Richard Byrne Wins First Annual Prague Post Playwriting Festival
27 march 2007
Washington D.C. playwright and journalist, and an editor for Biblioteka Alexandria, Richard Byrne was named the winner of the First Annual Prague Post Playwriting Festival for his one-act play, Burn Your Bookes.
The prize of 20,000 Czech crowns ($900) was awarded on the closing night of the festival at Prague's Divadlo Minor theatre on Monday, March 19. Burn Your Bookes received a full production along with two other semifinalists in the competition.
Julek Neumann directed Byrne's play about alchemy and science. Neumann is a noted director, translator and dramaturg in Prague and in Great Britain.
"It was an honor to have Julek Neumann as the director of my play," Byrne says. "He did a tremendous job."
The play is set in Prague in the Renaissance court of Emperor Rudolph II. Two alchemical pretenders are under sentence of death by starvation, where they engage in a desperate battle of wits and deception with the noted English alchemist Edward Kelley.
The cast included American actor Mark Bowen as the alchemist Muller, Irish actor Brendan Payne as the alchemist Syrrus, and Anglo-Israeli actor Akiva Zasman as Kelley.
During his month-long stay in Prague, Byrne finished a longer version of a play about alchemy and poetry based on the life of Edward Kelley and his step-daughter, the Neo-Latin poet Elizabeth Jane Weston. The apartment that he rented for his stay in Prague was located on the same tiny street where Kelley lived for a time in the city's Mala Strana section.
"It was a great piece of luck to find a place on Jansky Vrsek street," says Byrne. "The good karmic vibes for the production were part of it. But Kelley's house and my apartment rest just below the Prague Castle, where Kelley did some of his alchemical work for Emperor Rudolph on streets that have changed little since the Renaissance. It was easy to imagine just what path he took ascending to the castle for work and then coming back home to his family."
Byrne was also interviewed by Czech Radio's English language service. A link to the audio can be found at www.radio.cz/en/article/89112 with a print version of the piece.