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, that is 25 years!) 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 director and artistic director, Vlastimil Peška, joined the Radost Theatre in the mid-1990s. He took over and thoroughly developed the repertoire for all ages, his dramaturgy focused on adaptations of classic fairy tales for children and the key works of Czech and world literature as well as his own dramatic creations. In relation to its program of musical theater entertainment he compiled a group of exquisitely predisposed singers and musicians able to handle a wide range of ways of expression.
Thanks to a high-quality ensemble, it has recently been possible to stage very ambitious projects such as the comic opera Princess Sylvester by J. Kompit (2004), Painted on Glass by E. Bryll – K. Gärtnerová (2008), V. Peška’s Beatles, or the Yellow Submarine (2008 and 20014), Brdeck’s comedy Lemonade Joe (2012), the dramatization of K. Poláček’s novel We Were Five or even the stage rendition of Mozart’s Magic Flute in V. Peška’s transcription of music and libretto (2014). As of 2015, the repertoire of theater includes a dramatization of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, or from 2017 Shakespeare’s comedy Merry Wives of Windsor. The Radost Theater has about 30 productions in its repertoire for a wide audience – from plays for the youngest children, school-age audiences to productions for youth and adult audiences. A detailed list of the current repertoire can be found on the theater’s website (www.divadlo-radost.cz).
In addition to the Big Stage (with a capacity of 220 seats), some productions are held on the Little Stage or in the intimate space of the Puppet Museum, where the production of A Big Book of Poems and Stories by František Hrubín, directed by the newly-joined director Michal Sopuch, premiered in June 2017.
The director Vlastimil Peška also initiated the extensive reconstruction of all of the premises of the original Radost Theater. The established objective was achieved, i.e. to provide a modern theater with several alternatives for various productions including a summer stage and also the so-called Puppet Museum – Magical World of Fantasy, a space where puppet shows from the theater depository and presentations of the work of collaborating artists are regularly rotated.