A theme to remember

Involving audiences with star power

Published: Aug 12 2016, 01:01:am

Sunday, July 27, 1986.

KEEP IT LIGHT, long the motto of  Czechoslovakia’s innovative world's fair designers, has been amended with a new, last-minute advisory: Keep to the Theme.
    The original concept for the Czech’s Expo 86 pavilion called for fairgoers to enter a simulated travel bureau. Visitors would be surrounded by views of the scenic Central European country projected on a seamless 360-degree screen (by way of a process called Rondovision) while a hostess extended her nation's greetings.
    At the eleventh hour, pavilion planners had a better idea. Since Expo's theme is transport, they decided to show a film chronicling man's search for ever easier ways to move himself and his goods.
    It's light, of course.
    In keeping with the Czech reputation for animated excellence, the back-projected Pavel Koutsky cartoon introduces a collection of cheerfully competitive cavemen who tame horses, invent the wheel and honour their own achievements with sharply observed whimsy. Images on a conventional movie screen are augmented by a series of complementary sketches projected on the Rondovision screen high on the walls of the theatre.
    Moving into the pavilion's second auditorium, fairgoers are invited to float across the mountains from Vancouver to Prague via Montreal, Brussels, London and Paris. A few from each audience have the opportunity to step into the low balconies that are part of the wide, floor-to-ceiling screen and participate in the illusion of travelling within the 10-minute film, produced and directed by Radúz Činčera.
    Though everyone sees the movie, the lucky few get to see themselves and the spectacular aerial photography reflected in the mirrored wall opposite. Giving the presentation a lively, human touch is an energetic actress who introduces the film, comments on the action and even seats herself in a swing suspended from the rafters, the better to enjoy her own filmed journey.
    The process, called Actorscope, is a unique large-screen way to enjoy a travelogue. Credit for making the presentation sparkle goes to the two young actresses who work alternating shifts: Zora Jandová of Prague and Ivona Krajčovičová from Bratislava.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1986. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Looking back, I regret not having the time nor the space to say more about the performing talent. The Czech pavilion’s planners paid Vancouver’s fair the compliment of deploying genuine star power for its major production. The dark-haired Zora Jandová and blonde beauty Ivona Krajčovičová were already established actresses in their homeland. Krajčovičová, 26, had made her TV debut in 1981, broken through to stardom in the 1984 TV miniseries Rebel History,  and crossed over into features in 1985. Jandová, 27, was classically trained, and made her first impact on the stage, playing Ophelia in a 1982 Czech National Theatre production of Hamlet. Prior to her arrival in Canada, she had five theatrical features to her credit and had launched a second career as a recording artist.
    Following their shared Expo experience, the women returned to Czechoslovakia and separate lives. Krajčovičová continued working in big screen features, making her English-language debut in the 1993 British fantasy Merlin, directed by the California-based Paul Hunt. Her performing career was cut short when she began a two-year-long fight with orbital cellulitus, a particularly nasty bacterial infection that attacks eye tissue, causing facial deformities, vision loss and, in extreme cases, death. Krajčovičová survived, but preferred a more private life in the aftermath. A native Bratislavan, she became a Slovakian citizen when Czechoslovakia split into two states in 1993. In 2008, Ivona Krajčovičová launched MYL sro, an arts agency that she currently runs with her husband, Peter Tanned.
    The post-Expo career of Prague-born Jandová followed a more complex arc. She married composer Zdněk Merta in 1988, and drew upon her talents as an athlete and musician while continuing her career as a screen actress until 1997. Following 1989’s Velvet Revolution, the Communist Státní bezpečnost (secret police) was shut down and its records became public. In a 2010 episode of the long-running Czech TV reality show 13. komnata (The 13th Chamber), Jandová spoke to the allegation that she’d worked with the Stb as a “confidant,” code named Alena. She was first approached in 1986 — the year of her Expo performances — because she would have contact with foreign nationals. Whether she reported anything to them during her time in Canada is unknown, as that file was shredded in 1988. A second, surviving file suggests she was of little use to the state as an informant, and was released from its service. Jandová took up the Asian sport of Tai Chi, in part to deal with the stress of her complicated past. In 2001, she placed seventh in the World Championships, a finish that made her the European Tai Chi champion. She continues to work in broadcasting and, since 2012, Zora Jandová has been head of children's programming for Czech Radio.                

See also: Czechoslovakia’s important role in Expo 86 discussed in my features on the fair’s creative connections, on the contributions of four Czech artists, on their multi-image presentations, and on the Canadian pavilion’s show The Taming of the Demons.

See also: The eight articles included in this, the third of four Expo 86 special reports, explore the pavilions of:
23: Expo 86 EEC/Germany
24: Expo 86 EuroSpace
25: Expo 86 EuroRail
26: Expo 86 Czechoslovakia