Czech puppetry has a long tradition acknowledged by its inclusion on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. You can find carved wooden puppets as well as finger puppets in every souvenir shop. But did you know that you can go to see a puppet theatre performance? There are nine professional puppet theatres in the Czech Republic, and approximately one-hundred independent groups and three-hundred amateur companies.
Czech Puppets in the PastCzech puppetry is an important cultural and social phenomenon that spread in the mid-19th century. Puppetry started in various regions of today’s Czech Republic in the mid-18th century.
Puppeteers who travelled from city to city performed in Czech and thus helped develop the level of Czech language among common people. Gradually, a tradition of puppeteer families started and puppetry was inherited as a family craft. Puppeteers carved puppets themselves, often based on Baroque sculptures. A puppeteer controlled all puppets and voiced all characters. A unique style in which the stiff movement of marionettes on wires balanced with a styled voice performance was created. The typical comic figures of Czech puppeteers are the Clown, Devil, King and Princess. Plays were in the past based on folk traditions, although today the puppet theatre primarily focuses on children.
There are currently two lines of the Czech puppet tradition, folk or amateur puppetry and professional puppetry, which take place in theatres and independent scenes. The puppet tradition in the second half of the 20th century was also reflected in short TV stories for children. Those with puppets are some of the most popular with children.
Meet the PuppetsVisit one of the puppet museums or go to see a puppet show.
The shows are mostly for children and are performed in Czech without any translation. You can find puppet theatres in Prague or in Moravian Ostrava, where there is a theatre that only plays puppet shows.
The Puppetry Museum in Chrudim in East Bohemia presents historical and contemporary Czech and foreign puppets, and you can also try to perform some puppet theatrics in the play room of the museum. The exposition presents the puppets of trouper puppeteers, variety show puppets, family puppet theatres and decorations by Czech artists. The foreign part of the exhibition includes shadow puppets from Indonesia, a selection of puppets from India, Japan, China and Myanmar, and a Vietnamese water puppet.
You can also learn about the world of puppetry in South Bohemian Prachatice. The first part of the exposition is dedicated to the history of Czech puppetry from the oldest puppeteers through family and community theatres to professional scenes. In addition to the traditional Clowns and Devils, you can also see puppets made according to the templates of leading Czech artists. The collections belong to the National Museum in Prague.
The puppetry tradition in the Czech Republic is also supported by many festivals. Loutkářská Chrudim (Puppetry Chrudim) started in 1951 and is the oldest festival of its kind in Europe. Other festivals include the International Puppetry Festival in Prague and Spectaculo Interesse in Ostrava.