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October 11 to 27
Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre in
"Duke Oldrich & Washerwoman Bozena, the True Story: A Historical Comedye in Three Acts"
Jan Hus Church, 351 East 74th Street
Wed-Fri @ 7:00 PM, Sat @ 2:30 PM 
Individual tickets: $19 general admission, $14 seniors, students
Box Office: http://gohproductions.org/centennial-heritage-festival, 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets)
Running time: 94 minutes.  Critics are invited on or after October 12.
Recommended for audiences age 8-108


A non-traditional staging of a 374 year-old marionette play based on the story of love at first sight of the 11th century Duke Oldrich, who braved stout opposition for friend and foe alike to marry the exquisitely fair washerwoman Bozena, but forgot to mention some details of his own marital status to his beloved.  The two legendary lovers are truthfully represented by fine hand-carved marionettes and life-like mechanicals fashioned expertly two centuries ago from the choicest linden wood; their manipulators in period costumes are artfully composed in flesh and blood.


Performed by actor/puppeteers Carrie Beehan, Deborah Beshaw-Farell, Vít Horejs, Jane Catherine Shaw, Ben Watts (Duke Oldrich) and David Wiley Jones (Washerwoman Bozena).  Music and vocals are by cross-border polyglot Silesian folk singer Beata Bocek (Czech Republic).  Set design is by Roman Hladík. Costume design is by Michelle Beshaw.  Lighting design is by Federico Restrepo.


The story of 11th century Duke Oldrich's marriage to a pretty peasant has been spun, embellished and embroidered by chroniclers and Czech nationalists for a millenium.  Every Czech learns this legend as a child, mostly through the versions enhanced by 19th Century National Renewal period patriots, who resorted to mythmaking when they revived the almost extinct Czech language and culture.

Itinerant folk puppeteer clans were important players in the National Revival movement. The most famous of these families were several generations of the famed Kopecky family. Matej Kopecky, the first of nine generations of that name, used his Barnumesque skills to imprint their name into national memory as a virtual synonym for traditional marionette theater.  The Kopecky version of the play was first recorded by the dynasty's founder's son Vaclav and published in Prague (1862) as part of a four volume set of collected puppet plays. This version was considerably distorted and obscured; either by faulty memory or more likely, a deliberate effort to protect the full text from competing companies in pre-copyright times (remember Shakespeare and other Elizabethan players' similar stratagems?).

Despite the title of the play, most recorded versions do not tell the story of Oldrich and Bozena, but focus on the Duke's comical travails while lost in the forest during a hunt. The 11th Century humor seen through the 19th century National Rebirth prism can get more tedious than funny. "In my search for a play that would focus on this amazing love story," says Director Horejs, "I was almost giving up, when, after a tour of Pilsen Brewery, I visited The Green Mountain Castle Library near Pilsen in Western Bohemia, and accidentally discovered the play that had it all--misfiled as it was. Perhaps the few steins of Pilsen Urquel I imbibed before could be credited for my hand slipping past some spurious medieval manuscripts and my fingers fishing the disintegrating handwritten pages from the second row of books."

This incredible find became the play's main source, but this adaptation is still based on several other versions, unveiling the most blatant of the many myths and legends adorning this true story.

It is interesting to note that Antonín Dvořák, the composer of the New World Symphony, based his first opera, "The King and the Charcoal Burner," on this marionette classic and his equally famous predecessor, Bedřich Smetana, composed two overtures for the puppet play.



Saturdays: Oct. 13, 20 & 27 at 11:30 AM
Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre’s Vit Horejs in
"Water Goblin, and other Czech and Slovak Tales"
Jan Hus Church, 351 East 74th St.
Individual tickets: $16 general admission, $11 seniors and students
Box Office: http://gohproductions.org/centennial-heritage-festival, 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets)
Runs 60 minutes.  Critics are invited on or after October 6.
Recommended for audiences age 4-104


Vit Horejs performs a one-man show of Czech fairy tales (in English) replete with kings, clever village maidens, witches and spirits. His marionettes speak in dozen voices, dance, play violin, swim and fly. The program will be composed of favorite Czech and Slovak fairy tales: "Kacha and the Devil," in which a shepherd outwits the devil who is pursued by a dance-loving shrew, and "The Water Goblin and Stingy Tailor," in which a proud and stingy tailor is taught a lesson by the water goblin, Vodnik. The evening is capped by an adaptation of an all time favorite by Josef Capek (who actually coined the word "robot" for his brother  Karel), "How the Little Dog Pejsek and the Little Cat Kochichka Made a Birthday Cake," where the two bumbling friends bake a concoction with a hundred of their favorite ingredients including mice, fish, bones and gooseheads to make a cake "hundred-times as good." The play is performed with century-old marionettes, hand puppets, and objects; and presented in honor of Pejsek's nameday, Kochichka's birthday and Czechoslovakia's centennial.

This is the show the Horejs performed to a distinguished audience in Prague on July 10, 2018 after receiving the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences (SVU) Award (see below).



The occasion of The Dark Lady Players' performance of "Shakespeare's Anti-Christian satires: The Virgin Mary Parodies" gave us the opportunity to investigate how Elizabethan Meta-Theater could be enacted with contemporary puppet theater.

So we asked John Hudson, the theorist and dramaturg of The Dark Lady Players, to illuminate the possibilities. We learned, in short, that all puppetry is metatheatrical but not all metatheater is puppetry.



PUPPETRY WITH A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE -- Theater for the New City hosted a panel entitled "Puppetry with a Social Conscience" on December 11, 2008. Some of New York's leading puppet theater artists discussed how our world is reflected in the eyes of the Puppet.

Panelists included Peter Schumann, head of Bread and Puppet Theater; Vit Horejs, head of the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater; Jane Catherine Shaw, co-artistic director of the Voice 4 Vision Puppet Festival; John Bell, theater journalist and puppet theater artist; and Eileen Blumenthal, author of "Puppetry: A World History," an authoritative book on puppet theater. The event was moderated by Crystal Field, Executive Director of Theater for the New City.

Listen to an audio recording of
"Puppetry with a Social Conscience"

If you navigate away from this page, this flash recording will stop. But you can listen to the recording while you browse: click here to play through your computer's media player. (Download time: five minutes) © Copyright 2008 Theater for the New City. All rights reserved--no commercial use or reproduction without permission.

Our slide show begins with photos from "Puppetry with a Social Conscience" and continues with selected photos of productions that participated in the Passport to Puppet Theater (precursor to this website) between 2005 and 2008. Photos by Jonathan Slaff.


About this website: NYpuppets.com is a successor to the Passport to Puppet Theater (2005-2008), which was a program sponsored by The Linux Loft and supported by the Jim Henson Foundation.

Presenters: If you would like to propose an offering for an upcoming puppet theater production for this page, contact us at: NYpuppets "at" acedsl.com. Describe your project and give us your contact info. Be creative! Offerings can include discount ticket offers, invitations to special previews and openings, meetings with artists (actors, directors, etc.) and much more. Visit out FAQ's.


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