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City Theatre in Mnichovo Hradiště

Arnošt Jenšovský

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)29.10.1893 | Opening

The new town hall with Neo Renaissance facade was built by local builder  František Dámec according to the design by architect Arnošt Jenšovský from in 1891-1892. The town hall was attached to the first one from adjacent buildings in the block and its part became the new theatre hall as well, in which the first performance occurred on 29th October 1893.


(detail)1946 | reconstruction
Zemský národní výbor (Province National Committee) approved  the  hall adaptation according to the design by local architect and builder Jan Dámec   under the condition that it would be just provisional arrangement  for a period of three years.
(detail)1951 | reconstruction

Preparation works for a general town hall adaptation were launched   in 1948. A complete reconstruction of the theatre hall was its important component. The reconstruction was designed by Prague architects brothers Jaroslav   and Karel  Fišer, the authors of an array of detached houses, blocks of flats or industrial building as well. The largest part of the reconstruction, which was carried out by Československé stavební závody n. p (Czechoslovakian Building Companies ) for MNV, was finished in 1951.


(detail)90. 's 20. century | reconstruction
A large reconstruction and modernization of the   theatre occurred in 1994–1995 according to the design by Ondřej Podzimek and Jaroslav Macháček from Mnichovo Hradiště. Interior furnishing was designed by František Abraham (AMA projekt) from Teplice and was realized by the firm Lang s. r. o. from Mnichovo Hradiště.

People

Arnošt Jenšovský |main architect
Jan Dámec |architect
(detail)Jaroslav Fišer |architect

He studied in Haag, Vienna and in Prague in AVU by Josef  Gočár. He worked in the Netherlands by H. P. Berlage in 1930s, participated on the project of Haag City Museum and worked in the firm Philips. He returned to Bohemia before the Second World War, he participated on development of lighting engineering. He worked as a lecturer and later as a professor on AVU.

Together with his brother, they design villa Joska in Prague colony Baba (1932), Lewi’s villa in  in Roudnice (1934), house for Jiří Trnka in Prague-Podolí and several block of flats in Prague and Liberec. Buildings of two Prague enterprises Spofa (formerly  Interpharma) in  Modřany and  Elektra (Tesla) in Hloubětín were being constructed according to their designs since the half of 1930s and during 1940s. They participated on array of competitions, for instance for Prague airport at Ruzyně with Evžen  Rosenberg. After the second world war, they designed jointly for instance adaptation of Prague passageway  Světozor and reconstruction of the theatre in Mnichovo Hradiště within adjustments of town hall.

Source:


(detail)Karel Fišer |architect

He studied UMPRUM in Prague (1920–1925) and architecture on ČVUT (1926–1932). He was engaged in filmmaking and designed open-air cinema in Karlovy Vary, the firs of kind in Czech republic.

Together with his brother, they design villa Joska in Prague colony Baba (1932), Lewi’s villa in Roudnice (1934), house for Jiří Trnka in Prague-Podolí and several block of flats in Prague and Liberec. Buildings of two Prague enterprises Spofa (formerly  Interpharma) in  Modřany and  Elektra (Tesla) in Hloubětín were being constructed according to their designs since the half of 1930s and during 1940s. They participated on array of competitions, for instance for Prague airport at Ruzyně with Evžen  Rosenberg. After the second world war, they designed jointly for instance adaptation of Prague passageway  Světozor and reconstruction of the theatre in Mnichovo Hradiště within adjustments of town hall.

Source: slavnestavby.cz


Vilém Trsek |painter
František Abraham |interior designer

History

The theatre hall is a part of town hall building, which forms the main sector of the block of flats in the middle of Mnichovo Hradiště square. It occupies the north east corner of the first floor; the auditorium section has blank windows after adaptation from the first half of the 20th century. A fly tower in the middle of the north facade exceeds the two storey volume of the town hall block.

