Actors couldn’t be seen – unlike their props

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Jiří Srnec, the artist and founder of black light theatre with which he was successful since the 1960s, passed away last Sunday at the age of 90.

The black light theatre utilizes the fact that actors dressed in black cannot be seen on a dark stage – unlike their props. This gives the impression that things the actors move levitate and come to life. The most famous Srnec’s shows were Striped Dream, Legends of Old Mother Prague, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Labyrinth, A Week of Dreams, White Pierrot in Black.

Srnec worked with the Semafor Theatre, Laterna Magika, Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre, and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. In the early 1990s, he established and managed the Imaginativ Prague ensemble. In 2011, he was awarded the Medal of Merit by the President of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus. He received the Thalia Award for his outstanding artistic contribution to Czech theatre three years ago.

Srnec came up with the idea to establish a theatre at university. He started to create the first performance in which invisible actors “do magic” with floating objects and light with his classmates in 1959. The company was invited to the youth festival in Vienna, then to Kyiv and Moscow. This is the time when the famous etude The Laundress was created.

The official date when the Black Light Theatre Srnec was established is thought to be 1961 when the Ministry of Culture issued permission. The year 1962 was truly groundbreaking as the semiprofessional company was invited to the prestigious festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Seven enthusiasts were successful and decided to continue focusing on black light theatre.

Since then black light theatre has conquered the world and has become one of the most famous representatives of Czech theatre. Srnec and his company have taken part in dozens of international festivals and have had more than 300 tours on nearly all continents, including Africa and Australia. Over 5 million viewers in 68 countries have seen their productions. The current company features young artists, dancers, actors, and mimes.