Prof. Josef Skupa (1892 -1957)
Born in Strakonice, Josef Skupa was attracted to puppetry ever since his childhood. As a student at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Prague, he took interest in sculpting and that was a just a step away from modelling puppets. Upon the outbreak of the First World War, Skupa joined the army. Owing to fortunate circumstances, he was able to move to Pilsen where he was offered work as stage designer in the City Theatre. He also worked as a designer in the Skoda Engineering works. However, his attraction to the theatre proved to be stronger. A decisive moment in his life came when he saw the backstage of the Puppet Theatre in Pilsen, at the time headed by popular puppeteer Karel Novák. In a short time Skupa became one of the foremost members of this ensemble and later its leader. In 1920, Skupa's design were used by woodcarver Karel Nosek to make Spejbl who was to be a partner to Kaspárek in Skupa's effort to introduce a new comic personage which would enrich traditional folk art characters of the puppet theatre. This synthesis, however, was not very successful. Hurvinek appeared on stage for the first time in 1926, and one of the most famous puppet theatre twosomes was born. Skupa's approachwas becoming increasingly different from Novák's traditional view of the theatre, finally resulting in their parting. In 1930, Josef Skupa founded the first modern professional puppet scene.
In the same year, Spejbl's family increased by two new members - Hurvínek's faithful friend Mánicka and the dog Zeryk. The quartet of the main characters was completed in 1971 with the arrival of Mánicka's pedantic granny Katerina.
(1927 - 1996)
Milos Kirschner was born on March 16, 1927. As a student of international law he was arrested by the communist police and imprisoned for alleged activities against the regime. After serving his sentence he was forced to join the so-called Black Barons - an army detachment for soldiers who opposed the communist establishment. Following his discharge from the military in 1951, he joined the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre. A year later he began, at first anonymously, performing with the two main characters. Appointed the successor to Professor Skupa in 1956, Milos Kirschner continued to develop the theatre's dramaturgy. While accepting its traditional folk humour, he developed new forms of stage performance and a different thematic approach, emphasizing problems between generations and social issues of the time. He focused on problems of human character, ethics and love, as well as the position of an individual in society and absurdities of life. He played an important role in ensuring that Spejbl and Hurvinek did not become more museum exhibits. He performed the roles of Spejbl and Hurvínek for a total of 44 years, 13 years longer than Josef Skupa. Unlike his predecessor, Kirschner began performing both roles also in foreign languages. Through Kirschner's voice, Spejbl and Hurvinek spoke in 18 languages in 30 countries on four continents. In Japan, Milos Kirschner was awarded the Golden Cup for his merits in the art of puppet theatre. He was appointed a honorary member of the US Puppeteers' Union and has been listed in the "Who's Who in the World" encyclopedia. He is the autor of numerous articles, dialogues a screenplays. He has done extensive radio, television and film work in the Czech republic and abroad. He co-wrote several books on Spejbl and Hurvinek and many recordings featurings plays and dialogues on the famous twosome. The Supraphon record company awarded Kirschner a gold record for 250 000 copies of foreign language recordings of Spejbl and Hurvinek dialogues sold abroad. Another gold record went to Kirschner for one milion records sold in the Czech Republic. In 1996 he received a platinum record for 200 000 cassettes and CDs sold up to 1996. Milos Kirschner passed away on July 2, 1996. He left behind his successor Martin Klásek and his disciples. As a teacher Milos Kirschner stressed the need for a professional attitude, a never ending quest for the modern stage expressions and preservation of the traditional
principles of this unique theatre. His aim was to preserve this genuine art of synthesis, poetry, and illusion.
( 1957 )
Martin Klásek joined the theatre's technical staff in 1973 at the age of sixteen. Shortly after that, he demonstrated his artistic talents and became a part of the ensemble. When he proved his ability to perform Hurvínek's voice in falsetto, Milos Kirschner began to train him as his future successor. Martin Klásek handled the roles of both Spejbl and Hurvinek for the first time in the play "Hurvínek among the Beetles" in 1974. In 1982 he began to alternate with Milos Kirschner on a regular basis, at first in children's plays and later in performances for adults. When Milos Kirschner had to restrict his artistic tours abroad, Martin Klásek continued the tradition of performing in foreign languages. While Kirschner performed in eighteen languages, Martin Klásek has played in Russian, German, Norwegian, Arabic, Spanish, French and Chinese. Martin Klásek has also joined the group of the theatre's playwrights. He has written some of the dialogues in the children's play "Spejbl and Hurvínek Are Coming". His debut as author and director was the play "Hurvínek and the Mirror" which was followed by "Hurvínek and the UFO". Both plays have been performed abroad. Martin Klásek became the theatre's artistic director after the death of Milos Kirschner in 1996. He is the third "father" of the theatre's two main wooden protagonists. In addition, Martin Klásek is active outside the theatre, making records and CDs with Spejbl and Hurvínek and performing on television. His activities guarantee that this unique dramatic tradition is alive and well to the great pleasure of the theatre and its fans.
Mgr. Helena Stáchová
( 1944 )
After graduating from secondary school, Helena Stachova joined the Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre as a pupil. Within a year, however, she left the theatre to study at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. Following graduation in 1966 she returned to the theatre and replaced Božena Welwková in the role of Mánicka, one of the theatre's dominant characters that was created in 1930. Unlike her two predecessors who had played Manicka, Helena Stachova began to interpret her role in foreign languages: German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, English, French, Japanese and Chinese. In 1971, Kirschner created a new character for her - Mrs. Katerina Hovorkova, Manicka's Granny who joined the theatres main characters. The new role allowed Helena Stachova to expand her artistic expression, carrying on the theatre's tradition of one artist performing two different characters. Helena Stáchová has performed not only in the Spejbl and Hurvinek Theatre but also on radio and television. In addition, she has dubbed numerous films and together with Milos Kirschner, made many gramophone and cassette recordings. At present, she continues her works with Martin Klásek. She has also written theatre and television screenplays and CD scripts. She has written three plays for adults and three for children, two of them will soon be premiered. Helena Stáchová is the director of her plays and for several years has been in charge of theatre's dramaturgy. After the death of Milos Kirschner, Helena Stáchová was appointed the director of the Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre.