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In Cafe Slavia With Jitka Sloupova

June 6, 2007

At the end of my sojourn in Prague last week, I had the pleasure of taking tea with Jitka Sloupova at Cafe Slavia, the Czech equivalent of Sardi's in New York or Joe Allen's in London. Slavia is a cavernous 19th century cafe-bar situated across the street from the National Theatre on the banks of the River Vlatva. The acoustic is loud and clangy and when there's a pianist playing at the grand piano in the main cafe area, you have to crane your neck forward to hear what your companion's saying.

Jitka is one of the most formidable people on the Czech theatre scene. She's a prolific translator of contemporary British and American plays and the head of the Czech Republic's foremost literary agency. Her clients include Vaclav Havel. She's translated the plays of Tom Stoppard, Patrick Marber, Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill and Sam Shepard. The day we met, her translation of Stoppard's Rock N Roll was playing at the National Theatre. One of the actors from the production walked past our table at one point. Jitka bobbed her blond head politely and smiled. She has rosy cheeks and a sweet smile ornamented by tiny, pearly teeth.

She told a funny story about attending the world premiere of Rock N Roll in London last year. Havel took her along. She found herself sitting next to the playwright during the show. "I don't think he wanted to sit next to me," she said. "He would have preferred to sit next to Vaclav or maybe Mick Jagger." Jitka is planning on attending Stoppard's 70th birthday party in London in July. She is taking Havel with her. "Stoppard attended Vaclav's birthday, so he ought to return the favor."

Jitka says that she doesn't spend much time in Cafe Slavia, though it seems she's been there quite a lot lately. Before I showed up for our 5pm rendezvous, she'd already had another meeting at the venue. And she's been having play development sessions with Havel in the cafe a lot too. Havel has just written his first play in 20 years and Jitka has been working with the playwright on refining his drama. During the editing process, the two of them met regularly at Cafe Slavia, where passersby would frequently interrupt the pair in order to ask for the former Czech President's autograph. Jitka says Havel's play has come a long way since they started honing it together. "The first draft was different to the one we have now. The ending in particular needed some work."

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2 Comments:

  • Sounds like a productive trip to Prague! How exciting for you to meet such a well connected person. I read one of Havel's plays back in the day, The Memorandum (I think it was called), and actually saw a fun stage production of it at Fort Mason in SF back in the 90's when he was president.

    By Blogger KT, At June 17, 2007 at 2:08 PM  

  • interesting read. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you guys hear that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 18, 2010 at 5:54 PM  

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