The Ljubljana Puppet Theatre (LPT) is the central puppet theatre in Slovenia, running a varied programme of puppet and also theatre performances. Mainly – though not exclusively – intended for children and youth, the theatre encompasses both traditional puppetry as well as its many contemporary forms. Involved in various international endeavours and working with domestic as well as foreign authors, its productions are often included at distinguished theatre and puppetry festivals in Slovenia and abroad. Established in 1948, it is still actively shaping the development of puppetry as such.
The theatre organises the Biennial Festival of the Contemporary Puppetry Art LUTKE and co-produces the Golden Stick Festival, both taking place every second year. The Museum of Puppetry, another project co-founded by the theatre, opened its doors in 2015 and is stationed at the Ljubljana Castle.
Background and notable performances
Established as the City Puppet Theatre, LPT emerged as a follow-up to numerous semi-professional puppet groups organised in the region since the beginning of the 20th century. The theatre fast developed its own mode of expression and soon became the leading puppet theatre in the then Yugoslavia. At first, the performances were based on the marionette technique, but later it also got engaged in the possibilities of hand puppetry. However, from the 1970s onward the theatre has been consistently trying to advance the technological and dramatic possibilities of puppetry, cultivating a captivating mixture of classical contents and experimentation.
Though it initially focused on works by Slovene authors, the theatre’s most important early performances were adaptations of foreign works. One such production is the Žogica Marogica (Speckles the Ball), written by the Czech puppeteer Jan Malik, which remains unchanged in the repertoire ever since its première in 1951. Another timeless hit appears to be the Zvezdica zaspanka (Twinkle Sleepyhead), written by Frane Milčinski – Ježek and in the repertoire since 1955. It was followed by the eponymous film, the first Yugoslav colour marionette film, which greatly contributed to its huge success.
Doktor Faust (Doctor Faustus) is based on the motifs from the first Slovene production of the play (1938) by Milan Klemenčič, the founder of Slovene puppetry, after whom the most prominent Slovene award for achievement in puppetry is named (the Klemenčič Award). The slightly refreshed performance still uses puppets from the original staging.
The repertory programme of the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre is divided into two segments: puppet performances and drama performances, with about twelve premières annually. The programme includes stagings of classical works, performances based on fresh texts by emerging as well as established Slovene authors (Svetlana Makarovič, Boris A. Novak, Anja Štefan and Silvan Omerzu among the more prominent ones), works by international authors as well as original, often multimedia performances. LPT collaborates with Slovene and international directors specialised in puppetry as well as theatre directors and even choreographers.
The theatre cultivates all the main puppetry genres (marionette, hand puppets, Javanese puppets, shadow puppets, mimic puppets) and also develops new ones. It also preserves more than 2000 puppets from past performances. It keeps an important collection relating to the Slovene puppetry heritage – see the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre Museum Collection, now partly incorporated into the Museum of Puppetry.
Besides its regular performances, the theatre runs the Biennial Festival of the Contemporary Puppetry Art LUTKE and co-produces the Golden Stick Festival. Productions of Ljubljana Puppet Theatre are active on international stages and also often awarded. The theatre organises puppetry workshops and generally devotes a lot of attention to various educational activities through which it wishes to advance the art of puppetry. To this end, it systemically collaborates with schools across Slovenia.
The theatre is a member of the International Puppetry Association UNIMA, the first congress of which was held in Ljubljana in 1933, and then repeated in 1992 again (the Lutke festival was initiated on that occasion). It is also a member of ASSITEJ, the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People; Small Size, the international association focused on productions for early years (under six years of age); and is one of the founding members of NEECPA, a network of puppet centres joining primarily the key players from Scandinavia, the Baltic region and Russia.