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All the world's a stage

IF YOU enjoy live theatre, consider heading to Martin on August 30. For five days, the town is hosting the 83rd annual Scénická žatva (Theatre Harvest), the oldest and biggest amateur theatre festival in Europe.

IF YOU enjoy live theatre, consider heading to Martin on August 30. For five days, the town is hosting the 83rd annual Scénická žatva (Theatre Harvest), the oldest and biggest amateur theatre festival in Europe.

Martin is Slovakia's "cultivator" of amateur theatre. Every year for the past eight decades, it has harvested the best performances from around the country and then showcased them for audiences who gather for the feast.

According to Alena Štefková, the festival's organizer, amateur theatre is a big deal in Slovakia, much bigger than in Poland and Hungary. Her colleague, Juraj Surma, explains that a strong network of district and regional drama competitions is the reason why Slovakia's amateur theatre scene is so developed. The competitions culminate in the much-anticipated Scénická Žatva.

There are 283 amateur ensembles currently registered in Slovakia. A hundred of them participated in the festival's regional selections this year. A dozen will present their work at Scénická Žatva while competing for the ultimate national prize: the Creative Achievement of the Year. The winner, selected by the festival's five-member jury, will go on to compete internationally.

According to Štefková, Slovak amateur theatre is on par with some of the world's best. "We can proudly show it to the world."

The Commedia Poprad ensemble, for example, finished in the top three last year in Monaco beside American and Latvian performers.

Monaco hosts the world's biggest international amateur theatre festival. Slovakia's ensemble was the only representative from Central Europe.

This year, Scénická žatva welcomes 36 ensembles and 480 actors. The programme features a blend of theatre shows, concerts, exhibitions and workshops, all of which take place in Martin's theatres, cinemas, town streets and festival tent.

Apart from watching the plays, visitors can also participate. They can try their acting talent at the Horný Výplach theatre village.

The festival's goal is to present Slovakia's very best in amateur theatre. At the same time, the competition is not limited to Slovak nationals. Czechs, Germans and Poles have joined together in a theatre project called Behind the Doors, performances based on motifs found in Franz Kafka's diaries. Slovaks living abroad, in Hungary and Serbia and Montenegro, are also scheduled to perform.

An American living in the Czech Republic, Daniel Brown, will teach participants how to master the body's movements in a workshop entitled the Physical Theatre, which is scheduled at various times throughout the festival. The fruits of Brown's labour will be on view September 3, at approximately 18:30 in Dom Odborov Strojár cinema.

What:Scénická žatva - amateur theatre festival.
When:from August 30 to September 3.

For more information, please visit www.nocka.sk.

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