May 28, 2022

Coffeehouse Chronicles #165 Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre

Coffeehouse Chronicles #165

Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre

Featuring: Carrie Beehan, Deborah Beshaw-Farrell, Michelle Beshaw, Charley Hayward, Tine Kindermann (musical saw), Frank London (composer/trumpet), Valois Marie Mickens, Shoko Nagai (accordion), Alan Barnes Netherton, Adelka Polak, Federico Restrepo, Jane Catherine Shaw, Bonnie Sue Stein, Sarazina J. Stein, Katarina Vizina, Ben Watts

Moderator: Leslee Asch

Series Director: Michal Gamily

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Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre, founder Vít Hořejš, and company members reminisce, show video clips and perform a few scenes.

Featuring dozens of puppets and puppeteers, composers, musicians, partners, producers, and designers, including: Carrie Beehan, Deborah Beshaw-Farrell, Michelle Beshaw, Charley Hayward, Tine Kindermann (musical saw), Frank London (composer/trumpet), Valois Marie Mickens, Shoko Nagai (accordion), Alan Barnes Netherton, Adelka Polak, Federico Restrepo, Jane Catherine Shaw, Bonnie Sue Stein, Sarazina J. Stein, Katarina Vizina, Ben Watts, and Theresa Linnihan

Moderator: Leslee Asch

Series Director: Michal Gamily

Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre mounted Faust, The Petrifying Puppet Comedye, its first production in 1990 at Jan Hus Sanctuary on New York’s Upper East Side (the old Czech neighborhood). In that early production, the classic Faust story was staged by only three performers (two of them émigrés from Prague, including Vít) and a dozen antique marionettes that were found in the attic of the church. Thirty-two years, a thousand performances and a growing family of puppets later, the troupe is the most prominent example of the magic of Czech marionette puppetry in the US.

In 1997, the company performed for the first time at La MaMa, creating the acclaimed show GOLEM at the Ellen Stewart Theater, which was later presented by the 1998 Henson International Puppet Festival. GOLEM has music by Frank London, 4-foot marionettes created by Jakub “Kuba” Krejci, a set by Roman Hladik, and a dozen performers. What followed is a long association with La MaMa including several shows and premieres.

Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre is a resident theater at La MaMa.

Featuring dozens of puppets and puppeteers, composers, musicians, partners, producers, and designers, including: Carrie Beehan, Deborah Beshaw-Farrell, Michelle Beshaw, Charley Hayward, Tine Kindermann (musical saw), Frank London (composer/trumpet), Valois Marie Mickens, Shoko Nagai (accordion), Alan Barnes Netherton, Adelka Polak, Federico Restrepo, Jane Catherine Shaw, Bonnie Sue Stein, Sarazina J. Stein, Katarina Vizina, Ben Watts, Theresa Linnihan

Moderator: Leslee Asch

Series Director: Michal Gamily

VÍT HOŘEJŠ puppeteer, writer, director, storyteller, actor is a native of Prague. He emigrated to the United States in 1979, bringing with him the love for puppetry and one miniscule century-old childhood marionette. In 1990, he found a trove of large antique marionettes in the attic at Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street, in the heart of the once-upon-a-time Czech and Slovak neighborhood. He co-founded Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in New York City, a renowned member of the worldwide puppetry community. His trademark is using puppets of many sizes, from six-inch toy marionettes to twelve-foot rod puppets which double as scenery.  The Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences awarded Vit with the Lifetime Achievement Award for promoting Czech and Slovak Puppetry world-wide. CAMT is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of traditional and not-so-traditional puppetry. CAMT’s first New York season in 1990 featured Johannes Dokchtor Faust, a Petrifying Puppet Comedye with a cast of antique Czech puppets discovered by Vít Hořejš at the Jan Hus Church, a historic cultural center nestled in the heart of Manhattan’s original Czech neighborhood.  Faust was restaged in 1994 as part of NADA's Obie Award-winning "Faust Festival" in Soho, and again at La MaMa in 2000, and touring. Also at La MaMa, CAMT has performed 12 original productions; and  Theater for the New City has presented seven productions  Other notable NY productions include The Bass Saxophone (Inside the Grand Army Plaza Memorial Arch, Brooklyn); Hamlet (at Jane’s Century-Old Carousel in DUMBO) among others and on Gov. Island.  Vit performs solo shows in libraries, gardens and art centers across the world.  He received a NYFA Folk Arts Fellowship in 2012. With Bonnie Sue Stein, he co-produced "Faust on a String," an award-winning documentary about Czech puppetry, and wrote the lead essay for Czecho-Slovak-American Puppetry (GOH Productions, 1994). Horejs has received commission grants from The Henson Foundation, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Foundation for Jewish Culture, Columbia University and New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2018, he received the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences (SVU) Award in recognition of his lifetime achievement in fostering the art form of Czech and Slovak puppetry.  