The first, probably only provisional stage was established in the house N. 93 U Remerů by amateur actors in Mnichovo Hradiště, sporadically performing since 1813 at latest.  They might have been inspired by the theatre in local Vallenstein chateau, rebuilt in the same year on the occasion of the visit of the three emperors, during which troupes from the Estate Theatre were playing here for several days. They moved into a more spacious room in the town hall on the square (built between 1770-1771) shortly after the success of first performances and established Spolek divadelních ochotníků (Community Theatre Association), to which an administrative approval was given in 1845, but its statutes came into existence not before 1872. After it had been united with lately founded Divadelní sbor Měšťanské besedy (the Theatre Troupe of the Civic House), they accepted the name Spolek divadelních ochotníků Tyl (Community Theatre Association Tyl) in 1880. About the theatre hall, which they modernised with the help of count Kristián of Valdštejn in 1847, we know only that it had 8 scene changes, a dressing room and its own library. Amateur actors were performing here  until 1891, when the city hall was torn down to make space for a more modern building.

The new town hall with Neo Renaissance facade was built by local builder  František Dámec according to the design by architect Jenšovský from Prague (in all probability Arnošt Jenšovský, 1842–1904) in 1891-1892. The town hall was attached to the first one from adjacent buildings in the block and its part became the new theatre hall as well, in which the first performance occurred on 29th October 1893. The hall, electrified in 1912, was used even after the Second World War. Only a part of curtain,  which was obtained for the theatre for 300 Guldens by table company Mravenci (The Ants), has been preserved from its equipment of that time. The painter Vilém Trsek (1862–1937) depicted a young artist in the  group of Muses  it in the style of period Academism of Vojtěch Hynais or Adolf Liebscher. In the present days, the painted part of the curtain decorates the theatre vestibule.

Zemský národní výbor (Province National Committee) approved  the  hall adaptation according to the design by local architect and builder Jan Dámec (certainly the descendent of town hall builder) under the condition that it would be just provisional arrangement  for a period of three years. The design depicts a rectangular hall with three windows in the side and one in rear wall and a narrow gallery on two columns with a segmentally arched central part. The today's rear part of the auditorium was occupied by one of dressing rooms and a staircase, corridor and  cloakroom were in the location of the present-day foyer. The theatre was meant to have  216 seats in the ground floor after the adaptation (in eight rows) and 44 standing  place in the gallery.

Dámec’s adaptations lasted only for a short time, because  preparation works for a general town hall adaptation were launched already in 1948. A complete reconstruction of the theatre hall was its important component. The reconstruction was designed by Prague architects brothers Jaroslav (1904–1984) and Karel (1905–1971) Fišer, the authors of an array of detached houses, blocks of flats or industrial building as well.

Mnichovo Hradiště theatre was apparently their first theatre realization, although , according to Jiří Hilmera,  for instance their designs of the conference rooms in extension  of Old Town City Hall from the competition in 1947 evidenced „ authors’ experiences  with theatre projects“

Fišers designed the theatre hall in Mnichovo Hradiště – in words of Jiří  Hilmera – “ in  simple functionalistic forms and with an interesting element of an asymmetrical balcony on cylinder columns”. They succeeded in raising the auditorium capacity and enlarging the stage, which was relatively difficult within the confined possibilities, strictly given by the  size of the building. The architects designed walling up the windows in the auditorium of the minor stage and they enlarged the space by “displacing” its side wall into hitherto corridor; the acquired place was filled in storey with the side part of the balcony on the columns, with four boxes, separated by partitions and with four rows of seats by the  rear wall. By the reconstruction, the stage was deepened by one of  dressing rooms and adjacent staircase. The layout of spectator  space (cloakroom, foyer) has been changed as well. The theatre after reconstruction offered 230 seats in stalls, 50 in the gallery at the rear and another 20 in four boxes on sides, and 50 standing places as well; in total the capacity of 350 spectators. The space between the auditorium and stage could accommodate 1,6 deep orchestra pit, sunk about 30 cm against the auditorium floor.

Before the commencement of the construction works, in November 1948, it was necessary to demand the exception from the prohibition of construction works because of town hall reconstruction. Zemský národní výbor (Province National Committee) considered the original budget of 3 million Crowns to be too high and passed the town hall reconstruction only without planned supply  room extension  in the yard, thereby the budget was essentially reduced. However, over than 2 million Crowns was spent on building until the end of 1949. Městský národní výbor (MNV) (Municipal National Committee) demanded additional funds in the following year: there still remained to adapt the ceremonial hall, to finish renovation of a heating in the adapted part etc. The largest part of the reconstruction, which was carried out by Československé stavební závody n. p (Czechoslovakian Building Companies ) for MNV, was finished in 1951.

