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Puppet Theatre in Louny

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)26.09.1920 | opening

The first detached building of puppet theatre on the territory of the Czech Republic was built by the firm of Louny builder Hugo Katz according to the design by Otakar  Polák. The construction works commenced in April of 1920 and a inauguration ceremonial took place already on 19th September. The first performance, a fairytale The King Ječmínek by  Eugen Stoklasa was played a week later on 26th September, just after the building approval had been issued.


(detail)70. 's 20. century | reconstruction
Cracks appeared in the theatre building in 1974 and the playing was stopped temporally. The State Institute for the Reconstruction of Historical Towns and Monuments (SÚRPMO) elaborated the survey of the building and a project of the renovation. General reconstruction  that commenced in the spring of  1978should have endured for  two or three years, but the theatre operated already in the end of the same year.
(detail)1999 | reconstruction

The present state of the theatre is a result of a reconstruction that took place in 1999 at the cost of the city. Static adjustments were carried out according to the design by Pavel Spisar from 1997.


People

Otakar Polák |architect
Pavel Spisar |architect
Hugo Katz |builder
Josef Jakubka |painter

History

The first puppet show in Louny took place in 1903 during a celebration  of the Sokol movement. The success of the play the Kermesse in Hudlice encouraged puppeteers with their leader Jan Tragler to regular activity. They played first in a Sokol hall and taverns in Louny and surroundings, but when they founded the Puppeteers Company in Louny, they had construction of their own theatre in mind already. A plan for reconstruction of the building of an old slaughterhouse, for which they quickly managed to acquire the entire planned amount of 4 680 Crowns, was not possible to execute because of sanitary reasons.

The idea was revived after the First World War. The city donated a plot and building material  from the abolished slaughterhouse to the company. The first detached building in the territory of the Czech Republic was built by the firm of Louny builder Hugo Katz according to the design by Otakar  Polák. The construction works commenced in April of 1920 and a inauguration ceremonial took place already on 19th September. The first performance, a fairytale The King Ječmínek by  Eugen Stoklasa was played a week later on 26th September, just after the building approval had been issued.

Apart of afternoon child performances, the puppeteers organized evening productions for adults, which were condemned to termination after a cinema had been opened in Louny in 1925. The originally planned budget of the construction, 80 000 Crowns, was exceeded over a half despite numerous donations. The members of the company had to take a credit and they succeeded in repaying the huge debt only twenty years after. In 1930, Josef Skupa, who performed in hotel U zastávky in favour of Louny puppeteers, helped with gaining money among others.

The theatre auditorium was decorated by rich decorative painting. The curtain was created by company member Josef Jakubka, an author of the majority of decoration of Louny puppeteers since beginning to the 1940s. It was necessary to reconstruct the theatre very often. Already in 1923, the floors were replaced, a year later, the ceiling of the hall and a needed extension of dressing rooms for dressing of the puppets was built on the side of the stage in the next year. It is possible to observe on the old photographs that the hall decoration was changing in the course of time as well. A need of further background increased in the course of time. A large extension to the existing building was considered from 1948 ad that was approved two years later. A low extension with a scene dock, dressing rooms and new toilets was built in 1951 and 1952 towards the direction of the river. A part of material was donated to the puppeteers, despite of that, it was necessary to acquire  a part of the finances among other by selling a part of older puppets to the National Museum.

An extensive reconstruction was carried out in 1958, when the truss and roofing were replaced and the stage was modernized. A photograph from the course of reconstruction depicts a completely different appearance of the proscenium arch with rounded corners and an inscription the nation is in children above the stage from the original one.

Minor renovations of the theatre, especially of the stage and lightning technology were compelled by a new repertoire, new type of puppets or requirements of guests companies.

Cracks appeared in the theatre building in 1974 and the playing was stopped temporally. The State Institute for the Reconstruction of Historical Towns and Monuments (SÚRPMO) elaborated the survey of the building and a project of the renovation. The report stated among other that the theatre is probably built on a mound, which sink towards the river caused the cracks on the walls. A big problem was the high humidity in the building as well.

