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Dusík Theatre Čáslav

Josef Spudil

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Important events

(detail)1842 | Construction
First simple stage for amateur actors was built in tavern „U králevice“.
(detail)1861 | Reconstruction

Reconstruction of the stage was carried out acording the design by Alois Schulz. Gustav Havle, Jan Rieb and Fryč made paintings with mythological figures on the curtain.

(detail)1869 | Opening
Čáslav citizens, decided to build a new theatre building in 1867. In summer 1868, construction work had finished according the design by Josef Spudil. Theatre activity was initiated on 28th February, 1869.
(detail)1887 | Reconstruction
In October 1887, considerable adaptations were carried out, which were initiated in 1886 according the design by František Tetřev.
(detail)1.1.1923 | Fire
In the night, the theatre burnt down completely. Fire broke out for unknown cause in theatre storage. Only perimeter wall remained with fragments of stucco decoration and reinforced concrete of balcony.
(detail)16.3.1924 | Reopening
The theatre was reopened after reconstruction, which was carried out by architect Bohumír Kozák (some older sources stated as the authors of reconstruction architects J. Skřivánek and V. Svoboda).
(detail)X.4.1930 | Reconstruction

(detail)1939 | Project

Jindřich Freiwald proposed a design for a partial adaptation of the theatre. Due to WW2, most of the adaptations were not realized.

(detail)1946 | Project

Architects Antonín Palusek and Jaromír Jirásek proposed a design for reconstruction of the theatre, which was radically concieved. By the coincidence of events, it has been never realized in 1940s, nor later in second half of 20th century.


(detail)Josef Spudil |main architect

Director of the technical secondary school in Čáslav, who also worked as a builder and stage painter. An original theatre building was erected according to his designs in Čáslav in the historicizing Gothic Revival style.


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(detail)Jindřich Freiwald |architect

Belonged among the most productive Czech architects of the 1920s and 1930s. An architectural studio, which was led jointly by him and Jaroslav Böhm (Freiwald & Böhm), designed large quantity of family houses, dozens of blocks of flats, financial houses and several congregations of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in the area spreading from Duchcov to Slovakia. In context of Freiwald´s occasionally qualitatively floating work, three theatre buildings are evaluated very highly: Hronov (1930), Chrudim (1934) and Kolín (1939). He died in fights liberating Prague in the end of the WW2.

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(detail)Jan Vejrych |architect

His work is considerably large and manifold. He was a typical, albeit considerably cultivated, eclecticist. His early buildings were influenced by the work of A. Wiehl. He employed a Gothic architectural vocabulary on his buildings, besides the forms of Czech Renaissance, and later naturally Art Nouveau. A lot of his buildings (as for instance hotel Paříž and houses in Pařížská Street) will be probably appreciated fully in the future.

In: Prostor - AD

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(detail)Václav Svoboda |architect

Engineer, architect and builder mainly in Čáslav.

Source : Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 636 , Praha 2004.

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(detail)Josef Skřivánek |architect

Architect and builder in Čáslav. He designed and executed an array of private or public building and projects. Especially reconstruction of Dusík Theatre (1923), design of Diviš Theatre in Žamberk (1925), design of front facade of district authority in Čáslav.

In:  Tvrdíková, Lada: Divadelní život v Čáslavi v letech 1869-1923, Bakalářská práce, Masarykova universita,  Brno 2007

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Antonín Paluska |architect
(detail)Bohumír Kozák |architect

A Czech architect, disciple of J. Schulz and J. Koula. He dedicated almost his whole career to Prague, where he built an array of significant Functionalistic buildings.

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Jan Rieb |painter
(detail)Tobiáš Mössner |painter

German painter. He arrived to Prague in 1834 and became a painter of sceneries for Estate Theatre (1847 - 1869). Since 1862, he worked for Provisional Theatre as well. He started by perspective illusionistic Baroque scene of Galli-bibien type, but he endeavoured to cope with new impulses of Romantic scene.

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(detail)Robert Holzer |painter

Stage scenery painter in the Theatre an der Wien (to 1883) and Prague National Theatre. (1883-1924). His work is mostly made in the late Romanticism style.

In:  Tvrdíková, Lada: Divadelní život v Čáslavi v letech 1869-1923, Bakalářská práce, Masarykova universita,  Brno 2007

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Gustav Havle |painter
Josef Dobeš |painter


The building stands in contiguous buildings with the main south entrance elevation towards Dusík Street, side facade towards Masaryk Street, the rear of the theatre is facing an inner yard.

A first simple theatre stage for Čáslav amateur actors was installed in „U králevice“(By Prince Royal) inn in 1842, „the entire theatre was arranged and painted” by mister Heš.

