Posted by: viewfromtheriva | November 16, 2013

Split’s Puppet Theatre lights up European Theatre Night


Once a year, Croatia celebrates its theatre with a night of free or very low cost performances

Once a year, Croatia celebrates its theatre with a night of free or very low cost performances

Living overseas for the past 15 years, one of the real pleasures of being an expat is enjoying the immensely rich theatrical experience–not just music, art and dance, but mime, circus and puppetry.

According to some histories,  a string-operated wooden puppet kneading bread was found in Egypt dating back to 2000BC.

What a marvelous segue to this blog, which is about the Split Puppet Theatre’s current performance of Pec Ivo, or Ivo the Bread Man.  It’s a charming tale of bakers who create puppet bread man that changes their lives forever.

We attended the performance tonight, which is  European Theatre Night, one day every season where most of the theatres in Croatia (and in many cities throughout Europe) give free performances or charge very little

Pec Ivo and his girlfriend on the poster

The poster featuring Pec Ivo and his girlfriend

Like many Eastern European and Balkan countries, the Croatian government helps support all professional theatres here, which allows young actors, designers, musicians, etc. to develop their talent knowing that they can have a real career in the arts.

Whether it is the glorious. multi-balconied, turn of the century performing arts space here where Split’s professional theatre, ballet and other professional companies showcase their work or the puppet theatre’s intimate, well-equipped building, just a few minutes walk from the waterfront, spending a night at a performance is always something we look forward to.

a packed house of moms, dads and the kids!

a packed house of moms, dads and the kids!

Pec Ivo was fabulous….a garrulous bakery owner, her winsome daughter, her two hen-pecked workers (one of whom is in love with the daughter), a magical bread man who creates loaves of gold but refuses to let the owner keep them for herself unless she lets her daughter marry the baker (whose name is also Ivo) and share the golden loaves with everyone.

Although the human dough puppets were barely larger than a real loaf of bread, they were handled with consummate skill by the actors….and even included a cameo with dancing loaves!

The Split Puppet Theatre is a great place to see a performance.  Intimate, well equipped, great sightlines!

The Split Puppet Theatre is a great place to see a performance. Intimate, well equipped, great sightlines!

The lighting was splendid, as was the sound….a perfect night of puppetry by a talented company and director who kept the show zooming along for the entire 40 minutes.

curtain call for the actors, bravo to all!

curtain call for the actors, bravo to all!

The history of the puppet theatre in Split dates all the way back to November 1933, with the first performance (by an amateur group) of The Brave Prince, a play adapted from a Grimm’s fairy-tale.

Here’s an excerpt from the puppet theatre’s website regarding the past half century:

“By the start of the sixties of the last century, Split City puppetteers dealt exclusively with puppets and brought that puppetteering technique to an enviable aesthetic level. The start of the sixties is also when they started combining techniques (puppet, guignol, javajka) and their co-existence on the scene. The experiment which started then lasts even today, with the exception that an actor has joined the co-existence of puppetteering techniques.

Ivica Tolić, author and puppet maker, director and manager of the Theatre, introduced a new technology of puppet-making in the seventies. Puppets are made of synthetic sponge, and Tolić introduced innovations into puppet mechanisms. These are the years of ascent of Split City puppeteers, of important shows like F.G. Lorca’s The Farce of Don Cristobal and the Maiden Rosita, under the direction of Dunja Adam.  

The basic framework of the Split City Puppet Theatre repertoire was set by its first director Mirko Božić, and this framework has been preserved to this day. The repertoire is based on staging of adaptations of global and domestic classic literature and recent dramatic writing with regard to puppeteering.

In the first years after the war, the literary sources were Russian literature and fairy-tales of the brothers Grimm, then Czech literature and theatre were used as sources, and as of the seventies, stagings of recent domestic authors such as Pajo Kanižaj, Momčilo Popadić, Luka Paljetak, Zvonimir Balog, Zlatko Krilić, Jasen Boko, Lada Martinac Kralj, Jakša Fiamengo, Silvija Šesto, are being increasingly persisted upon.  

In 2008 the Split City Puppet Theatre established the „Mali Marulić“ Croatian Children’s Drama Festival. The idea of the Festival is the promotion of dramatic writing for puppet theatre and children’s theatre, as well as motivating children’s puppet and drama theatres for staging works of contemporary domestic dramatic authors. Due to this, the Festival publishes competitions for the best dramatic text for puppet theatre and children’s theatre.  

The Split City Puppet Theatre has in its posession a large collection of awards which it acquired at numerous foreign and domestic festivals. 
Split City puppeteers presented Croatian puppeteering in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Mexico, Iran, Egypt, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia.”

Whether you are 7 or 70, make sure you see at least one show!  Not speaking Croatian, I understood every word, you will too!

one of the puppets inside the reception area, in a case displaying some of the Theatre's many awards

one of the puppets inside the reception area, in a case displaying some of the Theatre’s many awards

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