A Preview of the Prague Quadrennial, the World's Largest Festival of Theater and Performance Design

Held every four years since its founding in 1967, the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) is scheduled to take over the city for its 12th iteration, starting today and running through the 26th. Accurately touted as the largest performance design event in the world, this massive cultural happening is packed with nearly 400 events and is set to extend its reach beyond the borders of its five main venues into Prague's public spaces.

"The 2011 Prague Quadrennial looks outside the space of the stage," PQ artistic director Sodja Lotker said at a press conference held on Tuesday. Including exhibitions, installations, performances, workshops, talks, site-specific projects and a host of other happenings, PQ's heart is the International Competitive Exhibition, which will be held at one of Prague's shining examples of functionalist architecture, the National Gallery's Veletrzni Palace.

Work is judged in a variety of categories, including "Architecture," "Costumes," and a "Student" section. But the center is the "Countries and Regions" category, where visitors can immerse themselves in theatrical installations from a record-breaking 62 countries, designed by organizations and individual artists including Ruhr Triennale, SITI Theater Company, Joao Brites, and Yukio Horio. The U.S, Mexico, and Germany are on hand, alongside several new participants like Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, and Armenia. Organizers highlighted New Zealand's installation — an interactive installation featuring a nine-meter inflatable tower with a man inside, and Finland's presentation, which comprises a mini-festival with its own daily program.

Awards in each category will be determined by a jury including Austrian scenographer Erich Wonder, distinguished theater and drama professor Marvin Carlson, and director and scenographer Brett Bailey, among others. 

Also within the main Veletrzni Palace venue and also well worth noting is the "Extreme Costume" exhibition, which lives up to its name, through the display of costumes made from ice, garbage, bullets, and other non-traditional materials.

Another highlight of the PQ is the provocative "Intersection: Intimacy and Spectacle." Designed by Israeli architect Oren Sagiv, and held in a public space between Prague's National Theater and New Stage, the show is pitched as an architectural labyrinth, comprised 30 three-by-three-by-three meter cubes, which house performative environments created by a range of artists of various disciplines and backgrounds, including scenographer Anna Viebrock, choregrapher and dancer Josef Nadj, visual artist Nathanial Mellors, and director and the co-founder of the Societas Raffaello Sanzio theater company, Romeo Castellucci.

Visitors to Prague can also look forward to stumbling upon an extension of "Intersection" in various site-specific installations through the city, as well as live actions. German director Claudia Bosse and her ensemble theatercombinant will take over the center of Prague on June 21 with the two-part "Explosion of Silence," an "urban intervention" (as described in press materials), where a gathering of over 500 people — they're still asking for volunteers — will reclaim public space through a silent intervention in Prague's streets.

Meanwhile, Scenofest, the student component of PQ, will feature over 40 live performances in the city's centrally located Jungmannova namesti or square. Two other unique performances, to be held in venues usually not open to the public, include Hungarian ensemble Krekator's "Trilogy Crisis Part 1: jp.co.de," which will go up in the former headquarters of communist-era newspaper Rude Pravo, and Philip Glass's "Les Enfants Terribles," in the former kitchen of Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital.

Some 40,000 visitors are expected, alongside artists from over 76 countries.