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Prague theater Švandovo divadlo shows support for Black Lives Matter, meets online backlash

After posting a photo of the theater marquee supporting the BLM movement, the theater was saddened to meet a barrage of negative comments

Prague’s Švandovo divadlo theater, which regularly presents plays with English supertitles for non-Czech-speaking audiences, displayed “Black Lives Matter” on their marquee over the weekend to show solidarity with the ongoing US-based movement that has seen worldwide protests over the past weeks.

In Prague, peaceful Black Lives Matter protests took place last weekend in Old Town Square and outside the Embassy of the United States.

“On behalf of the Czech Republic, Švandovo divadlo joins the world stage in the USA and Europe, [venues] such as the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and also football clubs in England, which have expressed themselves in a similar way,” stage director Daniel Hrbek told iDnes.cz.

“The purpose of our message is to warn against discrimination against any minorities or races, no matter where.”

The Black Lives Matter sign stood at Švandovo divadlo’s marquee for three days over the weekend, though it has since been replaced by the titles of the theater’s upcoming plays.

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When posting a photo of the Black Lives Matter marquee to their Facebook page, however, the theater was surprised to face a wave of negative comments that included everything from “White Lives Matter” graphics to purported fans of the theater saying they would no longer attend their plays.

“In a month they will cry ‘every visitor matters.’ There are plenty of other theaters that behave professionally,” wrote one commenter.

“I hope you go bankrupt,” added another, who received 437 likes on his post.

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An image reading “Stop Black Terror, White Lives Matter,” received 569 likes.

“I thought that some might laugh at us, because we live in a slightly different reality than people in the USA,” Hrbek told Lidovky.cz in an interview published this morning.

“[But] the degree of aggression in the reactions surprised me. I’ve read that the Czech Republic has recently been rated in various respects as the 8th most peaceful country in the world. So the high number of anonymous people who attacked the theater over the weekend was sad news for me.”

Still, not all of the feedback – even from those who disagreed with the theater’s actions – was entirely negative.

“I had a different and positive experience with one writer who I corresponded with all weekend,” Hrbek told Lidovky.cz.

“It was an interesting and cultivated discussion, at the end of which we disagreed, but it ended well. It is not without interest that the person in question comes to our theater, and as they wrote to me after this discussion, they will continue to go. I am pleased with this “trifle” – the possibility of mutual respect, even if we do not agree with each other.”

Other commenters expressed support for the theater, though they were in the minority.

“I really like what you wrote at the theater,” read one comment.

“It is right to stand up for people who are being wronged. I’m so sorry for the racist comments here.”

According to Hrbek, attendance at Švandovo divadlo has been high in the weeks following the easing of anti-coronavirus measures in the Czech Republic, with performances filling the theater so far in June. Pre-sales of tickets for the upcoming season have also been high.

Švandovo divadlo bills itself as Prague’s first theater with English supertitles for local Czech-language performances.

The theater will be closed during the summer months in July and August, but tickets for the upcoming fall season at Švandovo divadlo go on sale from Wednesday, June 17.

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