LESLEE ASCH is an Independent Curator and Writer. Her recent book, Out of the Shadows: The Henson Festivals and Their Impact on Contemporary Puppet Theater examines the festivals and their continued legacy, including a look at the contemporary puppet theater landscape. Leslee worked for Jim Henson and The Jim Henson Company for over twenty years. She began her career as a puppet builder and went on to serve as Director of Exhibitions for Jim Henson Productions, curating and managing exhibitions world-wide. She served as Executive Director of the Jim Henson Foundation and Producing Director of the Henson International Festivals of Puppet Theater. She joined the board of the Jim Henson Foundation in 1984 and was a long-time Trustee. She is currently a member of the board of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT.

CARRIE BEEHAN is a multimedia artist and appeared with CAMT in Dvorak in America and in Duke Oldřich & Washerwoman Božena, the True Story.  With company members Vit Horejs and Theresa Linnihan, she created and scored the music and songs for the short film, Rusty Whetted Whistle (2012), which is part of the Cannes Art Video Festival AVIFF permanent catalog.

DEBORAH BESHAW-FARRELL is an actress, singer and puppeteer who, for the last 25 years, has worked with Drama of Works, Puppeteers Cooperative and  the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre (CAMT).  In her work with CAMT, she's played Mefistofl in Johannes Dokchtor Faust: A Petrifying Puppet Comedye; Horatio, Ophelia, Gertrude and all of Fortinbras' army in Hamlet (in Prague, Busan, South Korea and parks all over Manhattan); 28 different individuals in Once There Was a Village at La MaMa, and many others.  She is also an enthusiastic amateur photographer.  

MICHELLE BESHAW is a Brooklyn theatre artist, designer, writer, performer and storyteller who has played at La MaMa and PS 122, numerous city parks, community centers, street corners, stairwells, a monument and a broom closet.  Favorites from among her adventures in New York theatre include CAMT’s The Life and Times of Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald's wife and mother; Twelfth Night as Viola, Sebastian, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Curio; The White Doe as Cook Drago, Tristan, Guard, and the White Doe; and The Very Sad Story of Ethel & Julius as Roy Cohn and costume designer, for which she won the 2009 Innovative Theatre Award. Others include The East Village Fragments with Peculiar Works Project; so many lovely pageants and parades with The Puppeteers Cooperative; and her own original works: A Thundering Notion at Los Kabayitos Puppet Theatre; The Napier Project as a resident artist in Mabou Mines Suite, 2000; Lulu: A Woeful Highseas Rhapsody of Sunken Wishes and Curious Fishes for The Puppet Library in the Arch at Grand Army Plaza; Sheep Musing in the Valley of Sleeping Dogs in St. Ann's Warehouse's Labapalooza! 2011; En Mer Avec Louise Bourgeois in the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

CHARLEY HAYWARD is one of the original members of the Great Jones Repertory Co. here at La Mama under the direction of Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados, Ellen Stewart, Barbara Montgomery, and James Reynolds, among others; and is thrilled to have been part of the CAMT family productions of HAMLET, GOLEM, and RUSALKA, traveling here around town, Upstate, and to Turkey. He has lived and performed in New York (B’way, Off-Off B’way, Public Theater, Lincoln Center, LaMama); in Paris (Le Lido, Bouffes du Nord, and the Palais du Chaillot); and in Los Angeles (film, TV, commercials); and has toured over the years with numerous theater and modern dance companies throughout the United States, Europe, Scandinavia, and the Middle East. 

