger Summer Festival, Bad Kissingen
        Portugal - Lisbon, Porto
        Spain
        San Marino

1992    France - Rouane
        Italy - Milan
        Spain - Madrid
        Portugal – Lisbon, Porto
        Germany - Karlsruhe
        Taiwan

1993    Germany
        Italy
        Spain

1994    Germany
        Belgium
        Luxembourg
        Spain

1995    Japan - Tokyo, Yokohama
        France - Bordeaux, Dijon
        Germany
        Spain

1996    Italy - Rome
        Germany
        San Marino

1997    Greece - Thessalonica, Athens
        Switzerland - Lausanne
        Italy - Rome
        Spain
        Germany

1998    Spain
        Italy
        Greece
        Belgium

1999        Greece
                Gran Canaria
                  Spain
        Sicily
        Portugal
        Luxembourg
        Belgium

2000        Italy
            France
        Belgium

2001    Italy
        France

2002        Italy
        France
        Spain

2003        Italy
        Greece
        Spain