A two-humped road movie based on real events. Disman kids making waves at Prix Bohemia Radio

Představení Kam zmizela Rebarbora? v podání Dismanova rozhlasového dětského souboru
Představení Kam zmizela Rebarbora? v podání Dismanova rozhlasového dětského souboru

The Disman Radio Children's Choir has over eighty years of tradition. During this time hundreds of children have passed through the ensemble, dedicating themselves to radio and theatre productions under professional supervision. This year the children will be presenting a prepared theatre performance at the Prix Bohemia Radio festival.

Jana Franková has been the artistic director of the Disman Radio Children's Choir since 2015. A graduate of acting at the theatre faculty of AMU, she has been through many theatre groups in the past, from theatres working on a classic model, to repertory theatres with a permanent ensemble, to small-stage theatres. Not only has she dedicated herself to the acting profession, but also to writing texts, dramatisation, directing and scenography.

The group bears the name of its founder, the teacher and radio producer Miloslav Disman, who pushed for universal cultural education. Even today you at DRCC are devoted to preparing children for radio and theatre activities. What can children learn in the ensemble?

I would be glad if they learned that universality you mentioned. The children are taught the basics of acting and radio work – to speak well, how to move, working with texts, knowing their way around radio equipment and the like. What's much more important for me however is learning to view the world around them through their performances, recording or experiences. During theatre rehearsals or taping of reports, children must think about topics, absorb knowledge, formulate questions and not be afraid to ask them... And at the same time they must stay on their toes, polite and respectful. Even though a majority of our kids don't end up going on to arts schools, they apply these skills and experiences in both their professional and personal life.

Can you present DRCC's plans for 2019? What activities are in store?

Last year we premiered several shows – The Tale of Raška by Ota Pavel, The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer and Pepita, (don't) spit! by Miloš Doležal. We look forward to continue playing them and continue to play with them. We'll be looking for interesting places, events and meetings where we could record. We want to expand our collaboration with the Prague Film Suitcase, we've got recital and theatre competitions, which we view primarily as an opportunity to meet children from other groups. We couldn't imagine summer without our two-week training camp and we're already looking forward to our joint concert with the Czech Radio Children's Singing Choir, which is to take place in the Rudolfinum 1 December 2019.

What all does the job of artistic director at DRCC encompass?

Miloslav Disman characterised his function in the ensemble as educational and formative. I try, just like the former directors Jan Berger and the Flegls, to follow up on his direction and provide the children with an environment, activities and projects that allow them to develop holistically and not one-sidedly. Even adult actors tend to be typecast, and for children it's even more true. "Franta's good at playing a rascal, so next time we'll put him in a similar role." Children get into a "rut", i.e. established, repetitive and non-creative procedures, just as quickly as adults and then we end up with many child actors who end up being kind of "worn out" at an early age. I take care of the ensemble along with stage manager Hanka Novenková and my colleague Viktorie Čermáková. Aside from preparing the overall direction of the ensemble, our work also includes laundering the costumes, struggling with the budget and contracts, creating a dramaturgical plan, running rehearsals, recording and performances, and last but not least calling Franta to tell him he forgot his scooter at the radio station.

The repertoire of the Disman ensemble is made up of plays, operas and also staged readings. What kind of performance will you be presenting at Prix Bohemia Radio in Olomouc?

The audience can look forward to a performance of Pepita, (don't) spit! which was written for the Disman ensemble by Miloš Doležal based on real events. We will be telling the story of Pepita the camel, who was found in May 1945 by a group of Scouts near Havlíčkův Brod, who decided to donate her to the Prague zoo. For a week they led her through the Czech post-war countryside and had incredible adventures. One of the witnesses Jaroslav Med, later a literary historian and critic, Scout name Minehaha, recalls: "The camel walked majestically along Pražská Street, step by step. Between her humps, instead of a saddle she had a German military jacket with a camouflage pattern. We watched her paws, the way in which she beautifully and softly placed them on the street. She walked. She walked like a queen towards Prague.“