Stage reconstruction took place according to the design by regional engineer Alois Schulz in 1861, local district office assistant Gustav Havle and painters Jan Rieb and Fryč made the decorative painting with mythological figures on the curtain. Čáslav citizens, assembled in the newly founded Association for the construction of a theatre, proceeded to construct a new theatre building that should have replaced the inconvenient hall with a simple stage  in 1867. Financial donations and credit brought funds for the planned construction that should have served not only for theatre purposes but as a centre of patriotic associations as well – Čtenářská beseda (Reader's Popular Education Organization), Hlahol singers club –and should have been decoration of the city and a monument manifesting an advanced state and culture of Čáslav citizens of that time to the offspring“. The construction plot in the former city moat location was divested of greenwood, foundations were excavated in June and July of 1867. Complications with groundwater delayed the construction development, but the it advanced above terrain by the Autumn and the building was finished in the summer of 1868.

Outer Romanesque revival expression of a compact two-storey  construction with an advanced three bay front elevation with an axially located relief plaque above the entrance was highlighted by an array  of plastic building details (a chambranle on paired windows, unbroken arched frieze and coffered frieze with embossed crosses) and segmented silhouette, constituted by polygonal turrets, highly protruded above the level of a crowning cornice. Exterior surfaces were also articulated by a shallow lisene system, multi-sided or piers with fluted  rims. The building was covered by a hipped, slate-covered roof. The left side of the building was protruded by the low ground floor part finished by a vestibule in the axis with two flight staircase leading to it. 

The inner layout of the theatre consisted of a stage and auditorium with „ two galleries, two lodges on each side and two in the background“. The designer of the building, Josef Spudil, painted a curtain with a veduta of Čáslav; Prague painter Tobias Mössner provided stage sceneries with scenes of forest and „open“ landscape. The entrance theatre elevation was decorated by a marble bust of Čáslav native, piano virtuoso and music composer Jan Ladislav Dusík (1761–1812) (the author was sculptor Jindřich Čapek), the theatre was named after him.

The ceremonial opening of the theatre and Meeting hall took place on 1st  November of 1868, theatre interiors were still being adapted during the end of that year. Theatre operation started on 28th February of  1869.  Subsequent building  reconstruction  affected meeting spaces that were enlarged by Kutná Hora builder Josef Hradecký as he added a kitchen to them and  „ an ice cellar of American system in the garden nicely established“. Josef Spudil arranged live images To memory of Komenský and Homage of Czech nation to its king (1877 and again 1879), he was later painting some the sceneries (for instance a cave in 1879). „The simple interior of the auditorium was embellished “ in 1880, when Josef Spudil made models of capitals, which ornamented galleries, „ also other ornaments made and infill painted red and gilded, curtains given to lodges, thereby interior of the auditorium gained a splendid appearance.“ Meeting spaces were also painted and theatre and Meeting hall received yellow-green overlay. Čáslav citizens unveiled the new theatre curtain on the occasion of the crown prince Rudolf marriage with initials of the newlyweds in flower frames in 1881; J. Spudil arranged another  “beautiful plastic colourful image” for the marriage celebration; Spudil stage-managed another live image on the occasion of the three hundred years jubilee of the Jan Amos Komenský´s birthday in 1892 (Komenský´s departure from the homeland).

The association paid back the debt for the  construction of the theatre in 1887. Other essential building alterations were carried out in October of the same year after having been initiated in 1886 according to the design by engineer František Tetřev. The front elevation of the theatre was extended in both the sides and safety fire staircases were added on the first and second gallery with direct exits to the street. The front lodge was relocated from the ground floor to the first gallery in the interior, it enlarged the space dedicated to standing rooms. The storage room for  scenery came into existence by the stage, accessible even from the garden behind the building. A fireproof wall above the proscenium arch separated fly facilities from the auditorium; a fireproof ceiling protected even the stage. Two new dressing rooms were built up, over which an innkeeper´s flat with three rooms was located. Robert Holzer, painter form the National Theatre, created new set pieces in 1889. Acetylene lamps lit the theatre and adjacent rooms since 1901 and they were replaced by gas lighting in 1905.

In succession to the theatre, street frontage was extended by Sokol (youth sport movement and gymnastics organization) gym that was built between 1907–1910 on the neighbouring plot according to the design by architects Josef Skřivánek and enlarged according to  the design by architect Jan Vejrych. The Reader's Meeting hall was being rebuilt concurrently and after reconstruction it acquired a new kitchen with a bar and music hall of Hlahol Association together with an archive and library in the first floor. A new corridor interconnected Sokol Hall and theatre and new entrance was opened in the front facade to the Masaryk Street.

