Dalibor Petru was a relatively unknown Czech dissident writer from the 60s and early 70s. Like many Czech artists he was forced underground after the Soviet invasion in 1968. Petru wrote 19 plays during the period but they were lost until discovered by his daughter in the attic of a family cottage in the small village of Bzi in 2006. Petru worked for the Minister of Culture in the 60s but lost his job and was relocated to Chumatov 100 kilometers from Prague where he worked as a zookeeper. None of his plays have been produced in English until The Play, Samizdat Shabbas, and Two Companion Pieces on the Theme of Invasion were produced by Paul and Ian’s One-Man Show. It has been mentioned that Vaclav Havel, playwright and first President of the Czech Republic included Petru in his underground staged readings in the 60s and 70s.
The Bear and Drowning in the Absence of Water were recently translated by eminent Czech translator Hana Zahradnikova. They are Petru’s first two-act plays with more than two characters to be presented in English. Hana Zahradnikova says, “It is hard to date these plays precisely. In both cases the cover page is lost. It is natural to assume that “The Bear” was written during his time in exile in Chumatov. This was around the time of the Prague Spring in 1968, which ended with the Warsaw Pact invasion in August of that year.”
It is easy to attach symbolic and allegorical meaning the image of the bear in captivity. Much of Petru’s work is written in various codes to escape the state censors. That censorship was common in Prague prior the liberalization and social reforms of the Dubcek government. It is possible that “Drowning In The Absence of Water” is a much early work. It is reminiscent of Petru's earliest influences. The Absurdist “Anti-plays” of Ionesco and Pirandello have echoes in “Drowning”. Its writing style seems heavily indebted to the sparse language and theatrical staging of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. These stylistic references add to the timeless quality of the drama.
The plays are a departure from what we know of Petru’s other works. The introduction of a third character, in both pieces, a woman is new to us. Zahradnikova speculates that the parts were written for the same actor. Certain aspects of the original Czech dialogue leads one to think so. Clearly the actor was a personal favorite. And, if the suggested timing of two texts is correct,she followed him into exile in Chumatov. Zahradnikova comments that thecharacters are well-drawn with a flair for realism and naturalistic dialogue.“Petru writes his women well.”
Paul and Ian’s One-Man Show is proud to present Lori Mahl in these performances.
the actors will answer questions after the performance.
(the photo is the only known photograph of dalibor petru. it was discovered in his family's chata in the village of bzi by his sister in 2008.)