Czech Marionettes Highlight Centennial Heritage Festival With New Works

Czech Marionettes Highlight Centennial Heritage Festival With New WorksFrom October 6 to 27 at the Upper East Side's Bohemian National Hall and Jan Hus Church, GOH Productions will present a Centennial Heritage Festival, featuring mainstage marionette theater productions for adults and kids and musical concerts for audiences of all ages. The festival celebrates two auspicious anniversaries: the Centennial Anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia (1918) and the Millennial Anniversary of the unification of the Lands of the Czech Crown, under Duke Oldrich (1018).

Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre (CAMT) headlines the festival with the mainstage production for puppetry lovers aged 8-108, "Duke Oldrich & Washerwoman Bozena, the True Story," and a marionette production for young audiences (ages 4-104), "Water Goblin, and other Czech and Slovak Tales."

Events include music concerts, film screenings, a songfest sing-along of Czech, Slovak, Moravian, Roma, Rusyn and Silesian folk songs, and an array of traditional Czech foods and beverages. Both marionette theater productions will open at Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd Street, the weekend of October 6-7 and move the following weekend to Jan Hus Church, 351 East 74th Street (in the Chapel, not the Playhouse), where they will play through October 27. Some festival events are free; tickets to individual shows and one-and two-day passes are available for all paid events.

Single show tickets range from $19 to $11 and festival passes are available.


all events $28 general audiences, $20 students & seniors

all events $32 general audiences, $22 students & seniors

all events $38 general audiences, $26 students & seniors

Go to or call 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets).

October 6 to 27
Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre in
"Duke Oldrich & Washerwoman Bozena, the True Story: A Historical Comedye in Three Acts"
October 6-7, 2018: Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St. NYC.
Saturday Oct 6 @ 7:00 PM & Sunday October 7 @ 2:30 PM
October 11-27, 2018: Jan Hus Church, 351 East 74th Street
Wed-Fri @ 7:00 PM, Sat @ 2:30 PM
Individual tickets: $19 general admission, $14 seniors, students
Box Office:, 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets)
Running time: 94 minutes. Critics are invited on or after October 12.
Recommended for audiences age 8-108

A non-traditional staging of a 374 year-old marionette play based on the story of love at first sight of the 11th century Duke Oldrich, who braved stout opposition for friend and foe alike to marry the exquisitely fair washerwoman Bozena, but forgot to mention some details of his own marital status to his beloved. The two legendary lovers are truthfully represented by fine hand-carved marionettes and life-like mechanicals fashioned expertly two centuries ago from the choicest linden wood; their manipulators in period costumes are artfully composed in flesh and blood.

Performed by actor/puppeteers Carrie Beehan, Deborah Beshaw-Farrell, Vít Horejs, Jane Catherine Shaw, Ben Watts (Duke Oldrich) and David Wiley Jones (Washerwoman Bozena). Music and vocals are by cross-border polyglot Silesian folk singer Beata Bocek (Czech Republic). Set design is by Roman Hladík. Costume design is by Michelle Beshaw. Lighting design is by Federico Restrepo.

The story of 11th century Duke Oldrich's marriage to a pretty peasant has been spun, embellished and embroidered by chroniclers and Czech nationalists for a millenium. Every Czech learns this legend as a child, mostly through the versions enhanced by 19th Century National Renewal period patriots, who resorted to mythmaking when they revived the almost extinct Czech language and culture.

Itinerant folk puppeteer clans were important players in the National Revival movement. The most famous of these families were several generations of the famed Kopecky family. Matej Kopecky, the first of nine generations of that name, used his Barnumesque skills to imprint their name into national memory as a virtual synonym for traditional marionette theater. The Kopecky version of the play was first recorded by the dynasty's founder's son Vaclav and published in Prague (1862) as part of a four volume set of collected puppet plays. This version was considerably distorted and obscured; either by faulty memory or more likely, a deliberate effort to protect the full text from competing companies in pre-copyright times (remember Shakespeare and other Elizabethan players' similar stratagems?).

Despite the title of the play, most recorded versions do not tell the story of Oldrich and Bozena, but focus on the Duke's comical travails while lost in the forest during a hunt. The 11th Century humor seen through the 19th century National Rebirth prism can get more tedious than funny. "In my search for a play that would focus on this amazing love story," says Director Horejs, "I was almost giving up, when, after a tour of Pilsen Brewery, I visited The Green Mountain Castle Library near Pilsen in Western Bohemia, and accidentally discovered the play that had it all--misfiled as it was. Perhaps the few steins of Pilsen Urquel I imbibed before could be credited for my hand slipping past some spurious medieval manuscripts and my fingers fishing the disintegrating handwritten pages from the second row of books."

