Záskok (The Stand-In) A Czech Comedy in English
Friday, May 18th at 7 p.m.
"The Stand-In" features the fictional character Jara Cimrman and is one of a unique genre of Czech plays which began as a radio show in the 1960s. Sverak began making references to Cimrman while working at the government radio station. He placed Cimrman at a time in history when the Czechs were under Austria-Hungary but used the character as a device for covert sarcasm against the Communists.
Sverak won an Oscar for 1997 Best Foreign Language Film for Kolya. He wrote and starred in the film, which was directed by his son.
Although the Cimrman plays have been performed for 50 years in Prague, the shows are still sell-outs, with hundreds of people queuing up for tickets when they go on sale. Until recently, many did not believe that the plays could be translated successfully to any other language because its humor is so typically Czech. Even non-native Czech speakers often had difficulty understanding the complicated wordplay, historical references and inside jokes. In 2016, the English version of “Zaskok” or “The Stand-In” premiered in Prague. It was translated by Emilia Machalova and Brian Stewart. It won the trifecta, gaining the approval of both Czech and English audiences, as well as Sverak.
Cimrman is so popular among Czechs, that they voted him “The Greatest Czech in History” in 2005. Even though he was disqualified, 40,000 people signed petitions in protest, so a new category was created for him. Cimrman fans or “Cimrmanologists” often compare the character to Britain’s Monty Python, but Americans will more likely see a similarity with the Forest Gump character, with one exception. While Gump is successful at everything he attempts, Cimrman just misses the mark, usually by showing up five minutes late. But, Cimrman does contribute to much of history, showing up in breakthroughs around the world in science, the arts, economics, and politics.