The theatre had to wait for the needed repair until 1978. General reconstruction  that commenced in the spring should have endured for  two or three years, but the theatre operated already in the end of the same year. The reconstruction brought about disappearance of the doors by the sides of the proscenium arch, the auditorium was given new facing from leatherette panels and new seats. Repairs of the stage and wiring still continued in 1979 and in 1980, the central heating was installed in the theatre by the District Building Company.

The present state of the theatre is a result of another reconstruction that took place in 1999 at the cost of the city (over 2.5 million of Crowns). Static adjustments were carried out according to the design by Pavel Spisar (GIS GEOINDUSTRIA Stříbro) from 1997. The theatre was provided with a new roof (roofing was replaced before in 1999 as well) and wiring and was insulated. A large modification was the building up of a forestage in front of the existing vertical proscenium arch. Windows and doors were replaced in 2008.

 

Present state

The ground floor building of the puppet theatre in Louny is located eastwards from the historic core of the city in the  slope above the Ohří river. Its entrance is oriented to the west to the city; it is accessed through Pod Cukrovarem Street from Husova Street.

Originally, only an entrance bay and minor bays on the sides of the front facade protruded from the oblong plan of the original building. An extension from  1951–1952  enlarged the building furthermore in the north  direction towards the river. The older part of the building is covered by a saddle and hip roof (with a low ventilation shaft above the auditorium in the original appearance), the extension by a low flat roof. A low prismatic tower with a lightning booth  protrudes from the hipped end above the entrance facade being covered by a pyramidal roof. The entire building is based on a stone plinth. The facades of the older part are articulated by vertical rusticated pilasters and continuous cornices apart of doors and partially walled windows. There are doors in the middle of the side facade apart of the main entrance under the tower in the front facade. The facades are tri-coloured, yellow flats are complemented by red elements and white trims of windows and doors: there was originally a dark  belt under the continuous cornices. There is a painted inscription the Puppet theatre on the front side of the tower.

The older part of the building had three parts in the interior: in front of the auditorium that occupied the entire width of the wing, an entrance hall with cloak rooms and a staircase into the lightning booth was located behind the  doors. The stage that is partially cellared with background followed behind the auditorium. The entrance area was enlarged towards left with the extension, from where one can enter the hall through a corridor along the toilets ( originally the rear part of the auditorium was entered through doors from the vestibule). The corridor is followed by a room of the club and dressing rooms with a side entrance to the stage.

The oblong auditorium of 8 × 10 m size is slightly sloped towards the forestage. Another doors, an emergency exit, are located in the middle of the wall opposite to the entrance. The auditorium occupies a part of the truss, so the side parts of the ceiling are bevelled.

Nothing has been preserved from original remarkable painted decoration of the hall. Its present appearance is a combination of remains from the reconstruction from the end of the 1970s (leatherette panels) and reconstruction from 1999. During the latest, a forestage was built over the entire width of the hall in front of the proscenium arch ( of circa 4 × 2,5 m size).

A showcase in the side wall of the hall contains a puppet, seated in a wicker chair, of the founder of the theatre J. Tragler, which was brought to the stage by Kasperle on the occasion of  Tragler’s 70th birthday.

The stage of circa 3,5 × 8 m size is cellared; the space under the stage is accessed through a iron staircase that is located in the rear on the left. There is an access from the basement that serves as a storage room under the trap in the front section of the stage (for puppets with conduction from below).

The hall has the capacity of 120 seats in the present days and concerts take place here apart of puppet shows. The owner of the building is the city of Louny.

 

Sources and literature:

–  Městský úřad Louny, archiv stavebního úřadu, spis domu čp. 832 (loutkové divadlo)

–  Šafr – Pacovský, Stálé loutkové divadlo v Lounech, Loutkář 4, 1919–20, č. 10

–  Rudolf Bouček, Samostatné budovy našich loutkových divadel, Loutkář 21, 1934–1935, č. 3, s. 37–41

–  60 let stálého loutkového divadla v Lounech 1920–1980, Louny 1980

–  Almanach spolku loutkářů v Lounech 1903–2003, Louny 2003

–  Jiří Valenta (ed.), Malované opony divadel českých zemí, Praha 2010, s. 346 (autor hesla Jan Novák)

 

 

Tags: detached building, Interwar period

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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