The last phase of modifications had to be a new arrangement of facades of the adapted town hall. Several variants of designs have been preserved; all of them supposed that facades will be diverted of Neo Renaissance decoration and will acquire a more modern expression. Surfaces after walled up windows are revitalized only by reliefs with state and city crest. In one, pilaster strip frames  were meant to articulate the  side facade of the auditorium part with walled up windows, in other,  unfilled frame with inscription Městské divadlo ( City Theatre) should have remained only on an unarticulated surface, another one planned on leaving  decreased rectangular windows in the otherwise flat facade.

Requested survey by Technická správa (Technical administration) in Mnichovo Hradiště from January 1951 firmly rejected planned knocking of historicising decoratipn down from town hall facades. According to it, empty surfaces after walled up windows could accommodate for instance mosaic with theme  “ Forward to the construction of Socialism”. Fišer brothers might  not have a large contribution on the realized state, carried out probably not until 1955, historicising framing have remained and sgraffiti in the style of Socialist Realism appeared on the surfaces after walled up windows. Planned changes of the entrance into a stage part  in the middle of the north facade have remained unexecuted.

Two windows into stage are still in the ground plan in Javorin’ s book. In the designs of Fišer brothers (already without the windows in the first floor), two new entries appear in the ground floor instead of two from hitherto four windows and above them, several variants of modifications including monumentally impacting arrangement  with sculptures between columns, projecting in front of the facade up to the half of the fly tower height. Four windows remained in the realized form in the ground floor of the stage part, pilaster strip frame, with banded rustication on sides, above them and pilasters and circle motif in the middle on the top of the fly tower. The stage remained accessible only through courthouse at that time right next to the theatre, where were located the theatre storerooms as well.

Amateur actors performed in the hall of Kvapil hotel by the railway station during the reconstruction, after the new theatre had been finished, they were playing there only three years and they moved into Dům osvěty (Enlightenment House) in 1954.

Further adaptations of the town hall block, which occurred since the end of the 1960 and consisted of mainly in operational adjustments of office rooms and their enlargement towards yard, probably did not impact on the theatre hall. Firstly, the former house N.294 in the south segment of the block was connected to the town hall (the ground floor was adapted in 1968, first floor two years later). Old neighbouring building, adjacent to the theatre on northwest, underwent a reconstruction in the second half of the 1970s, which modified it for cultural purposes – there emerged a multifunctional (dancing) hall with a capacity of 200 seats, a wine bar and snug, town information centre is in the ground floor today. Gradual adaptation of town hall block continued in the 1990s and another house in the south frontage, N. 295, was added to the town hall in 2003–2004.   

The big reconstruction and modernization of the actual theatre occurred not until 1994–1995 according to the design by Ondřej Podzimek and Jaroslav Macháček from Mnichovo Hradiště. Interior furnishing was designed by František Abraham (AMA projekt) from Teplice and was realized by the firm Lang s. r. o. from Mnichovo Hradiště. The reconstruction of the stage part was designed by ing. Maštalíř from Brno.

The mezzanine with a bar and relaxing room, accessible from staircase to balcony,  were added into the high foyer and above the cloakroom within the reconstruction. The capacity of auditorium was considerably reduced due to the regard of higher comfort and boxes on balcony disappeared (after the reconstruction, the places along the balcony side are not offered because of inferior visibility). An unused orchestra pit was liquidated in this time at latest. Plastic replaced wooden panelling on the walls, glass mosaic disappeared from the balcony columns and side of proscenium arch and chromaticity of the auditorium interior was united into two colours, pink and white. The auditorium and foyer were complemented by different artefacts in style (wooden town crest above the portal, painting by the bar). Part of technique has occupied the hitherto side stage.

Present state

Mnichovo Hradiště theatre occupies the north east corner of the town hall block, on the right from main entry to the town hall. Symmetrical east facade in Neo Renaissance style with slim tower in the middle has walled up windows on both the sides in the first floor between a couple of lower niches – behind the right one, a rear wall of the stage is hidden. Similarly as three other windows in the north side wall of the stage, they are filled with red white sgraffito figures of guardians of the peace and Socialism on the front facade, orchardist with city crest by his feet on the lateral side, Hussite  with pavis and písmák (amateur intellectual) with a book in the armpit. The facade, with a massive banded rustication between semi-circular topped  windows, is ochre with white dynamic components and cornice. The windows in the first floor are framed by a couple of pilasters with capitals, couple of lying relief figures are mounted on discharging arches. Lateral side of the auditorium forms the left side of north facade of block, which continues by so-called ‘břízolit’ plaster of the cultural centre facade (formerly the court). Low fly tower exceeds in the middle the north frontage.

