Master of Fine Arts Jiří Srnec

* 1931  

  • “As I said, my brother Jan didn’t just take in interest in democracy at the Libeň grammar school, he actually founded the Democratic Club there before Communism took over the country. And they kept it secret right until 1989. And in this fellowship we have members all over the world. Now this will sound a bit conceited - I am number 13 in the club. I know that when we had meetings and we thought about democracy, say, then already back then I could clearly see the difference between democracy and democratism. I still have a feeling of endless searching in that... What is the crux, because I myself am of that train of thought that the majority cannot have the truth. If you understand me, the results of some elections are catastrophic because suddenly it’s decided that they’ll be for the people for the first time. And here we have it.”

  • “I’ll say one more thing. When State Security searched for gold there using metal detectors. I would always help Mr Sýkora with this and that at the cottage, and because there wasn’t a toilet there, it was this shack in the garden with a big metal container beneath it; I think that the Americans brought it after the war. And that was changed and dug into the ground. And that’s the joke with the stetsecs [State Security officers - transl.], or if it was some special unit for arresting jewellers. They could really put that in a film and people would laugh at it. We dug the human remains [meaning faeces - transl.] under the cherry tree. Mr Sýkora said that when it rusted, it would slowly fertilise the tree, which would bear better cherries. And then State Security came along with its metal detector, and they started cheering. I knew what was there. They started digging, and they fell through. And that was all contrasted with the fact that I had to sleep in one bed with one of the stetsecs. And the dunce forgot his pistol, his revolver, under the pillow. So I took the revolver, I picked it up like this and said: ‘Sir, you left your revolver under the pillow.’ He told me to drop it. I replied I didn’t want to damage it, so I threw it on to the grass. I was worried he might shoot if he thought I was being tricky. There was a certain horror in the experience because they knocked all of Mr Sýkora’s teeth out with a coal shovel.”

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    Praha, 14.10.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 02:06:08
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    Praha, 14.10.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 02:03:36
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Searching for the fateful vertical

30578-photo.jpg (historic)
Master of Fine Arts Jiří Srnec
photo: Post Bellum

Jiří Srnec was born on 29 August 1931 in Žalov, as the youngest of three brothers. His father was a mechanic who sold steam-powered farming machines, but at the outbreak of the economic crisis the family moved to Prague. During the war his father worked as a tram driver, later as a conductor at the Prague Transport Company. The witness’ had a happy childhood surrounded by the diverse hobbies of both his parents and his brothers. After completing Masaryk Primary School and one-year vocational training, shortly before the Communist coup in 1948, he was accepted to study at the State Vocational School of Graphics. Upon graduating he studied the piano at the State Conservatoire in Prague, later at its department of folk instruments. By that time he was also writing his own music and taking private lessons in composition. The last phase of his studies took him to the department of puppet theatre at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. While in his last year of university he began working with the “black cabinet” technique, and he later founded his own theatre troupe, which developed this art form. He wrote his own scripts, created his own scenography and music, and also performed in his plays. The management of the new troupe was taken up by Jiří Vyskočil (from Theatre on the Balustrade), who succeeded in getting it into the Edinburgh festival in Scotland in 1962, thus kick-starting the global renown of the newly established Black Light Theatre Srnec. Its most famous productions include Pruhovaný sen (Striped Dream), Legendy staré matky Prahy (Legends of Old Mother Prague), Alice v říši zázraků (Alice in Wonderland), Peter Pan, Labyrint (The Labyrinth), Týden snů (A Week of Dreams), Bílý pierot v černém (White Pierrot in Black). He has worked with Semaphore Theatre, Laterna magika, Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre, and the Munich Opera. In the early 1990s he established and led the Imaginativ Praha ensemble, and in 2011 he was awarded a Medal of Merit by the president of the Czech Republic.