This incredible find became the play's main source, but this adaptation is still based on several other versions, unveiling the most blatant of the many myths and legends adorning this true story.

It is interesting to note that Antonín Dvorák, the composer of the New World Symphony, based his first opera, "The King and the Charcoal Burner," on this marionette classic and his equally famous predecessor, Bedrich Smetana, composed two overtures for the puppet play.


October 6-27
Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre's Vit Horejs in
"Water Goblin, and other Czech and Slovak Tales"
Sat Oct 6 and Sun Oct 7 at 11:30 AM - Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St.
Sat Oct 13, 20 & 27 at 11:30 AM - Jan Hus Church, 351 East 74th St.
Individual tickets: $16 general admission, $11 seniors and students
Box Office:, 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets)
Runs 60 minutes. Critics are invited on or after October 6.
Recommended for audiences age 4-104


Vit Horejs performs a one-man show of Czech fairy tales (in English) replete with kings, clever village maidens, witches and spirits. His marionettes speak in dozen voices, dance, play violin, swim and fly. The program will be composed of favorite Czech and Slovak fairy tales: "Kacha and the Devil," in which a shepherd outwits the devil who is pursued by a dance-loving shrew, and "The Water Goblin and Stingy Tailor," in which a proud and stingy tailor is taught a lesson by the water goblin, Vodnik. The evening is capped by an adaptation of an all time favorite by Josef Capek (who actually coined the word "robot" for his brother Karel), "How the Little Dog Pejsek and the Little Cat Kochichka Made a Birthday Cake," where the two bumbling friends bake a concoction with a hundred of their favorite ingredients including mice, fish, bones and gooseheads to make a cake "hundred-times as good." The play is performed with century-old marionettes, hand puppets, and objects; and presented in honor of Pejsek's nameday, Kochichka's birthday and Czechoslovakia's centennial.

This is the show the Horejs performed to a distinguished audience in Prague on July 10, 2018 after receiving the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences (SVU) Award (see below).


Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7 from 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM
Strings! Camera! Akce! (Action!) - two films on Czech and Slovak puppetry
Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St.
Reservations recommended:

Films about Czech and Slovak Puppet Theatre including "Faust on a String," an award winning documentary about Czechoslovak marionettes discovered at the Jan Hus Church, and "Will We Have Hope," a film about the life, work and art of Slovak puppeteer Bohuslav Anderle.


Saturday, October 6 from 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St. NYC.
Reservations recommended:

Traditional modrotisk (indigo) textile print presentation by Petra Valentova Gupta, followed by participatory hands-on block printing for families.


Saturday, Oct 6 from 4:00 to 5:30 PM
Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St.
"Feels Like Home," moderated by Milada Melli-Jones
FREE. Reservations recommended:

How does it feel to be back in your grandmother's cozy farm house? This family sing-along and presentation of traditional national costumes lets you immerse yourself in homespun fun from seven ethnicities of the former Czechoslovakia (Czech, Moravian, Slovak, Rusyn, Roma and Polish). Features traditional folk songs moderated by Milada Melli-Jones, with performances including Roma songs by Petra Gelbart, Rock performance by Vlado Kormos and Rusyn songs by the Aria Lem Joy Trio with 10-year old prodigy Ariana Matolak playing violin and leading three-part vocal harmonies with her parents Juraj and Suzi Matolak. "Kroje" (folk costumes) will be modeled by their owners Mary Seewald, Georgina Silhanova and Jarmila Bren sharing family stories. James Warhola will present home recordings of Rusyn folk songs by Julia Warhola, his grandmother and mother of the artist known to us as Andy Warhol.

Sunday, Oct 7 from 6:00 PM
Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St. NYC.
Twin concerts: "Tribute to the Art of the Folk Song" and "Beate Bocek in Concert"
Individual tickets: $19 general admission, $14 seniors and students.
Box Office:, 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets)

These twin concerts (two for the price of one!) are an immersion into folk and contemporary music of Czech and Slovak Republics.

"Tribute to the Art of the Folk Song" (6:00 - 6:45 PM) features professional singers and musicians of many genres paying tribute to the art of the folk song by performing songs first traditionally and then in their own distinctive style. With: Hanka G (jazz), Gabriela Mikova (fusion), Katarina Vizina (cabaret), Klara Zikova, Karel Smekal (piano) and Pavlina Horakova (opera).

