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1. Cajlais (Jiri Suessland), 1920-1945. From the Nazi propaganda movie, Terezin, 1942  
2. Karel Schwenk (right) and Mirek Frank. 1940

The Theater of Needless Talents by Karel Schwenk

Schwenk and  Cajlais

Karel Schwenk and Cajlais in the sketch "A Close Shave". From the Nazi propaganda movie. 1942
Karel Schwenk was born 1917 in Prague in a tailor's family. We don't know anything about his childhood and school years. At the end of the 30s Karel Schwenk founded the Theater of Needless Talents. It was a traveling group of gifted youth, they gave performances in various Prague neighborhoods.

Beside Schwenk, in the Theater of Needless Talents performed his closest friend Jiri Suessland (Cajlais), Loris Sushicky and others. All of them were strongly influenced by the Liberated Theater. The songs from these cabarets, written by jazz composer Jezek, were sung by everybody.

Schwenk also collaborated with the leftist youth organization 'Mlada Kultura' in which the majority of the Jewish intelligentsia was involved. Magazine of the same name published articles, stories and verse by the left and communists. In 1939, the organization went underground.

Schwenk was inexhaustibly inventive, always up to practical jokes and improvisations. They tell that once in 1939, he was invited to a reception at the Spanish Embassy in Prague, where he was asked to play the Spanish anthem on the piano. Sure, he didn't know the melody, but his playing was so high-flown that all the present were standing at attention for ten minutes.

In Terezin Schwenk staged a number of plays and revues, the most successful being Everybody GoingЕ (played 42 times), Ghetto in Itself (38 times), Long Live Life, or Dance Around Skeleton (20 times). Schwenk's performance The Last Bicyclist was forbidden by the Jewish administration. The last cabaret All Like This But Different was staged in March '44 and played 29 times.

Schwenk becomes a real 'people's artist'. His songs are sung in the streets of the ghetto, women and children try to make their own cabarets a la Schwenk. Parody, joke, improvisation Ч all this attracted hundreds of people to the attic, where Schwenk's cabaret was performed. When watching Schwenk's cabaret, people forgot, albeit for a short moment, the surrounding reality Ч deaths, hunger, deportations 'to the East'.

This 'festival of culture' continued until the fall of 1944Е  E.M.

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