New Yorkers needn't wait until the next International Puppet Theatre Festival to get a taste of puppet artistry. Vit Horejs, Prague emigree and founder of the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre (in 1990), inaugurates "The Magic Of Czech Puppetry," Oct. 1, with a production of Hamlet, adapted for the needs of puppet theatre.
Horejs' 75-minute Hamlet uses William Shakespeare's text, as well as material from a toy-puppet staging of the tragedy that was popular in Prague in the 1920s.
Why Hamlet? Horejs sees a connection between the story of a Danish prince, unable to escape the fate of murdering his culpable step dad, with marionettes manipulated by destiny. This staging will feature twelve 26" puppets, four live actors and 40-50 marionettes for crowd scenes. Horejs found many of the puppets tucked away in the Jan Hus Church on the upper East Side (former home of Chicago City Limits; current venue for Theatre Of Dreams). Other puppets include antiques by master carver Jakub Krejci and toy puppets by the Czech, Milos Kasal.
Previous Horesj works in the U.S. Include The White Doe, The Little Rivermaid Rusalka, and Golem, staged at La MaMa earlier this year.
"The Magic Of Czech Puppetry" is a mini-Festival that will also include a family play, Unsatiable Rooty And Other Czech Tales With Strongs ("Otesanek"), a Horejs solo performed in English. Though not puppet-oriented, the mini-Fest will also offer an "Expatriate Cafe," featuring readings by Eastern-European poets.
For those who still can't get enough puppet theatre, there's also the kooky "Morality Vaudeville" show, Netherworld, a Cosmic Bicycle Theatre production at the tiny ClockWorks space on East 12th St. That show features such bits as lightbulb men, a horned skull representing the Angel of Death and a strip-tease by a pair of legs (just legs).
For information on the Czech Puppetry Festival, Oct. 1-26, call (212) 353-3874. For information on Netherworld, which runs to Nov. 9, call (212) 614-0001.
--By David Lefkowitz