Theater for the New City
Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Wisdom
Event Status
Puppet play weaves Czech, Slovak and Italian fairy tales. Added attraction for Saturday matinees, "The Winter Tales," is a solo puppet show with fables of wizards, blizzards and spirits
Vít Hořejš, founder of Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater (www.czechmarionettes.org), attributes much of his theatrical orientation to the drama of fairy tales his Czech grandparents told him. Folksy and wise, Aesopian and Grimm-like, they provide a rich trove of source material for Puppet Theater. Hořejš' approach, though, it not to simply enact the stories, but to mix-and-match them in new and sometimes intrepid combinations. His project for 2017 has been to adapt a selection of his grandmother's tales into material for his ensemble of antique Czech puppets, the core of which were found in a closet at the Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street in 1990. Theater for the New City will present the premiere of his "Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Wisdom," a compendium of Czech, Slovak and Italian fairy tales, February 16 to March 5. Each Saturday of the run, Vít Hořejš will also perform "The Winter Tales," a marionette play for young audiences based on three fables of wizards, blizzards and spirits.

"Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Wisdom" is drawn from Czech, Slovak, and Italian fairy tales that are cherished by children of the Czech Lands and Italy. Written and directed by Vít Hořejš, it is performed by four performers, four dozen marionettes of various sizes and a mounted deer's head. The evening is named for its first story, a Czech tale, in which a charcoal burner's son, predestined by his fairy godmother to marry a princess, is sent by his angered father-in-law King on a quest for the sun's three golden hairs in hope that the young man will perish. Resolving three more difficult tasks along the way, he returns with rich rewards, inspiring the envious King to depart in search of Apples of Youth and Water of Life, a quest in which he finds his punishment.

The second tale, "Salt over Gold," is a Slovak story with echoes of "King Lear." A Princess who values her father "only as much as salt" is banished, but returns to save her father when salt disappears, throwing the kingdom into disarray. As the realm is deprived of salt, we observe how it is a mainstay of life, so she loves her father as life itself. This part of the evening could be called a study in comparative theater, since this Slovak legend will be told in parallel with a third tale, a version of the same story known to Italian readers as "Dear as Salt," from Italo Calvino's famous 1956 collection, "Italian Fables."

In 2015, TNC presented Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in "The Magic Garden, or, The Princess Who Grew Antlers," an ensemble creation that was cheerfully concocted from Czech fairy tales in which antlers appear. Continuing the troupe's investigation of fairy tales with antlers, the three fairy tales in "Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Wisdom" will be framed by an unresolved mystery of a youngest brother who is turned into a deer. At the end of the play, the audience will vote to decide whether he will be freed from his spell or condemned to hibernate for the next four years.

The actor/puppeteers are Deborah Beshaw-Farrell, Michelle Beshaw, Vít Hořejš and Ben Watts. Music will be a capella Czech folk songs. The set, by Roman Hladik, is built from spiraling coils of vines. Costume Design is by Michelle Beshaw. Lighting Design is by Federico Restrepo.

("Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Wisdom" plays Feb. 16 - March 5, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM; $15 general admission, $8 kids. Recommended for ages 5 to 105. Runs 1:20. Critics are invited on or after February 17.)

"The Winter Tales," offered on Saturdays at 3:00 PM, is a one-man show performed by Vít Hořejš and a troupe of antique wooden puppets that speak in dozen voices, dance, play violin, swim and fly. It is comprised of three Czech fairy tales (performed in English) replete with mountain wizards, clever village maidens and spirits. They are: "The Snow Maiden Sněhurka," ... (continued)
Categories: New Works,Puppet Theater
Event web page
Running time: 1:20    
Intermission(s): No
Price: $8.00 - $15.00
Seating: General Admission    
Capacity: 65