TINE KINDERMANN (musical saw) is a visual artist and musician from Berlin, Germany, who has been living and working in New York City since 1993. As a singer and musical saw player, she performs German folk songs, released under the title “schamlos schön” (“shamelessly beautiful”) and available for download on Amazon.  She performed some of the songs with Iggy Pop in Love and Death in the 2009 Century of Song Festival under the artistic direction of Marc Ribot.  Villa Delirium, a New York-based quintet playing mostly original new folk music, was founded by Kindermann and John Kruth and includes Doug Wieselman, Kenny Margolis and Steven Bear. She has performed with CAMT in  Czech Tales with Strings shows, in NYC and on tour.

THERESA LINNIHAN joined the company of CAMT in 1996 playing Polonius in their production of Hamlet. For the next two decades she served as performer, designer and associate director as the company developed original, provocative productions, re-imagined classics and toured to puppet festivals in Turkey, Pakistan, Korea and The Czech Republic. In 2016 she relocated to Minneapolis, MN. There, for the past six years she's worked with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater and Barebones Puppets, building and performing for parades and pageants which reflect the sorrows and celebrations of a community that ignited a global call for justice and healing.  Theresa is also a long standing member of The Puppeteer's Cooperative and produced an online, animated version of The Tempest as well as The Decameron of Now, an online invitation for stories in the era of Covid. She annually produces The Rites of Spring Pageant with community members and in partnership with the Stone House in Brooklyn.

Sir FRANK LONDON (composer/trumpet) is a New York City-based trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, and a founding member of The Klezmatics. His works include the Yiddish-Cuban opera Hatuey Memory of Fire; 1001 Voices - A Symphony for a New America for orchestra, chorus & soloists; the multi-media Salomé: Woman of Valor with poet Adeena Karasick.  With CAMT, he composed several productions, including Golem, Once There Was A Village, and King Executioner.  With The Klezmatics, he won a Grammy Award in Contemporary World Music for Wonder Wheel. He was knighted for his work promoting Jewish, Roma and multicultural music in Hungary.

VALOIS MARIE MICKENS came to New York from Washington D.C. some years ago to be a fashion illustrator. She later found herself thrown on the stage at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club and then off to Amsterdam on tour. She then met Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados and Ellen Stewart who helped her to create roles in the La MaMa productions of Medea, Elektra and Trojan Women. Then she was off on another world tour. She worked as assistant director to Mr. Serban at the National Theater of Romania and was last seen at La MaMa in Pasolini's Pylade, directed by Ivica Buljan. She is a long standing member of the Great Jones Repertory Company at LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club. LaMaMa is where she met Vit and his Czech Marionettes. After a few projects with Mr. Horejs, she finally attacked Czech language Christmas songs. 

SHOKO NAGAI- Pianist Accordionist Improviser Composer - is a versatile musical artist who improvises and performs with world- renowned musicians on piano and accordion and composes original scores for films and live performances. Since moving to the U.S. from Japan and studying classical and jazz music at Berklee, she has adapted her mastery of the keyboard to prepared piano, accordion, Moog synthesizer, and other instruments. Whether she is performing Klezmer, Balkan or experimental music, Nagai is a charismatic presence onstage, who hypnotizes audiences with her intense focus and virtuoso sound. A veteran of the New York downtown music scene, she performs with John Zorn, Erik Friedlander, Marc Ribot, Frank London, Satoshi Takeishi, and many eclectic performers.

ALAN BARNES NETHERTON has performed many roles for the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, as well as many other theater and tv/film companies, on stage and screen.  He is a master puppeteer and all things theatre. A raconteur, mount maker, carpenter, poet, project manager, prototyper, artisan manufacturer, amateur astronomer, an artist and a bonafide, verified, certified real-deal walking Renaissance man. (  But well above all these things, first and foremost, at the pinnacle of his being - Alan Barnes Netherton is a dedicated Father and Husband. 

