The oldest Czech picture featuring a puppet dates from 1590, however puppetry became
part of Czech tradition in the 1700's when Czech puppeteers roamed Central Europe to tell
stories and entertain crowds. During the 18th century, Czech marionette-making and puppetry
developed into a revered art form. Much care and detail went into the faces of Czech puppets
created during this Baroque period, bringing Czech puppetry to new levels of sophistication.
Puppets and marionettes were carved from wood and given the most expression-free faces
possible. It was up to the puppeteer to infuse life and feeling into the puppet by manipulating
the puppet's movement. The performances were based on classical stories such as Faust,
Don Giovanni or historical Czech plays. In the eighteenth century, operas were specifically
composed for marionettes.
A tradition and family-run business. Not only was puppetry taught and puppet theater scripts
passed from father to son, but the puppets themselves were handed down through
generations. Puppets or marionettes from the 1800's command significant price tags, as this
might be considered Czech puppetry's "golden age," and surviving examples of Baroque-era
puppets are rare. Puppetry declined somewhat in the 19th century, but underwent revival in
the 20th century, when theaters dedicated solely to puppetry were established. Puppet theater
was shown indifference by the country's censors during the Austrian Empire and was used at
an outlet for political dissent. Thus, puppetry also became a patriotic art form and some
puppeteers became national heroes or "revolutionaries."
Czech marionettes are complex. They are hand carved, usually using lime wood, and have a
sturdy, central rod which extends up through the body into the head. This rod and strings
attached to the hands, arms and legs control the movements of the puppet. Sometimes
strings are used to control a movable mouth, eyes or ears. These require more skilled
manipulation. Some Czech marionettes have no central rod but have strings attached to the
head, shoulders and back. These are the most difficult marionettes to manipulate.
Puppetry and marionette theatre is still very much alive and well throughout the world.
And today the Czech Republic continues to be a leader largely due to Miroslav Trejtnar, an
acknowledged master puppeteer of traditional Czech marionettes. Trejtnar is one of few
remaining artists and teachers who design and construct traditional Czech marionettes..
Puppeteers throughout the world travel to Prague to work with and learn from him. Every year,
Trejtnar works with students on a puppet creation and performance project called Teatrotoc.
Below are links to more information on Czech marionettes.
Master puppeteer and teacher
of puppetry, Miroslav Trejtnar
at work in his studio in Prague,
|The Czech Republic has a long history of puppetry, puppet-making, and marionettes.
|Scroll down to view puppet show
at Czech Cultural Center
|Getting acquainted with the
puppets after the show
|Gretchen Obrovac, Princess,
with the Princess Puppet
Heidi Vencl, J J Vencl, &
|An audience member tries
his hand at puppeteering
"The Princess Bride" Puppet Play
May 8, 2010
Thanks to Joseph Bachna
|Julie Meyer& Marty Lange
display their counterpart puppets
|Up close with the puppets after the show
|Sokol Greater Cleveland's
100 year old Czech puppets
Come View the
S0kol Greater Cleveland's
Czech Cultural Center Museum
Bohemian National Hall
Check museum hours