The theatre is entered through the main entry under a small balcony in the town hall main facade. A two flight staircase at the end of the corridor leads to the vestibule with a cash desk in the first floor. One enters from here into the foyer with a cloakroom by a double-wing door on the right side. High space of the foyer was originally articulated only by a staircase to the balcony, added to the side wall. At the last reconstruction, it was complemented by a bar, located in storey above the cloakroom and accessible from a new construction of S-shaped balcony – a mezzanine with resting space – splitting up the window in the front foyer wall. A fragment of the old theatre curtain hangs in wooden panelling on the wall against the window, below it, two doors lead to visitor’s lavatory.

Doors into the foyer, into hall and into balcony are articulated by vertical strips of glass  circles, which repeat as a leitmotif of otherwise modest theatre decoration on the walls of the auditorium and before the reconstruction they lined the staircase banister to balcony as well.  Apart spherical lamps on balcony banister and crystal chandelier, hemispherical  lights illuminate the foyer space following its S-shaped layout in the balcony ceiling and distributed in a rectangular grid on the ceiling above it. White plaster surfaces are complemented by dark wooden panelling and brazen banister and circular lights casings. The auditorium is accessible through two leaf doors opposite to main entrance to the foyer and with a minor doors in the rear under balcony. It has a ground plan of a backwardly extending trapezoid with  rounded angle on the left from the proscenium arch, where the doors to   backstage are hidden under the balcony  ending. An asymmetrical balcony, spread out from the rear wall along the auditorium side wall   in an elegant curve (there were originally four boxes separated by thin partitions on the balcony side), is the most significant element in the auditorium. The rear part is self-supporting, the side is supported by four columns having an elliptic layout (rather than cylinder), from which the rear one runs through the balcony floor up the first floor.

The side and rear auditorium walls are covered by pink panelling with  rectangular panels (wooden before the reconstruction), articulated by a symmetric grid of small circles, which follows the auditorium floor ascending on the right side. The ceiling is flanked by low relief, on which a dwarf, flat, amorphous shapes project from a wrinkled surface. A cut in the middle of the ceiling contains several spotlights to stage illumination. The balcony and ceiling are white. A white cornice close to the upper border of the wall and in its vertical ending by the proscenium arch contains indirect lighting; the space under balcony is lit by another circle lights embedded in the ceiling. Indirect light is mounted in trapezoidal section of the ceiling above the side part of balcony. Wooden polychrome city emblem, a little bit foreign in otherwise compact interior, is hinged above the darkly trimmed rectangular proscenium arch from the last reconstruction.

Albeit the hall has been keeping characteristics of functionalism even after the reconstruction, one can not resist the impression that the material and colouring change reduced the impressiveness of the interiors.

The auditorium has 14,4 × 9–10,3 m size. The proscenium arch is 4.4 m high and 6.1 wide. Stage surface is 10,3 × 9,2 m with the height of 9 m. Acting area has circa 7 × 8 m. Auditorium has a considerably lowered capacity of 272 seats, 220 in stalls and 52 on balcony after the reconstruction. Small stage has only the most indispensable equipment (fly lines, lighting bridge) at its disposal, there is no trap room nor turntable. Cloakrooms behind the stage are preserved approximately in the appearance of the after war reconstruction, inbuilt mezzanine parts a part of the high space here as well. The access into administrative background in the former court house leads through cloakrooms.

Only chamber productions take place in the theatre due to its small size. Productions need to be coordinated with operation of the dancing hall, which is adjacent to the rear part of the stage – it is not possible to run actions in both the halls at once because of defective soundproofing. Klub s. r. o takes care of the programme, composited in the large part of touring productions.

Sources and literature:

– Městský úřad Mnichovo Hradiště, archiv stavebního úřadu

– Alfred Javorin, Divadla a divadelní sály v českých zemích I, Praha 1949, s. 124–126

– Pavel Štěpán, 150 let trvání ochotnického divadla v Mnichově Hradišti, Mnichovo Hradiště 1983

– Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 140

 

Tags: Austria-Hungary, Functionalism, Neo-Renaissance, terraced house, theatre hall, town hall

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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