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Alfa Theatre

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(detail)1992 | opening

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History

Puppet theatre in Pilsen has had a long tradition that in the interwar period consisted of the Theatre of Feriálních osad in the first place, Theatre of Karel Novák and Theatre of Josef Skupa – due to his merit, the first professional puppet theatre in Bohemia (1930–1943) was founded. This rich professional tradition was not resumed after the Second World War and only amateurs performed in the 1940s and 1950s as for instance the Puppet Theatre Špalíček or the Puppet Theatre V Boudě. The first professional ensemble in the after war period was established in Pilsen not before 1963, afterwards the West-Bohemia Puppet Theatre, originally the Regional District Puppet Theatre that was founded in 1951, had been dissolved in Carlsbad. A part of its ensemble with director Bedřich Svatoň left just for Pilsen in the mentioned year where they attempted to play on the local cabaret stage of the Alfa Theatre. Its ensemble was struggling to win recognition with a repertoire similar to the “little theatre movement”, into which they also incorporated puppet shows as one of the firsts in the Czechoslovak Republic. The essential enthusiasm started to disappear soon from the ensemble in connection with financial problems and deepening crisis inside the group, which led to its successive disintegration. But the puppet core had remained and performed in the Pilsen theatre further on.

It played under the name The Theatre of Children after 1966 still in the hall called Alfa in the present Americká Avenue. The structure was built by Pilsen builder Ferdinand Stelzer in 1877 as a concert hall of a Richard Waldek’s hotel. There was an array of disadvantages for good operation of a puppet stage as for instance the too large stage and auditorium with 600 seats and bad visibility. The children were almost dwindled in the hall according to the period press. Later, these shortcomings led the representatives of the theatre and city to consideration of inevitable adjustments, or rather of alteration of the theatre location. A great opportunity for the resolution of the puppet theatre situation was offered by the critical condition of the main building of the City Theatre of J.K. Tyl. The long-term reconstruction of this huge building, which was commenced by the city in 1980 and should have been terminated not before 1985, required surrogate space for this large stage and the condition of its minor stage, the Chamber Theatre, were insufficient. The only acceptable substitute space at that time was the hall of the Alfa Theatre, so the ensembles of the puppet and great theatre were forced to operate simultaneously here for some time. The city could not offer any more convenient space to the troupe even in such complicated period; the hopes of puppet company for solution of the situation in the form of a building conceived for a puppet stage had remained unfulfilled.

The idea of a detached  building, designated  primarily for puppet performances, started to shape up not before 1987, when a project for reconstruction of two residential buildings forming the corner of Rokycanská and Spolková streets emerged in the atelier of the Stavoprojekt of that time in Pilsen. Between them, there was an unused hall of the former Associational House of  the Shopping and Selling Cooperative of the Social Democratic Party in Lobzy. This building with a hall allegedly came into existence in 1910 and it was being reconstructed in 1929 according to the design of the Pilsen architect Krůta. The hall was in possession of the Consumer Cooperative Jednota (Unity) in the 1980s and the building was in a dilapidated state. Architects Pavel Němeček and J. Hammerschmied linked the plans of all three buildings and provided a cohesive form to the new building complex with puristic arrangement of facades complemented with stone facing and the south east corner served as a theatre billboard. The final appearance of the building thus reflected the endeavour of its authors to resume the  tendencies of the late Postmodern architecture – however, with confined means of the Normalization building industry of that time.

The minor theatre hall was reconstructed in 1966 in the south part of the building, new wooden seats by the walls and decoratively conceived lights were being inserted. A painted ceremonial curtain of the former Association Hall with an inscription “We to ourselves 1908, 1928“ depicting adoration of an unknown goddess was inserted on the bevelled board of the forestage part of the ceiling.

External insulation was installed in 2009 with financial contribution of the theatre and city. During its realization, Jan Toman, the author of the project, designed also a relatively simple theatre facade in a form of an undulated and projected facade resembling changeable posters. The interior of the theatre was reconstructed in the following year according to the design by Viktor Korejs, especially the space for visitors in the spirit of the Brussels retro-style.

 

Present state

In the present days, the facade of the theatre building from 1987–1992 is concealed behind the mentioned projected undulating facade except for the ground floor part that is covered  by stone. That is composed of three strips of vertical metal lamellas in gray colour, complemented with blue and orange lamellas. The vertically articulated facade is broken by a horizontal band with metal letters which constitute repeating inscription DIVADLO ALFA that is in harmony with colours of the blue and orange lamellas. The present theatre is composed of the originally three detached rectangular buildings in the corner of Rokycanská and Spolková streets. The central part is occupied by the most narrow building, which entire inner space forms the main theatre hall. The transparent arrangement of the ground floor serves to open vestibules, loosely connected to the foyer of the main hall. The south part of the ground floor serves as a vestibule with cloakrooms and small hall, the ground floor of the north is a vestibule – foyer with a cash desk and buffet.  Both the rooms form two entrances into the main hall of the theatre as well that are mutually independent. The other floors of the south building contain the theatre background and the north part provides rooms for accommodation of actors in the upper floors. The recently reconstructed interior of public space is tuned into blue, gray and white colour,  which underlines the mentioned expression in the Brussels style. That is accentuated by painting of the space with geometric figures, metal lining of the wall in buffet, white plastic furniture and lights in the shape of Corbusier’s concrete towers. The hall with the auditorium is tuned into beige and gray colour, used on padded seats and acoustical lining of the walls.  

 

Literature:

–  Divadlo Alfa před stěhováním, Československý loutkář 20, 1981, č. 5, s. 108–109

–  Pavel Vašíček, Předmět našich tužeb, nedatováno, archiv autora

–  Inka Bílá, Úctyhodné postavení, Pravda 67, 1986, 5. 11., s. 5

–  Miloslav Česal, Dvacet let divadla dětí, Československý loutkář 16, 1987, č. 4, s. 74–77

–  Václav Vileta, Divadlu Alfa se v nových prostorách daří, Region Plzeňsko, 1994, č. 40, s. 10

–  Ladislava Lederbuchová, Z historie divadla Alfa, in: Kultura, historie a současnost Plzně, Plzeň 1996, s. 138–157

–  Miloslav Bělohlávek, Plzeňská předměstí, Plzeň 1997, s. 9–18

–  Nina Malířová, XII. Alfa (a Omega), in: Pavel Vašíček (ed.), Plzeňské loutkářství, Plzeň 2000, s. 108–115

–  Ladislav Vaindl, Stěny Divadla Alfa se rozvlní, Plzeňský deník, 2009, č. 176 (30. 7.), s. 1

–  Jiří Valenta (ed.), Malované opony divadel českých zemí, Praha 2010, s. 50–51

–  Nová Alfa bude plusem hlavně pro vozíčkáře, MF Dnes, 2010, č. 195 (23. 8.), s. 3

–  Nová fasáda Divadla Alfa sbírá ceny, Plzeňský deník,2010, č. 122 (27. 4.), s. 2

 

Tags: Normalization in Czechoslovakia, Postmodern architecture, Purism, terraced house

 

Author: Ludmila Hůrková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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