In September 1945, the Head of Aesthetic Education of the Research Institute of Education in Brno Dr. František Tenčík approached the well-known amateur puppetry director Vladimír Matoušek with the intention to establish and run a puppet theater in Brno. The location of the future Radost Puppet Theatre was Orania, a former cinema located at No. 32 Bratislavská ulice. In October 1947, semi-professional operation commenced and within two years Vladimír Matoušek - teacher and artist who was one of the leading figures of the interwar generation of Czech amateur puppetry – gathered together a capable artistic team, ready for professionalization.
Professional activities of the theater date back to 25 October 1949. Vladimír Matoušek led a group of twelve people, of which Zora Bílková-Matoušková, Ruzena Kolářová, director and actor Josef Kaláb were active from the beginning, and Jarmila Majerová was the visual artist. Shortly after Mirko Matoušek, Marcel Halouzka, Jitka Kalábová and the visual artist Karel Hlavatý, among others, also joined the group. From the onset, the Radost Theatre sought to create its own dramaturgical and staging profile.
It mainly staged original plays from domestic authors. By the early 1960s, the director Josef Kaláb, along with visual artists Jarmila Majerová and Karel Hlavatý had created the distinctive staging and poetic style of the Radost Theatre. Some productions from the late 1950s became an integral part of the history of Czech puppet theater. (Kainar’s Goldilocks (1953 and 1957), Boris’s Secret of the Golden Key (1955), or Sojk’s Brocade, Prince Charming (1958). By this time and under the guidance of director Františka Pavla Kainarová, the Radost Theatre had completed its first major foreign tours (Vietnam and Mongolia in 1956, and India, Ceylon, Indonesia. Cambodia, Egypt in 1958), where it received extraordinary response from its audiences, as well as many accomplishments and awards. The theater building underwent its first extensive reconstruction and (at the time unique) modernization of the stage as well as backstage.
The artistic leadership changed during the first half of the 1960s, with František Sokol becoming the director of the theater in 1964. Director Jiří Jaroš developed on Kaláb’s lyrical staging manuscript with the addition of new ideas and techniques (theatrical masks, pantomime, black light theater), and graduates of the puppet department of the Academy of Performing Arts were recruited (e.g. artists Ilda and Jiří Pitr, actors Anděla and Ján Čisárik, Josef Borek, Vratislav Schilder, Svetlana Bouzková). During this time, the talented amateur puppeteer Karel Karas also joined. The productions became more focused on comedy, and were more raucous and action packed. In the 1970s (the composer Dr. Ladislav Štancl was director from 1969), the newly appointed director and dramaturge Pavel Vašíček formulated his “introductory” production of Brdečk’s Rye Magician (1970), a program of magical realism, which made good use of all of the existing artistic potential of the group: sophistication, lyricism, but also a sense of humor - all this combined with perfect puppet animation. During his time at the Radost Theatre, he also introduced productions for young and adult audiences to the repertoire. In the 1970s, a group (Lída Janků from the puppet department of the Academy of Performing Arts, and e.g. Eva Jurůjová, Zdeněk Sevcik, Kateřina Rakovčíková from the Brno Conservatory) led by P. Vašíček staged exquisite poetic productions for children e.g. Karafiát’s Beatles (1970), Speranský’s Unprecedented Beauty (1974), or Hrubín’s Chap (1979), as well as the impressive grotesque Parable Ghelderod’s the Blind, Dürrenmatt Double, Gogol’s The Nose (1971) or Lorcový’s Rude Puppets (1973), for adult audiences.
At the end of the 1970s, Dr. Štancl was replaced as director of the Radost Theatre by Vratislav Schilder. Director Zoja Mikotová, a graduate of Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, was recruited in 1980. For example, we can mention his successful staging of Twain’s Prince and the Pauper (1982), Davídkov’s Tales of Budulínek (1987), Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1990), and especially a rare “record” in the history of the Radost Theatre, the production of Čapek’s story about the dog and cat, which has run from its premiere in 1986 until now, that’s a period of 25 years! In 1984, director Petr Kracik and visual artist Jaroslav Milfajt, both graduates of the Academy of Performing Arts, joined the theatre. In the late 1980s, this duo created a remarkable tetralogy, i.e. multi-layered performances for young people and adults including Ibsen’s Emperor Peer Gynt (1985), S. Puškin’s The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights (1986), M. Vodička’s Asagao (1986), and Moliere’s Don Juan (1988).
Between 1988 and 1990, the theater was incorporated into the administrative and directive agglomeration of “Brno Theaters”, which fortunately did not last long.
In the mid-1990s, Vlastimil Peška became the director and artistic director of Radost Theatre. He took over and developed the repertoire for all ages, his dramaturgy focused on adaptations of classic fairy tales for children, and the key works of Czech and world literature, as well as his own dramatic creations. In line with his program of musical theater entertainment, he formed a group of superbly talented singers and musicians who were able to handle a wide range of methods of expression. Thanks to this, it was possible to perform very ambitious projects, such as J. Kompit’s comedy opera Princess Sylvester (2004), the musical Painted on Glass by E. Bryll and K. Gärtnerová (2008), Brdeček’s comedy Lemonade Joe (2012), or the production Mozart’s Magic Flute in a transcription of music and libretto by V. Peška (2014).
Director Michal Sopuch joined in the 2016/2017 season, brining the playwright Pavel Trtílek with him. Their staging of A. Lindgren’s Pipi Longstocking and Baum’s The Wizard of OZ have been very positively appraised by both the professional and general public, as have two productions for children from the age of one (accompanied by their parents), also known as the “Miminí divadlo” (Children’s Theater), coming from the author and director workshop of Janka Ryšánek Schmiedtová.
Director Vlastimil Peška was also the initiator of an extensive reconstruction of all areas of the original location of the Radost Theater. The objective was fulfilled i.e. to create a modern theater with several alternatives for various productions, including a summer stage as well as the so-called Puppet Museum - a space where in addition to exhibitions of the puppet from the theater’s depository, presentations of artist collaborations are regularly held.
After 26 years, Vlastimil Peška’s was replaced as director and artistic director on 1 July 2020 by set designer Pavel Hubička based on a selection procedure. Pavel Hubička is a graduate of scenography from the Department of Alternative and Puppet Theater at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he completed his doctoral studies. He worked as a teacher at the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Prague, as a set designer at the Naive Theater in Liberec and subsequently on many theater stages both home and abroad - including the Radost Theater (we should mention in particular, Málinka, The Beaver and King on the Roof (2002), Kytice (2012), The Magic Flute (2014), and Goldilocks (2019). He oversees the future direction of the Radost Theater in cooperation with prominent European and domestic creators, using puppets together with the musical talent of the ensemble and significant artistic rendering of the productions.