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National Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic

Ancestors of the National Theatre The beginnings of theatre in today’s Czech Republic date back to the 12th century, when the theatre was played in a church environment in relation to the liturgical rites of the church year (Easter and Christmas plays, the plays of feasts of saints, stories from their lives, etc.). The theatre was played at the premises of temples and monasteries, the actors were priests and religious – and also female characters were represented by men; texts were Latin. From the 13th century the influence of secular environment has been growing and in addition to the temple scenes, also more entertaining plays appear; they were played in the streets and marketplaces, but also at the court of the king Václav II. Actors were mainly religious students, but also students of home schools. The establishment of a university in the 14th century was of the great importance, the texts of plays began to be written also in Czech in addition to Latin (including original plays). In the Renaissance period lots of nobility palaces were constructed; they usually had big halls with at least two floors, which were also used for theatrical performances. However, these theatre performances were not public but were only intended only for invited guests of the Master of the House. The first theatre open for the general public was founded in Prague V Kotcích at the place of former merchant shops and in 1771 the first performance in Czech was played there – it was the translation of the originally German play called Prince Honzyk (Kníže Honzyk). In 1783 the Nostitz Theatre was opened, mainly for German drama and Italian opera. A year later the wooden Patriotic Theatre, so called Shed (Bouda), was built at Wenceslas Square and was intended exclusively for Czech performances. However, due to financial difficulties, it only was operated for 3 years and was demolished in 1789. During the 1st half of the 19th century several so-called arenas were established behind the city fortifications (mainly in the area of today’s Vinohrady and Nusle), which were especially popular during the summer – they were airier than stone theatres.

New Scene of the National Theatre The building structure consists of the steel frame with special glass blocks externally mounted locks onto special cams and the interior consists of laminated panels lined with green Cuban marble. The used materials and the method of construction also addressed the elimination of noise coming from Národní trída. The auditorium can be adapted to the proscenium stage, Elizabethan stage or arena for 400 to 550 spectators.

The National Theatre is a national cultural monument.

Information courtesy of praguewelcome.cz

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