This Little Mother Has Claws

Prague doesn't let go. This little mother has claws…. One has to give in or else.

—Franz Kafka, born in Prague on this day in 1883; but for the months spent in sanitariums and a half-year spent with a girlfriend, Kafka lived in Prague with his parents all his life, working as a claims adjustor for an insurance company



July 3, 1937: Tom Stoppard (originally Tomas Straussler) is born in Czechoslovakia — not Prague but Zlin. Stoppard’s family left the country before he was two, fleeing the Nazis, but he has returned to his roots in a number of plays, most recently, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Decades earlier, his Cahoot’s Macbeth, a play dedicated to and about the dissident Czech playwright Pavel Kohout, dealt with the same politics — Cold War communism and the Velvet Revolution. Banned from Prague’s public playhouses during the 1970s, Kohout developed the “Living Room Theater,” a small troupe of actors who would put on plays in any home that would dare have them, quietly arriving with all their props and costumes with them in one suitcase. Cahoot’s Macbeth is about one such performance and the efforts of a communist inspector, who has had the activities of the LRT under surveillance for some time, to stop it. The inspector is part stooge and part spectator-critic — he wants to close the show down, but not before he’s had some fun and aired his views:

 

MACDUFF: O horror, horror, horror!
Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
INSPECTOR: What’s your problem, sunshine? Don’t tell me you’ve found a corpse—I come here to be taken out of myself, not to be shown a reflection of the banality of my own life. Why don’t you go out and come in again. I’ll get out of the way. Is this seat taken?
HOSTESS: I’m afraid the performance is not open to the public.
INSPECTOR: I should hope not indeed. That would be acting without authority—acting without authority!—you’d never believe I make it up as I go along … Right!—sorry to have interrupted. [He sits down. Pause] Any time you’re ready….

 

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