Welcome to another episode from our Brno Expats Have Talent series. Brno is full of talented people, and some of them are not from the CR – we’re introducing one talented expat at a time!
This month, Joanna tells the story of how art has brought her to Brno.
Joanna Zdrada (Poland) – theatre director
How long have you been a director?
For almost 15 years, since I graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. Most of the time I worked in theaters in Poland. Somewhere along the way, I met the Czech set designer Pavel Hubička, who invited me to permanent cooperation as a full-time director at the Radost theater in Brno, and so after many years I returned to the Czech-Slovak context. From the perspective of Brno, I try to link the theater community in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Is it your main source of income?
Directing has always been and still is my main professional activity and the only way to earn a living. For many years I worked as a freelancer, which involved traveling around theaters. I lived from one project to the next, which of course was very interesting and inspiring, but also tiring. Working as a freelancer was associated with a lot of uncertainty. Full-time employment is a completely new situation for me, which poses new challenges.
How do you find living in Brno as an expat and artist?
Brno is a very interesting city in terms of culture. There is a very lively theatrical society here. There are many different types of theaters. For me, however, what is most inspiring about this place is its Central European character. The theater that we create together with Pavel Hubička is focused on cooperation with international artists. The proximity of Vienna, Budapest or Bratislava gives this city a much wider context.
Is it easy to practise your art here? What obstacles did you face?
On one hand, working in the Czech Republic gives me a lot of freedom. Czech society is much more liberal in many respects than Polish society, for example when it comes to religion. On the other hand, during my work in the Czech Republic, I’ve encountered the problem of gender differences. I ran into a situation where some men found it hard to accept my leadership position. I am not sure if this is an individual issue or a certain traditional feature of Moravia.
How different is the audience in the CR?
I work in a theater for children. Fortunately, children are just as honest and uncompromising, no matter what country they come from. People in Brno seem to be very open. The Radost theater in which I work is currently undergoing a huge change, we are trying to introduce important topics to the audience and bring a new style to the repertoire. The audience accepts it and I’m very happy about it.
Where do you find inspiration?
Great inspiration for me is to work with Pavel Hubička, the set designer, manager and art director of the Radost theater. What keeps me in Brno is the tandem we create and the creative space we build. Brno offers us many possibilities. As a theater, we participate in the large theatrical festival Divadelní svět Brno and create our own international festival, the Radost Festival, which is oriented towards the presentation of different forms of theater for children and adults.
Do you cooperate with other expats or local Czechs in your activity?
The main direction of our thinking about theater is cooperation with international groups of artists. In our theatre we have a Czech ensemble, but we often invite artists from other countries for cooperation. Our last performance, Pinocchio, was made in cooperation with the Polish composer Filip Sternal and the Ukrainian choreographer Nina Bulgakova.
Is there any other area in art that you’d like to explore?
I am interested in various forms of theater. In my art, I often juxtapose opposites, I build my works on the basis of a paradox. I mix emotions, laughter and tears, serious and trivial, that’s my style. In my performances, I love to work with non-obvious musical forms. I am fascinated by opera and it is a performative form that I would like to do someday.
Where can expats find you and your art in Brno nowadays?
It would be great to host other foreigners from Brno in Radost theatre. I especially recommend the performance Hamlet on the Road, which I had the pleasure to direct. It is a performance for young people and adults, with live music. Next season it will also be presented with English subtitles. For more information, please visit our website https://divadlo-radost.cz/
In her video introduction, Joanna invites you to Divadlo Radost and the two plays she is directing.
Photos courtesy Joanna Zdrada