RADOST THEATRE BRNO
In September 1945, the Head of Aesthetic Education of the Research Institute of Education in Brno, Dr. František Tenčík, approached the well-known amateur puppetry director Vladimír Matoušek with the intention to establish and run a puppet theater in Brno. The location of the future Radost Puppet Theatre became Orania, a former cinema located at Bratislavská ulice No. 32. In October 1947 semi-professional operation commenced and within two years Vladimír Matoušek – a teacher and artist who was one of the leading figures of the interwar generation of Czech puppetry – gathered together a capable artistic team, ready for professionalization.
Professional activities of the theater date back to the 25th of October 1949. A group of twelve, within which Zora Bílková-Matoušková, Ruzena Kolářová, and director and actor Josef Kaláb were active from the beginning, was led by Vladimír Matoušek, and Jarmila Majerová was the visual artist. Shortly after Mirko Matoušek, Marcel Halouzka, Jitka Kalábová and the visual artist Karel Hlavatý also joined the group. From the beginning the Radost Theatre sought to create its own dramaturgical and staging profile.
It mainly staged original plays from domestic authors. By the early 1960s the director Josef Kaláb, along with visual artists Jarmila Majerová and Karel Hlavatý had created a distinctive staging and poetic style. Some productions from the late 1950s become an integral part of the history of Czech puppet theater.
(Kainar’s Goldilocks (Zlatovláska) – 1953 and 1957, Boris’s Secret of the Golden Key (Tajemství zlatého klíčku) – 1955, or Sojka’s Brocade, Prince Charming (Brokát, princ z pohádky) – 1958). Around this time under the guidance of director Františka Pavla Kainarová, the Radost Theatre completed its first major foreign tours (1956 Vietnam and Mongolia, 1958 India, Ceylon, Indonesia. Cambodia, Egypt), which brought an extraordinary response from the audience, as well as many achievements and awards. The theater building and the first (at the time unique) upgrading of the stage and its background underwent extensive renovation.
Replacement of the artistic leadership and group occurred during the first half of the 1960s. Director Jiří Jaroš developed Kaláb’s lyrical staging manuscript with new ideas and techniques (theater masks, mime, black light theater), and graduates of the puppet department of the Academy of Performing Arts were gradually recruited (e.g. visual artists Ilda and Jiří Pitr, actors Anděla and Ján Čisárik, Josef Borek, Vratislav Schilder, and Svetlana Bouzková). Productions became more focused on comedy, fiercer and more action packed. In the 1970s (the composer Dr. Ladislav Štancl was director from 1969) the newly appointed director and dramaturge Pavel Vašíček formulated his “opening” production Brdečka’s Rye Magician (Žito kouzelník) – 1970 program of magical realism, which made use of all of the existing artistic potential of the group e.g. refinement, lyricism, but also a sense of humor – all this combined with perfect puppet animation. During his time at the Radost Theatre he began to include productions for young and adult audiences in the repertoire. In the 1970 the group (Lída Janků came from the puppet department of the Academy of Performing Arts, and e.g. Eva Jurůjová, Zdeněk Sevcik, and Kateřina Rakovčíková from the Brno Conservatory) led by P. Vašíček had exquisite poetic productions for children – e.g. Karafiát’s Beatles (Broučci) – 1970, Speranský’s Unprecedented Beauty (Krása nevídaná) – 1974, or Hrubín’s Chap (Špalíček) – 1979 as well as the impressive and grotesque parable of Ghelderod’s the Blind (Slepci), Dürrenmatt’s Double, Gogol’s The Nose (Nos) – 1971 and Lorcový’s Rude Puppets (Neotesané loutky) – 1973, intended for adults.
At the end of the 1970s Dr. Štancl was replaced as director of the Radost Theatre by Vratislav Schilder. In 1980, director Zoja Mikotová, graduate of JAMU, was recruited (we recall the successful staging of Twain’s Prince and the Pauper (Princ a chuďas) – 1982 Davídkov’s Tales of Budulínek (Pohádky o Budulínkovi) – 1987, Stevenson’s Treasure Island (Ostrov pokladů) – 1990 but especially a rare “record” in the history of the Radost Theatre – the production of Čapek’s Story about a dog and a cat (Povídání o pejskovi a kočičce) has run since its premiere in 1986 until now) In 1984, director Petr Kracik and visual artist Jaroslav Milfajt, both graduates of the Academy of Performing Arts, joined the theatre. This duo created in the late 1980s a remarkable tetralogy of multi-layered performances for young people and adults (Ibsen’s Peer Gynt – 1985 S. Pushkin’s The Dead Princess and the Seven Knights (O carevičce a sedmi bohatýrech) – 1986, M. Vodička’s Asagao 1986, and Moliere’s Don Juan – 1988)
Within two years (1988 – 1990) the theatre was incorporated into the administratively created complex of “Brno Theater”.
The current executive and artistic director, Vlastimil Peška, has been at the Radost Theater since the mid-1990s. He oversees and rigorously develops the repertoire program for audiences of all ages, focuses the dramaturgy on the adaptation of classical fairy tales for the youngest, key works of Czech and world literature and his own dramatic production. Based on his program of musical and entertaining theater, he formed an ensemble with an excellent singing and instrumental disposition, which is able to handle a wide range of expressive media.
Thanks to the qualities of the ensemble, it has recently been possible to realize very ambitious projects, such as J. Kompit’s comic opera Princess Sylvester (2004), the musical Painted on Glass by E. Bryll – K. Gärtnerová (2008), V. Peška’s adaptation of the Beatles, or Yellow Submarine (2008 and 2014), Brdeček’s comedy Lemonade Joe (2012), the dramatization of K. Polacek’s novel We Were Five, or even the staging of Mozart’s Magic Flute in a transcription of music and libretto by V. Peška (2014). Since 2015, the repertoire of the theater has seen three seasons of the dramatization of the Little Prince by Antoin de Saint-Exupéry, and since 2017, Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. Every season, the Radost Theater holds about 30 productions for a wide range of audiences, from plays for the youngest children, and school age audiences, to productions for adolescents and adult audiences. Recently, we have been met with a great response from the production of V. Peška’s Hey Mister, Let’s Play!! and Nohavica Cabaret and especially A. Lindgren’s Pipi Longstocking or Baum’s The Wizard of OZ, which has a new art director Michal Sopouch and dramaturg Pavel Trtilek. Two productions for children from age one (accompanied by their parents), the so-called Miminí divadlo (Children’s Theater), has been very positively appraised by both the professional and general public. Both productions come from the author and director workshop of Janka Ryšánek Schmiedtová.
A detailed summary of the current repertoire can be found on the theater’s website (www.divadlo-radost.cz).
In addition to the large stage (capacity of 220 seats), some productions are held on the small stage or in the chamber space of the Puppet Museum.
The director, Vlastimil Peška, was also the initiator of an extensive reconstruction of all of the spaces of the original location of the Radost Theater. The objective was fulfilled i.e. to create a modern theater with several alternatives for various productions, including a summer scene as well as the so-called Puppet Museum – The Magic World of Animation – a space where in addition to exhibitions of the puppet from the theater’s depository, presentations of artist collaborations are held.