Puppetry Museum Exhibits puppets from WWI trenches

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On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI and the foundation of the modern Czech state, the Puppetry Museum in Chrudim prepared the exhibition called Puppets on the Front. It presents the phenomenon of Czech puppetry at battlefields and in the rear.

Although the war period is affected by the decline of culture, puppetry in the Czech lands did not disappear, and it even found its way to the war front. According to preserved records, puppets accompanied soldiers in the trenches, or they were made in the field. In the rear, there was lively activity on new theatre stages, such as the Puppet Theatre of Art Education in Prague or Theatre of Summer Camps in Pilsen, where young teacher Josef Skupa arrived in 1917 to start the actual revolution in Czech puppet theatre, apart from the political changes, with his “revolutionary” Kasperle.

The exhibition Puppets on the Front aims to interactively outline the development of Czech puppetry in WWI and lives of some of the puppeteers. It presents rare artifacts from the collections of the Puppetry Museum in Chrudim, which stores some of the “war” puppets, such as unique marionettes of Italian legionaries made by the Kopecký brothers, or Josef Matěj Gottlieb’s flat puppets made of Hungarian soldiers’ mail. Visitors can also see the replica of Skupa’s “revolutionary” Kasperle. The exhibition also includes the railway model of war Europe, which presents selected WWI events at several stopovers, using a shadow play and sound effects. The exhibition was also the opportunity for the curator Richard Matula to write an eponymous book.

The cooperation with the Czechoslovak Legionary Association and its project Legie 100 – Legiovlak made it possible for the replicas of Italian legionaries by the Kopecký brothers to be exhibited in one car of the travelling replica of the legion train, which travelled all around the Czech Republic in 2018. The exhibits of the Puppetry Museum in Legiovlak also included the series of 69 performances of Václav Živsa’s Zkáza tvrdého meče with the replicas of legionary puppets. The production was staged by Cakes and Puppets and performed at the opening of the exhibition Puppets on the Front.