Flames burst out in the auditorium balcony in January 1911, after a ball had been taken place, but it was managed to extinguish it in time. The facade of the old building was repaired and adjusted to the annexe in the course of the same year. The interior of the theatre was renovated in the course of seven months, worth expense of 45 000 Crowns, again according to the design by architect and stage director Josef Skřivánek.  Ferro-concrete constructions replaced wooden galleries, proscenium arch  and orchestra pit enclosure. The ground floor of the auditorium received an ascending floor with an axial aisle and there appeared lodges, accessible from the stage, for theatre officials on the sides of the orchestra pit. A wide balcony was built up in the first floor with eight lodges and two rows of seats. The fly loft underwent  renovation as well.  Gas lighting from 1905 was replaced by electricity. The years of the First World War contributed to „ considerable devastation of the whole building, especially conference rooms “; its repair required extensive financial disbursement after the Czechoslovakian state had been founded.

The theatre burnt down to the foundations in night hours on January 1, 1923. Fire broke out in the  theatre storeroom for an unknown cause and „destroyed all the sceneries in a very short time, swept the roof of the theatre building, scorched the entire auditorium equipment. It diffused onto the stage […] and it was  jeopardizing both   dressing rooms, from which great part of the library and something from wardrobe has been saved.“ Photographs of the interiors after  destructive fire show  that all what left from the building were only bare walls with fragments of stucco ornamentation and  ferro-concrete constructions of the balcony and gallery, supported by striated columns. The theatre, reconstructed by architect Bohumír Kozák (Alfred Javorin stated that architects J. Skřivánek and V. Svoboda were the authors of the reconstruction), was opened again on 16th March 1924. Ground floor volume of Conference Hall received another floor in April 1930,  where could be accommodated innkeeper rooms and two rooms subsequently serving as a dressing room and property-room. New facades were unified by  a plain plaster surface  with running embossed cornices; vertical gadroon of the inter window pillaret was the unique pattern commemorating former historicizing apparatus of the front facade. A flat board of  a rectangular canopy concealed the corner entrance to the Meeting hall restaurant.


Design for partial renovation of the theatre originated in December of 1939 from Prague architect Jindřich Freiwald  who planned on deepening the stage with a  new back stage, more functional reconstruction of backstage rooms and  connection of the theatre with the Public Education Conference Hall.   Theatre volume should have been enlarged by a new exhibition hall with an antechamber of  segmental plan filing so far the receded theatre corner. Freiwald intended to substitute historicizing facades of the building by a more modern concept of facades  emphasized by embossed window trims, cornices and  portal canopy, fair-face and flat brickwork should have been alternated contrastively. The outbreak of the Second World War did not permit to realize the majority of designed alterations, but the audience could see at least the improved stage with a circle drop and new lighting in September of 1940.

A radically conceived design by architects Antonín Paluska and  Jaromír Jirásek for Dusík Theatre reconstruction came into existence in 1946. The existing complex of „ a structurally and operationally undisciplined system of buildings” should have been divested of the historicizing Neo- Romanesque mask, replaced by a horizontally segmented parterre with a access staircase to an enlarged entrance in a recessed corner on the lateral facade towards Dusík Street, the super elevated section of the stage should have been highlighted by five axial compositions of recessed fields with figural sculptures. Functionalistic strip windows should have broken the flat frontage of Masaryk Avenue. In his project, Paluska intended to enlarge and to monumentalize the entrance part facing Dusík Street, to convert  the restaurant hall  into a theatre vestibule with cloakrooms and other facilities, to conduct out the staircase of the encircling corridor, to enlarge the stage depth, to heighten the fly loft and to add backstage operation rooms of dressing rooms, in which basement a restaurant should have been located.  New room of the theatre foyer and staircase were handled with moderate style of modern classicism with wooden panelling, theatre emblems, simple carvings and reliefs depicting themes from the famous national history. Generously drafted reconstruction was not implemented neither  in the end of the 1940s  nor in the second half of the 20th century. The contemporary management of the theatre took preliminary steps to theatre overhauling just recently.


Present state

The exterior of the theatre has two differently conceived street facades in the style. Late Art-Nouveau frontage facing Dusík Street is formed by two unequally high parts: higher volume  with flat central three-axial projections and rounded corners, which is extended from the recessed corner of the theatre block. A lower two storey projection progresses towards the historic square, its facade is vertically subdivided by six protruded hexagonal pylons jutting out over the level of the attic.  A projection of the higher segment in the basement axis is highlighted by a portal with a two door leaf entrance and semicircular archivolt filled with metallic decorative filling with geometric motifs (volutes). Outer framing of the central entrance is constituted by a chambranle with stuccowork comprised of a laurel belt, the flat facades are decorated on sides by embossed belts that are separated by cornices, with female masks and bundle ornament. The top level of the front facade bay is comprised, above the relief motif of lyres, of a marble commemorative plaque in a vegetal frame with a young man – a genius with a palm branch, who kneels before a bust of piano virtuoso and composer J. L. Dusík, whose name is applied to the theatre. On the sides of the relief, there are two couples of   small paired windows with  funicular arches and central fluted pier, above them painted inscriptions: BUILT 1868 and  RENOWATED 1923.

