The celebrations of the puppet organization’s 80th anniversary took place in Chrudim and Prague on 22-23 May 2009, with the participation of the UNIMA president Dadi Pudumjee, secretary general Jacques Trudeau and other international guests, members of the Czech Center UNIMA, UNIMA members and friends of Czech puppet theatre.
Both outstanding guests arrived in Prague as early as on May 20 and met at various meetings on future plans of the organization and discussions on future cooperation with the Arts Institute, for instance, which takes patronage over the Czech Center UNIMA (as well as many non-governmental organizations).
On Friday, May 22, international guests left for Chrudim, where they met with town representatives (the mayor Jan Čechlovský assumed patronage of the Chrudim prologue of celebrations of the 80th anniversary of UNIMA foundation) and they also visited the exhibition in the Chrudim Puppetry Museum dedicated to the anniversary. Guests took some of the copies of historical material from this exhibition, concerning the UNIMA foundation in 1929 in Prague, to Charleville Mézieres. They will be part of another exhibition organized in September at the World Festival of Puppet Theatre. The visitors also saw the performance of the art school from Pardubice in the Pippich Theatre, where students presented the results of the dance department’s activities. Then the guests met the town representatives again at an informal evening dedicated to the puppet tradition of Chrudim and potential future cooperation among the town, Chrudim Puppetry Museum and the notable festival of amateur puppet theatre Puppeteer’s Chrudim.
On Sunday May 23, guests did a sightseeing tour around the city and they set on a journey to Kutná Hora and to Prague. The program of the celebrations in Prague began at 3 p.m. with the performance “Bruncvík and the Lion” in Minor Theatre, followed by the meet-and-greet with the actors. Then the program starting at 5.30 p.m. continued until late: “Puppet Variety Show” performed by the Traditional Company Zvoneček from Prague, taking pictures of all participants on the stairs of Rudolfinum and the gala evening started at 7 p.m. under the auspices of the mayor of Prague 1 Petr Hejma. The program dedicated to the history of UNIMA foundation (with new archival pictures) saw the performance of Říše loutek as well as guests – members of Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre Martin Klásek, Michal Barták and René Hájek, the descendant of the Kaiser puppeteer family Ladislav Kaiser and Filip Huml from DRAK Theatre.
However, the biggest surprise was a successful attempt on the enlistment in the Czech edition of the Guinness World Records. Thanks to Říše loutek’s initiative and activities of attendees (including international guests), the stage saw 155 of Kasperle puppets!
The celebrations continued with a celebratory drink and closed with the farce “Kasperle’s Last Chance” performed by Josef Brůček from the Tatrmani ze Sudoměřic u Bechyně company. People took photos, shot short films (all 155 Kasperles are documented) and chatted. The celebrations were decent and innovative – like puppeteers. And they do not end. As the UNIMA president Dadi Padumjee said: “We are going to celebrate the whole year!”. Immediately after the celebrations in Prague, a similar gathering is being prepared by puppeteers in Switzerland, followed by those in Germany. Puppeteers from all around the world are looking forward to meeting at the festival (September 18-26) in Charleville Mézieres in France, which is also the seat of the UNIMA secretariat. Visitors to Chrudim can see the exhibition in the Chrudim Puppetry Museum until August 30, then it moves to Ostrava, where it will be part of Spectaculo interesse festival (September 28 – October 2, 2009).