The Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre was established by prof. Josef Skupa
in Pilsen, western Bohemia in 1930. It was the first modern professional marionette theatre. Its protagonist - Spejbl and Hurvinek
had already gained popularity in amateur marionette shows performed in Pilsen cabarets. The theatre was active as a touring company until 1943. In January 1944, Josef Skupa was arrested by the Nazis for antifascist resistance activities and the theatre was closed. Skupa succeeded in escaping from a Dresden prison which was being bombed by Allied forces in February 1945. After the war, in October 1945, he opened the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre (S+H Theatre) in Prague where the ensemble has remained until today. Since 1953 the theatre has been managed by the Cultural Department of Prague's Municipal Office. After Skupa's death in 1957, the roles of Spejbl and Hurvinek were taken over by the theatre's director
Milos Kirschner (1927 - 1996)
Born in 1927, Kirschner had already played both main characters before Skupa's death. At the end of his life, Professor Skupa wrote an open letter in which he designated Milo Kirschner as his successor. Hence, even after Skupa's passing, Spejbl and Hurvinek reiterated their raison d'etre and the theatre successfully continued its artistic efforts aimed at depicting the world and its complicated social problems through grotesque humour and satire. The Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre has presented about 250 premieres of mostly original comedies written for both children and adults which combine visual and musical settings with the dialogues of Spejbl and Hurvinek.
The principal characters seen in all performances of the theatre are
Spejbl and Hurvínek -
father and son, who represent two generations, each with a different view of the world. Spejbl first appeared on stage in 1920; Hurvínek followed six years later. Being the main characters in realistic and fantastic stories, they comment and philosophize about various issues in structured visual shows. Their traditional opponents are Hurvínek's faithful friend
Mánicka (1930) and her pedagogically-minded Granny Mrs.Katerina Hovorková (1971).
These four principal protagonists,along with additional characters, are accompained by
Zeryk (1930), a dog which belongs to the Spejbls.
A Small Gallery of Artists
Spejbl and Hurvínek are played by a single actor who uses low voice for Spejbl and falsetto for Hurvinek. This tradition established in the 1920s by Josef Skupa, has been perpetuated for more than 40 years by Milo Kirschner and currently by the third performer of Spejbl and Hurvínek, Martin Klásek. Born in 1957, he was picked and trained by Kirschner to become his successor. He first appeared in the roles of Spejbl and Hurvinek during a performance of children's play in 1974 at the age of 17. He began sharing the two characters with Kirschner in 1982. After Kirschner's death in 1996,
Martin Klásek (1957), became the third father of Spejbl and Hurvínek.
Two Lines in the Repertoire
During the almost seventy-year-long history the repertoire of the Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre has followed two basic lines: comedies and dramatic stories that reflect on a variety of important issues and visual grotesque shows intended for both children and adults, featuring solo pantomime and songs combined with front stage dialogues between Spejbl and Hurvinek. These performances have fared well on the ensemble's tours in the Czech Republic and abroad. They offer an impressive show of puppeteering skills-the art of handling marionettes which is the theatre's main means of expression.
For Children and Adults
Plays performed by the Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre are intended for children over four years of age. Apart from stylistic differentiation, the theatre's drama program is based on three categories of performances: for children, teenagers and adults. The Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre is the only Czech marionette ensemble which has played regularly for adult audiences since its founding. The children's repertoire includes humorous stories with educational character, modern versions of fairy tales, and dramatic excursions to the world of fantasy and allegory. Plays intended for teenagers reflect on their problems, while adults are offered satiric comedies.
At Home and Abroad
Most of the theatre's productions are intended for domestic audiences. Every season, however, the ensemble embarks on foreign tours. The Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre has performed in 31 countries on four continents, including Germany, USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, India, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico and Spain. During Milos Kirschner's era Spejbl and Hurvinek spoke 18 languages, and later during Martin Klásek's, eight languages. Both artists have been accompained by
Helena Stáchová, who also performs in foreign languages. She is the third person to play the role of Mánicka. Another characters, Mrs. Katerina, was created specially for Stachova in 1971. These prominent artists are accompained by a team of highly skilled puppeteers who lend the marionettes the art of motion.