Saturday, September 28, 6:00 pm
presentation of performance projects, discussion
Conceived and directed by: Kristof Kelemen, Bence Gyorgy Palinkas
Duration: 45 min

Engaging, behind-the-scenes glimpse at Hungarian Acacia and other performance projects conceived to address the public discourse in Hungary in a satirical way. Artists-directors Kelemen and Palinkas will discuss their creative practice and working methods and show footage of Hungarian Acacia iterated as a live event as well as an onstage re-enactment of societal activities with musical performances and recited political speeches.

Photo by Krisztina Csanyi

The acacia, an indigenous American tree appropriated as a national symbol in Hungary, has become a subject of contemporary debates concerning politicians’ branding of the tree and distortion of environmental facts. The absurd exploitation of a plant for political means drove Kelemen and Palinkas to launch a movement aimed at rebranding the acacia into a symbol of an inclusive society. Planting events took place at nationally significant locations in order to promote liberal ideals of a community. Hungarian Acacia received the Critics Prize at the Theatre Festival Szeged, Hungary (2018).

“It seemed to me that both the context and the humor of the performance was understandable for the foreign audience. You would think that Hungarian Acacia tackles typical Hungarian public topics, but actually, through the symbol of the acacia, it is a general story of creating myths, writing histories. These can be interesting to anyone.”

– Kristof Kelemen for Sophie Hacsek,, May, 2019

The performance project Hungarian Acacia is co-produced by Trafo House of Contemporary Arts and Workshop Foundation. The presentation is featured at the 2019 Rehearsal for Truth Theater Festival with the support of FÜGE Productions – Independently Together, Workshop Foundation Budapest, Ministry of Human Capacities, National Cultural Fund, and Juranyi Incubator House. It will be conducted in English.

Kristof Kelemen is a playwright, theater director and dramaturge exploring issues related to public discourse and factors of the status quo. He primarily focuses on documentary theater. His works have received numerous awards, such as the Contemporary Hungarian Play Prize of Zsuzsa Radnoti’s foundation for Observers (2018), while his While You Are Reading This Title We Are Talking About You (2016) was nominated for the Prize of Theatre Critics Guild. Kelemen’s eclectic portfolio includes a site-specific performance with blind participants, Hotel Love (2014, director: Zsuzsanna Simanyi); documentary theater productions Our Borders (2015), Norwegian Dream (2015) and Re-Tour Ticket (2015); and a recent interactive theater game about corruption, Talent Development with Wine Tasting (2019). He is a director and dramaturge at the Radnoti Miklos Theatre, Budapest.

Bence Gyorgy Palinkas is a visual artist, researcher and director investigating socioecological topics through post-dramatic theater projects and interactive educational workshops. In collaboration with Kitti Gosztola, he organized the project Wild Garden Utopia, a series of workshops concentrated on invasive alien species. Palinkas received the Peter and Irene Foundation Aachen Research Grant (2018) for his inquiry into the rehabilitation of Ancient Roman ruins by the invasive plant Ailanthus altissima.

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The 2019 Rehearsal for Truth Theater Festival explores the disappearance of borders between truth and lies. The festival consists of five international performances—three full plays, one dance performance and a behind-the-scene presentation—along with four special events. In total, the activities offer a notable occasion for adventure of the mind and conduits for shared encounters.

The festival examines different nuances of truth through its third edition, “The Travesty of Truth.” Conceived under the direction of Pavla Niklova, the 2019 Rehearsal for Truth program encourages participants to enter a dialogue on pressing matters that pervade our post-truth era. “The time when boundary is blurred between truth and lie, theater holds the power to re-establish relationships between participants through a common engagement and common experience of truth,” states Niklova.

The 2019 Rehearsal for Truth Theater Festival is organized by the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation (VHLF) and Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association (BBLA), in partnership with Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak and Romanian performing arts organizations and cultural institutes. The series of events highlight Vaclav Havel’s legacy as a playwright through live performances, panel discussions, exhibitions and a ceremony for the Disturbing the Peace Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk. A key objective is to establish exchanges between U.S. and Central European theater professionals. The festival reflects Havel’s contribution to 20th-century theater as well as his belief in the potential of Central European cultural traditions to enrich human existence in the modern age. The program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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The Vaclav Havel Center