Puppetry lies at the heart of Czech theatre, through a strong regard and respect for tradition it forms an important element of what is thriving and innovative about contemporary Czech theatre – something which is evident in the national exhibits for both the Scenography and architecture sections of PQ. Its also one the main reasons I came to PQ this year. Having first visited Prague two years ago for a workshop in marionette making led by Miroslav Tretnar I was inspired to return to experience more and develop my professional skills through Scenofest.
Nests and their inhabitants was an outdoor puppet adventure in the park led by Radka Mizerova assisted by Linnea Happonen. I got to know some of my fellow workshop participants whilst scavenging around the park at the back of the industrial palace in search of raw materials. By the end of the day we’d had interesting conversations about the creating of stories, shared experiences of Prague and created both inhabitants and spaces for them to exist.
When we returned to the puppet workshop area with our bundles of branches, seeds, leaves and few lucky finds from the skip, we began to create our creatures, encouraged to search for a character.
After an hour we introduced our characters to the rest of the group, experimented with movement, of our own and each others puppets. Then began the storytelling process: our creatures bred in the captivity of the Scenofest workshop space were gently introduced into the wild. Working with a puppet created by someone else in the group, we went in search of spaces that they could exist; thinking about how space can enhance, influence or alter character. The process of using someone else’s puppets mirrored that important and often most exciting aspect of being a theatre designer, that ones work is never complete until its been handled or experienced by a production team, performers and ultimately the audience. And as such some intentions of the puppet maker may be lost or new movements, and interpretations of character found.
Having left our puppets in their new found or created “nests” we reassembled as a group to discover each of these performance spaces and then began then final stage of the workshop; creating a story. Working in small groups we explored the interaction between different puppets and also the environment.
We experimented with movement, the way they behaved, but most exciting for me was exploring the sound inherent in these objects, given their construction from natural materials. This we used as the basis of our story.
One of the best things about the Scenofest workshops is the opportunity to meet people, having traveled to the PQ on my own, being thrown together with people from all over the world and told to create a performance in a short space of time is a great way to get talking.
The tutors of this workshop are both practicing artists in Prague, Radka Mizerova is a costume designer and puppet maker and having a chat with her after the workshop I discovered she is currently developing an exciting project in a garden in Jicin, something she hopes will become a leading centre for art and performance.
Linnea Happonen is a founder member of the theatre company Krepsko, creators of non-verbal theatre. Their production “Fragile” at NoD on Monday night was a beautifully crafted piece of storytelling with inventive use of objects and light.
Puppetry at Scenofest continues with Japanese performance and workshop Tea Pavillion in the puppet theatre space and daily performances of Phoenix outside the industrial palace.
Video by Rodrigo Cortes