The left lower section of the facade is articulated by alternation of pylons and three ground floor entrances and couples of windows in the first floor and recessed rectangular frames. Modest, rather historicizing in Neo-Romanesque than Art- Nouveau style decoration is represented by stylized masks on pylons and embossed friezes on window sills. Attics shield the view from the street onto a saddle roof  of the main rectangular wing with a rising low solid of the fly loft flanged by attic walls with corner tiered pylons and lantern above the  stage.

The front frontage towards Masaryk Street has preserved a plain appearance, which was acquired by reconstruction in 1930. The facades are opened with large windows with distinctive ledges, the floors are divided by thin cornice strips, and the shallow bay has pilaster strips. The low one two-storey wing, interconnecting Meeting Hall with neighbouring Sokol Hall, has a flat roof. 

The auditorium of  U shape layout has preserved the space layout that has been acquired by the reconstruction after the fire in 1923. Two balcony floors with an amphitheatric layout are supported in regular intervals by steel piles with a cast, on circle cross-section with a stucco capital with gilded leafs. Parapets on balconies carry semicircular, to each other facing sectors, which form embossed socket for original round lamps in the lower part of the balustrade and acknowledge the morphology of the national Art Deco decorativism of the 1920s, which character is manifested also in the overall red-white coloured pattern of the auditorium. The Art Deco arrangement is echoed not only in blank circle ornaments on the door leaf leading into the auditorium, in cylindrical elements of their handles, but in  quadrate ground plans of the ground floor proscenium lodges as well. A ceiling chandelier is implanted into an embossed circular frame with gilded stucco elements of a garland and leafs; it is comprised of central lighting with a cylindrical metallic casing and of eight smaller lights disposed on its circumference. Other spaces of the ceiling are articulated by profiled frames with segmented embossed motifs and by a foursome of other lights. The rear wall of the dress circle is broken by windows of a technical booth.

The profiled jamb of the proscenium arch with a central torus carries a stucco relief in the middle of the lintel with the city emblem with gilded garlands that are held on by child figures. The iron curtain carries stylized ornamental paintwork with an inscription „Alois Jirásek – Josef Kaj. Tyl – Bedřich Smetana“and the years 1869 and  1924 on the sides. The original appearance has been  preserved  on coping  of honorary lodges along the sides of the stage with gilded stucco masks with floral motifs and allegorical figurative friezes symbolizing the theatre genres Drama (left) and Comedy (right).

The entrance vestibule and  lounge of the theatre foyer in the first floor have mostly an utilitarian and austere character, determined in art style only by plasticity of ferro-concrete ceiling lintels and girders, supplemented by authentic lighting with brazen bodies protruding out of stucco plates with floral motifs. In the lounge, one is attracted by several pieces of period interwar furniture of high craft quality (an armchair and small table, bench with high backrest and leather upholstery, which revolves around an squared pillar from three sides) and mural metal   commemorative plaque with a relief portrait of Leopold Želina (1827–1882), once the co-founder, and stage director and director of the Dusík Theatre.


Employed sources and literature:

– Státní okresní archiv Kutná Hora, fond Dusíkovo divadlo Čáslav (1867–1974)

– Stavební archiv města Čáslav, plánová a spisová složka k budově Dusíkova divadla čp. 194

– Klement Čermák, Památník ochotnického divadla v Čáslavi. Čáslav 1893

– Č. Č., Květy V, 1870, č. 12 (24. března), s. 94–96

Pravda XXVIII, 1924, č. 11 (14. března), s. 1

Divadelní listy 1924, č. 13 (15. března), s. 5 (zpráva Dusíkovo divadlo v Čáslavi)

Divadelní listy 1924, č. 17 (12. dubna), s. 5 (-dr-: Dusíkovo divadlo v Čáslavi; fotografie exteriéru a hlediště)

Lidová Tribuna 1924, č. 15 (29. března), s. 4 (zpráva Dusíkovo divadlo v Čáslavi)

– Ladislav Brhlík a kol., Dusíkovo divadlo v Čáslavi, Čáslav 1946

– Alfred Javorin, Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích I, Praha 1949, s. 29–31

– Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 32 a 122

– Lada Tvrdíková, Divadelní život v Čáslavi v letech 1869–1923, bakalářská práce, Ústav pro studium divadla a interaktivních médií, Filozofická fakulta Masarykovy Univerzity, Brno 2007


Tags: Austria-Hungary, Belle Époque, Neo-Romanesque, terraced house


Author: Pavel Panoch

Translator: Jan Purkert

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