The puppet theatre is celebrating

The puppet theatre is celebrating

Once upon a time... Czechia is the land of puppets and puppetry

The puppet theatre is celebrating
Puppets, devils, finger puppets, luxurious marionettes, as well as modern wooden 3D portraits. Puppetry has become such a tradition in Czechia that it has been listed as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. And that's why International Puppetry Day is celebrated on March 21 here in Czechia and around the world.

The art of puppetry for all ages

Czech puppetry has a long-standing tradition, proof of which can be seen in its inclusion on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. This art has existed in our country continuously since the late 18th century. It gradually came to become a popular form of entertainment, with wandering puppeteers roaming the country and spreading the Czech language, especially in the countryside. This attraction gradually moved from the streets into homes, when table puppet theatres began to be made and sold. They were often designed by renowned artists.

One of these was the world-famous Jiří Trnka, who is still admired by artists from the American Walt Disney and other studios. He lived and crafted his theatres in the centre of Prague, in the Huml House, located in Kampa in Malá Strana, a spot that is known as the Venice of Prague. You’ll find it right above Čertovka, a canal that flows into the Vltava River. Trnka was notable not only for his art, but also for his stature and love of socialising. It is said that once, when they drained the Čertovka so the channel could be repaired, they discovered an impressive mountain of empty real champagne bottles under the windows of Trnka's studio.

Daddy Spejbl and his son Hurvínek

Puppeteers usually carved their puppets themselves, and also worked and voiced them during performances. Puppets are either controlled by strings (marionettes) or by hand from below (rod puppets), depending on how the characters are worked by the puppeteer Typical Czech puppet characters include the clown, the devil, the water sprite, the witch, the king and the princess.

In Czechia we have one iconic duo: daddy Spejbl and his naughty son Hurvínek. They both first saw the light of day in Plzeň, in West Bohemia. The city is now home to the Puppet Museum and you can also go to enjoy their stories at the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre in Prague.

Jiri Trnka, puppet and animation master in a 1967 English documentary.

East Bohemia is a region where the craft and art of puppetry is especially thriving. You can visit the professional DRAK Theatre in Hradec Králové or the Puppetry Museum in Chrudim. Chrudim also hosts one of the oldest amateur puppet theatre festivals in the world – Puppeteers Chrudim. Other shows include the International Puppetry Festival in Prague and Spectaculo Interesse in Ostrava.

We also have other puppet theatres: The Puppet Kingdom in the romantic town of Kroměříž, the Puppet Kingdom and the Minor Theatre in Prague, the city of a hundred spires, the Theatre Před Branou in Rakovník, the Radost Theatre in Brno, and the Puppet Theatre in Ostrava. Some of the country’s leading contemporary puppetry groups include Cakes and Puppets, the Forman Brothers' Theatre with their flagship project Ship of Mystery on the Vltava in Prague, and the Continuo Theatre.

Photo: Minor Theatre in Prague.

You can also explore the world of puppetry in the South Bohemian town of Prachatice. Another place to visit is the Puppet Museum in the Fairytale House in Český Krumlov, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

A puppet carved for you from a photograph

You can find carved puppets in pretty much every souvenir shop all over Czechia. If you happen to be in Znojmo, in the centre of the wine region, take a look at Pavel Mašek’s artistic puppet workshop. Closer to Prague, in the little town of Jílové u Prahy, you’ll find Rici Marionettes, where they also hold workshops.
And finally one tip for a truly luxurious and unusual gift: you can have a puppet made according to your photograph by the artists from the Magic of Puppets studio in Prague.

How puppets come to life: