American director Robert Woodruff was in Prague last month to complete casting on a new musical co-production between New York’s En Garde Arts and Archa Theater of Prague. The play, which goes by the working title “Terezin,” represents a first for En Garde Arts, as a production created for presentation in a foreign country with the aim of stretching its “site specific” umbrella theme to embrace the production. Archa artistic director Ondrej Hrab describes “Terezin” as “culturally specific.”

Current plans call for “Terezin” to workshop in Prague in the spring, in preparation for a November 1996 opening, followed by a transfer to the U.S. in early 1997. The estimated $200,000 budget, about twice the cost of a typical Archa production, will be funded jointly by Archa, En Garde Arts and a nonprofit group called the Trust for Mutual Understanding.

Woodruff is best known as a director of plays by Sam Shepard and other contemporary playwrights. “Terezin” will be the culmination of an idea born two years ago, when Woodruff was among a group of American directors to visit Prague. The play is based on a controversial diary discovered in the archives of the “model” concentration camp in Terezin, north of Prague.

Czech playwright Arnost Goldflam’s script also incorporates the character of film director Kurt Gerron, creator of an infamous Nazi propaganda film on Terezin. Hrab praised Woodruffs casting choices, noting the show will bring together leading actors from the best resident theaters throughout the Czech Republic.

Hrab was at the helm of the newly renovated, city-funded theater when it reopened in June 1994 as the only non-resident company theater in the country. John Cale and Bread and Puppet Theater’s Peter Schumann are among the guest artists who have created works for Archa. Its current production, “The Freak Show Live!” by the American musical group the Residents, is scheduled for a European tour, and in May 1996 performance artist Diamanda Galas will be in residence to rework and premiere a new production of “Insecta,” originally seen last year as an entry in Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun! fest.

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