Don Juan or Wages of Debauchery

April 10th - 27th, 2003
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday 2:30pm
First Floor Theatre

adapted & directed by: Vit Horejs
scenic & costume design by: Theresa Linnihan
performed by: The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre
featuring: Deborah Beshaw, Michelle Beshaw, Vit Horejs, Theresa Linnihan & Emily Wilson
puppet costumes: Michelle Beshaw
piano: John Bowen

In 18th century Europe, Don Juan ("Don Shajn") was among the top "hits" of the Czech marionette repertoire. The only theatre truly available in small towns and villages were shows by itinerant puppeteers. Their plays were a whimsical mixture of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," heroic legends, and rudimentary pre-Shakespearean tragedies. Admired by kings, princesses, princes, and philosopher-presidents on five continents, it will now be performed in English for American audiences. There is nothing very glamorous about the character of Don Juan in the Czech puppet play--he ends up as a common robber, hungry, rejected by all his former conquests and riled constantly by his inept servant Kasparek, the earthy Bohemian cousin of Mr. Punch and Leporello.

Under Austro-Hungarian, Nazi and Communist domination, Czech puppetry contained pointed political satire by concealing sharp criticism in familiar tales. Since independence, Czech puppet impresarios have experimented with multimedia effects and shattering illusion by having human actors perform opposite their wooden counterparts. Stylistically, Vit Horejs falls in with the prominent modernists of this form. Citing the 1997 production of "Hamlet," Time Magazine (Emily Mitchell) credited Horejs with "uniting the honored tradition with post-modern sensibilities, giving his mute figures from a bygone era a startling new place in the theater." In the current production of Don Juan, downtown meets folk tradition. High and low, live performers and puppets of disparate sizes are blended to a startling comical and sometime touching effect. The puppets include antiques, puppets designed and constructed by master carver Jakub Krejci, toy puppets by Prague-based Milos Kasal, and a giant surprise by CAMT's Theresa Linnihan.

The actor/puppeteers are Deborah Beshaw, Michelle Beshaw, Vít Horejs, Theresa Linnihan and Emily Wilson. Set and costume design are by Theresa Linnihan. Music is composed expressly by Court Kappelmeister Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Vít Horejs, an emigre from Prague, founded The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in 1990 to produce traditional and not-so-traditional marionette theatre. His trademark is using puppets of many sizes, from six-inch toy marionettes to human-sized ones. Horejs is well known for innovative re-interpretations of classics, including: "Johannes Dokchtor Faust" (1991, 1993, 1994, 2000, La MaMa E.T.C.), "The White Doe" (1993, 1995), the film "Faust on a String," "Golem" (1997, 1998--La MaMa and Jim Henson Foundation's Fourth International Festival of Puppet Theater), and "Hamlet" (1997, The Vineyard 26 Theatre; 1998, Karagoz International Festival in Bursa, Turkey; 2002, Jan Hus Playhouse). "Rusalka, the Little Rivermaid" (1999), featuring music by jazz legend William Parker, played to capacity audiences in La MaMa's Annex Theater and its enthusiastic reception prompted a return engagement a month later. "Rusalka" toured to Prague and Pilsen in the Czech Republic, to Poland, and to the V. International Puppet Festival in Lahore, Pakistan. In the spring of 2001, in collaboration with Contemporary Dance Wyoming of Jackson Hole, CAMT created for La MaMa E.T.C. a dance-puppet-theatre production, "The Prose of the Transiberian and of the Little Joan of France," based on a 1913 poem in prose by Blaise Cendrars with live jazz music by Jemeel Moondoc. In 2001, Horejs joined forces with Genesis Repertory for their production of "Richard III," in which marionettes accompanied live actors, which sold out a July run at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. CAMT's "Christmas Carol, Oy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa" (2001-2002) was a toy puppet theatre adaptation of Dickens' classic with Old World accents and New World inclusiveness at Jan Hus Playhouse. It returned by popular demand for the holiday season 2002-03. (

The Puppetry Journal has written, "Vít Horejs threatens to become Cecil B. DeMille of puppeteers." UPI (Fred Winship), reviewing "Hamlet" at the Jan Hus Playhouse, described how CAMT's aproach "reflects a new trend in Czech puppetry. It shatters the illusion of traditional marionette theater, with invisible puppeteers pulling the strings, by having the puppeteers on stage as human actors performing opposite their wooden counterparts. Sticklers for the old style of marionette theater probably will not like it, but Horejs' interpretation of Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece brings a fresh breath of air to an art that has too long been relegated to the status of entertainment for children."

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