"Beata Bocek in Concert" (7:00 - 9:00 PM) introduces a delightful, insightful singer/instrumentalist to New York. Ms. Bocek performs a concert of traditional and not so traditional music, including an array of songs in Polish, Slovak, Czech, Moravian, and invented languages. She was born in the north Moravian Polish minority region of Silesia and she sings and performs accordion, ukulele, koncovka (shepherd's overtone flute with no finger holes), mbira and guitar. Her trademark songs are performed in a made-up language that is meant to emphasize her minority status. She has appeared throughout the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland, and in Sweden. A musical prodigy, she grew up singing and playing several instruments and has achieved prominence in Europe despite having no formal musical training. (

Ms. Bocek appears elsewhere in this festival as the folk singer and musician for the mainstage production, "Duke Oldrich & Washerwoman Bozena, the True Story."


All day Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7
Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St.
Czech/Slovak Snack Bar
Czech and Slovak tasty bites and beverages at popular prices catered by Zlata Praha and Bohemian Spirit. Additional details in formation as of this writing.


The tradition of Czech itinerant puppeteers reaches as far back as the 17th Century. What started as the imitation of the earlier English, Italian, and Dutch puppet tradition, in Austrian Empire and Germany, developed into a relationship of mutual influence, with many Austrian, German and Czech companies performing both in Czech and in German.

A typical puppeteering family owned a transportable stage, about twenty marionettes, and a set of at least four backdrops: a room, a village, a royal castle, and a forest. In the earlier period, the theatre was transported on a wheelbarrow, only later could some afford a cart with a pack horse. For most puppeteers, "maringotka," a box cart with living quarters remained a distant dream.

One performer, usually the "principal" or head of the troupe, produced the voices of all the characters and was also the main puppet operator. The other family members, including children and a maid, helped in every other facet of the performance. Some puppeteers worked other jobs and trades and took their wooden performers on the road only during the off season. Others supplemented their income with acrobatics, juggling, fire eating, selling patent medicines and stealing poultry.

Since their main goal was the entertainment of prevalently adult audiences, itinerant puppeteers presented "chevaleresque" scenes, otherwordly apparitions and other "sensational" themes. They shared these themes and their performance space at village fairs and marketplaces with the immensely popular semi-folk singers of interminably long crime and love songs as disseminated in chap-books and penny dreadfuls. The puppet troupes were by law excluded from performing in large cities. Their peasant audiences, for whom puppets were often their only exposure to theatre, had to rely on them for information about the life of nobility. But the "high" themes were inevitably invaded by "low" comical characters such as the village oaf "Skrhola", and dingle-bell clad joker "Kasparek". Fairy tales, the other powerful source for folk traditions, became the basis of puppet plays in the second half of the 19th century. There was an audience crisis caused by increased competition and refinement of taste that forced the puppeteers to search for new audiences--children. Plots and fantastic characters (water goblin, "Vodnik") from the widely known fairy tales joined the always-present kings, knights, princesses, devils, skeletons, dark wizards and witches that had populated the puppet stage.


Vit Horejs, an emigré from Prague, founded Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre (CAMT) in 1990, utilizing century-old Czech puppets which he found in 1984 at Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street. His trademark is using puppets of many sizes, from six-inch toy marionettes to twelve-foot rod puppets which double as scenery. CAMT is dedicated to preserving and presenting traditional and not-so-traditional puppetry.

Once CAMT was launched in 1990 at Jan Hus, the company was invited to perform at the legendary La MaMa Theatre, and other New York venues. Eventually, CAMT became a resident company at La MaMa where it had debuted with the troupe's most successful work, "Golem" (Henson International Puppetry Festival, score by Frank London of The Klezmatics, who consequently scored three more plays for CAMT), "The Little Rivermaid Rusalka" , "Johannes Dokchtor Faust" (revised), "The Prose of the Transsiberian and of the Little Joan of France", "Don Juan or the Wages of Debauchery", "The Life and Times of Lee Harvey Oswald" , "Once There Was a Village", an ethno-opera with puppets, found objects; "Twelfth Night (or What You Will)", "The Republic, or My Dinner with Socrates", and "A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa". Its last premiere at the Ellen Stewart theatre there was "The New World Symphony: Dvorák in America" in 2016 (also at Bohemian National Hall). CAMT's restaging of "Oswald" was the last production at the legendary founder Ellen Stewart's original hallowed space at 74A East 4th St. before the building closed for gut rehab last fall.

