My recent trip to Prague was indeed about puppets. I traveled there with our Associate Curator of Contemporary Art Lisa Dent, our Multimedia Producer Jeff Sims, and Joe Brandesky, a Theatre Professor at OSU’s Lima campus who specializes in Russian and Czech Theatre. Several years ago, we worked with Joe on Spectacular St. Petersburg: 100 Years of Theatre Design, a wonderful exhibition that CMA had the privilege of sharing with our community.
Our latest undertaking is an exploration of the Czech Republic’s incredible puppetry tradition. We are currently working on a collaborative exhibition for the summer of 2013 (we really do work that far out). Many of the art works (and yes, these puppets are works of art) have never been to the U.S. before.
It is the Czech puppetry tradition that inspires Jan Svankmajer, a Czech artist and filmmaker known for his stop-motion productions. Svankmajer in turn influences The Brothers Quay, Henry Selick and Tim Burton.
We visited The Naive Theatre in Liverec, The Museum of Puppets in Chrudim, the Divadlo Drak Theatre in Hradec, and the National Museum in Prague and met with potential partners for the project. It was a whirlwind education.
We had the unique privilege of meeting Petr Matasek, a Czech artist, set designer, director and associate professor at the Department of Alternative and Pupplet Theatre at DAMU, in Prague. (This website has more information, but is in Czech.)
We were able to watch a rehearsal of Matasek’s latest production of Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach, but the real honor was watching him carve. He rarely carves puppets these days, so it was truly wonderful to be able to watch his creative process.
Below is a picture of Petr Matasek (on the left) and Joe Brandesky.
And these are photos of puppets designed by Matasek.
And puppetry really is a rich and varied tradition in the Czech Republic. The photo below is of puppets from the 19th century.
Many families even had puppet theatres in their homes (entertainment prior to television).
And, demonstrating that puppets aren’t just for children, these are photos of puppets used in a production of Shakespeare’s Tempest.
And here is a behind the scenes photo of Jeff Sims putting on his own puppet show.
And, I have to tell you, these is a wonderful Eastern European tradition that you share a toast at the beginning of new projects to celebrate working together. Even if it is 10:30 in the morning.
Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Nannette Maciejunes, CMA Executive Director