ADELKA POLAK is the founder and Artistic Director of Sova Dance & Puppet Theater. She is a dancer, puppeteer, mask-performer and movement director whose work has traveled to Denmark, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. She worked with Squonk Opera who went "from junkyards to Broadway" and performed at Lincoln Center Outdoors and LaMama, E.T.C. with the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater of NYC. Ms. Polak was featured on CPTV's "Spotlight on the Arts" with Masque Theatre in a segment nominated for a cultural Emmy in 2010 and produced by Ed Wierzbiecki. She performed in the production “Ajijaak on Turtle Island” featuring Henson Creature Shop.

FEDERICO RESTREPO is director of his own dance-puppet theater company called Loco7.  As a resident artist at La MaMa, he has created and performed a number of original pieces and toured internationally over the past twenty-five years.  He has worked on 13 (or more?) productions with CAMT.  He designed lights for The Republic, The Magic Garden, King Executioner, Golem, Mr. M., Once There Was a Village, Faust, Don Juan, Twelfth Night, The Bass Saxophone, The Very Sad Story of Ethel & Julius, The Historye of Queen Ester and The Prose of the Transsiberian and of the Little Joan of France, Golem and Dvořák in America.

JANE CATHERINE SHAW works with various theatrical elements/media in creating original works for theatre, and primarily for puppet theatre. She writes, designs, constructs and directs these works. She has worked with many notable artists--Ellen Stewart (founder of La MaMa), Theodora Skipitares, Mabou Mines-- and has premiered her original works at La MaMa.. She also curates the Puppet Slam for La MaMa’s annual puppetry theater festival; and received her MFA in Directing from Brooklyn College, graduating on the Dean's List.

BONNIE SUE STEIN is a producer, director, performer, writer, and artist; Executive Director of GOH Productions. Stein has worked in productions and international exchange in over 25 countries.  At La MaMa, she has been involved in numerous productions since the early 1980s, including all of CAMT shows, dance shows by Martha Tornay/East Village Dance Project, works by Natsu Nakajima, Kazuo Ohno, Marika Blossfeldt, Amir Nizar Zuabi and more.   In 1989, with Vit Horejs, she interviewed Vaclav Havel days before he became president of Czechoslovakia, for a cover story for the Village Voice. ­­­ Since 2016, she has been creating lens-based art ­­­with IGUANA Collaborative partners Sherry and John Erskine. Their work has been shown at Art in Odd Places, ArtPrize, La MaMa Galleria, Everywoman Biennial in NYC and London, the 2022 Dance Film Festival at Lincoln Center, and Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.   Thank you Ellen.

SARAZINA J. STEIN, daughter of Bonnie Sue Stein and Vit Horejs, began dancing at age 4. With CAMT she was baby Rusalka, and performed an intro scene with toy puppets in GOLEM.  Sarazina has danced in work by Larry Keigwin, Nicole Wolcott, Ellen Kornfield, Bryan Strimpel, Delfos Danza, Katie Martin, Carrie Beehan, Lou Mandolini, and her own choreography with Emily LaRochelle.  In 2019-20, she taught dance at NYU’s Playwright’s Horizon program. She is also a freelance theater technician.

KATARINA VIZINA is a native of Bratislava, Slovaki and holds an MA in Musical Theater from the Czech Republic and an MFA in Acting from Brooklyn College where she received the Fellowship for Outstanding Contribution to Theater. She has performed in plays, musicals, one woman shows, cabarets, sketch comedy, radio shows, movies, and countless voiceover spots. She performed with the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in Christmas Carol. She performs and sings in English, Slovak, Czech, German and Russian...if she’s not spending time with her musician husband and their 4 children, that is. Katarina recently participated in the Rehearsal for Truth festival performing in a play from her motherland.

BEN WATTS came from England and performed with numerous choreographers and dance companies in the USA throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. From 1993 to 2015, Ben and his life partner Tiina Dohrmann, set up and operated the Greenspan Center, a multi use Physical Arts and Watsu (Water Shiatsu) facility in Williamsburg, where he hosted and produced gallery showings, photography sessions, ran workshops, and organized classes. Ben was a member of the Dzieci Service and Art Theater Group, (2013 to 2015), participating in paratheatrical events and performances. Ben was Dvořák in Dvořák in America, and appeared in four other Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater productions.

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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