Theater for the New City has presented CAMT in seven productions. "The Very Sad Story of Ethel & Julius, Lovers and Spyes, and about Their Untymelie End while Sitting in a Small Room at the Correctional Facility in Ossining New York" explored the Rosenberg trial with a manipulated set and mini marionettes. Anita Gates wrote in the New York Times, "Vit Horejs has written and directed a first-rate, thoroughly original production and made it look effortless. The cast gives charged, cohesive performances, and the staging is expert." "Revolution!?" was a collaboration with three performers from Bohemia and Moravia, examining revolutions throughout the history of mankind as a backdrop for the extraordinary peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution in former Czechoslovakia. "Mr. M" (2011) was the first American stage adaptation of "Mr. Theodore Mundstock" by Ladislav Fuks, a postwar Czech writer of psychological fiction. The production, which continued at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, starred the Grand Dame of Yiddish music scene Adrienne Cooper (1946-2011) in her last major public appearance. In 2013, puppets and live performers enacted an enigmatic tale of early World War II in "King Executioner," written and directed by Vit Horejs, loosely based on "When you are a King, You will be an Executioner" (1968) by the Polish magical realist novelist Tadeusz Nowak (1930-1991). In 2015, the company performed "The Magic Garden, or, The Princess Who Grew Antlers," an ensemble creation that was cheerfully assembled from Czech fairy tales in which antlers appear. Last season, the company debuted "Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Wisdom" and "The Winter Tales," two plays based on a compendium of Czech fairy tales.

Productions in other venues have ranged from Czech classics to Shakespeare to fairy tales. "Johannes Dokchtor Faust" premiered at Jan Hus in its first season (1990), was re-staged in 1994 as part of NADA's Obie Award-winning "Faust Festival" in Soho and revived at La MaMa and Bohemian National Hall. "Hamlet" debuted at the Vineyard Theater in 1995, was performed at outdoor venues in NY, and toured to the 2004 Prague Summer Shakespeare Festival at Prague Castle. It was revived on Jane's Carousel in DUMBO, Brooklyn in 2007. "The Bass Saxophone," a WWII fantasy with music based on a story by Czech-Canadian writer Josef Skvorecky, played 11 weeks at the Grand Army Plaza Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch in Brooklyn during the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006. CAMT's productions for young audiences include "A Christmas Carol--OY! Hanukkah--Merry Kwanzaa," "The Historye of Queen Ester, of King Ahasverus & of the Haughty Haman," "Kacha and the Devil," "The White Doe - Or The Piteous Trybulations of the Sufferyng Countess Jenovefa," "Snehurka, The Snow Maiden" and "Twelve Iron Sandals."

CAMT has also appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center, the Smithsonian Institution, The World Trade Center, the Antonin Dvorák Festival in Spillville, Iowa, the 2012 inauguration of The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Heart of the Beast in Minneapolis, the Lowell Folk Arts Festival in Massachusetts and in international festivals in Poland, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea and the Czech Republic. (


Horejs received the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences (SVU) Award in Prague on July 10, 2018 in recognition of his lifetime achievement in fostering the art form of Czech and Slovak Puppetry. Co-sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the award was presented jointly by the Presidents of SVU Prague and the Czech Senate at SVU's 60th Anniversary World Congress official Inauguration in the Grand Ceremonial Hall of the 17th Century Wallenstein Palace. Horejs joined the list of awardees that includes such notables as film directors Miloš Forman and Ivan Passer, MacArthur award winning illustrator and author Peter Sis, choreographer Jirí Kylián, soprano Gabriela Benacková, conductor Jirí Belohlávek, actor Jan Tríska and writers Josef Škvorecký and Arnošt Lustig.

Czech and Slovak puppetry was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2016


The festival is produced by GOH Productions in cooperation with Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association (BBLA), Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU), CzechMatters, and the Slovak and Czech Consulates in New York.

Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association (BBLA) is a non-profit institution, preserving Czech and Slovak culture in New York City. Founded in 1891 as an umbrella organization for approximately eighty Czech and Slovak cultural, educational and athletic community groups and clubs in New York, BBLA commissioned in 1896 architect William Frohne to build on Manhattan's Upper East Side a new social hall for the growing Czech and Slovak immigrant community - Bohemian National Hall. completed two years later. Today, BBLA's member organizations include: - American Fund for Czech and Slovak Leadership Studies - Association of Free Czechoslovak Sportsmen - Czech and Slovak Solidarity Council - Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences in New York - Dvorak American Heritage Association - Sokol New York

Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) in New York is a non-profit organization in New York City since 1956 promoting Czech and Slovak intellectual history through lectures, readings, concerts, film screenings, exhibits and other cultural events in the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan. A member organization of the BBLA.

CzechMatters provides Czech and Slovak language and culture services and produces events in New York. (

GOH Productions is a non-profit producing and presenting organization that has operated in the Lower Eastside of New York City since the mid-1970s. In 1988 Bonnie Sue Stein became its Executive Producer and Director, a position she still holds. GOH's mission is the creation, development and production of experimental theater, dance and music works in New York City and Globally. Additionally GOH works on the promotion and development of projects that exchange artists and managers between the USA and East/Central Europe, the Middle East and Asia. (


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