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Slovenian puppets since Milan Klemenčič until LGL today

100 years since the first puppet performance!


String puppets – puppets on strings – were led by animators standing on a bridge above the stage…
(Ciril Jagodic, Črt Škodlar)
Vida Kastelic, Nace Simončič, Vera Stich, Jože Šorn, France Gajeta
…the actors below the stage lent them their voices…
(Vida Kastelic, Nace Simončič, Vera Stich, Jože Šorn, France Gajeta)
Žogica Marogica

…and so “Speckles the Ball” was born (in 1951). This is the very same Speckles, who still visits us regularly

Hand puppets toured Slovenia

Hand puppets toured Slovenia – even by a cart, pulled by oxen

The Ljubljana Puppet Theatre was founded as the City Puppet Theatre in 1948. The opening premiere performance happened on 10th October during the Ljubljana festival. The initial creative drive of this new theatre came from various traditions that left their mark on Slovenian puppetry, from its beginning in 1920s, to the end of World War II.

Milan Klemenčič

Milan Klemenčič, a painter, is the father of Slovenian puppets. He was “schooled” in the romantic tradition of Italian and especially German string puppet theatres, and in 1910 he introduced his own private Tiny String-puppet Theatre to the public. Later he became the director of the Slovenian string puppet theatre (1920 - 1924), which was the first (semi-)professional puppet theatre in Slovenia. This theatre was housed in Mestni Dom, the building which today ‘gives shelter’ to the modern LGL as well. Klemenčič reached his creative peak with his Miniature Puppet Theatre and performance of Doctor Faustus (1938).
Milan Klemenčič’s family
Milan Klemenčič’s family next to the stage of Miniature puppets - 1936.
(Mojca Klemenčič, Mila Klemenčič, Milan Klemenčič, Savo Klemenčič)
A scene from Doctor Faustus - 1938.
A scene from Doctor Faustus - 1938.
Setting the scene.
Setting the scene.
Actor Blaž Vižintin with the Mephisto puppet.
Actor Blaž Vižintin with the Mephisto puppet.

Puppets as part of the Sokol movement

Kongres UNIMA
Participants of UNIMA congress in front of Ljubljana City Hall – 1933. Milan Klemenčič is second from the left.
In the period between the two world wars there was a boom in Sokol movement puppets in Slovenia, following the Chech example. In 1939 there were as many as 43 string puppet stages registered as part of activities of Sokol clubs. The intention of the programme was to educate and to raise national awareness. The Sokol movement was very important for the popularisation of puppet theatre, and thanks to them Ljubljana hosted the international puppet association UNIMA congress in 1933. The first associates of the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre were members of the Sokol club.

Partisan puppet theatre

Puppets from the satirical programme PLG – 31st Dec 1944.
Puppets from the satirical programme PLG – 31st Dec 1944.
Pavliha the Partisan and his Mule
Pavliha the Partisan and his Mule - Alenka Gerlovič: George and Three Rascalls – January 1945.
It was a puppeteer from the Sokol club, sculptor Lojze Lavrič, who initiated the founding of the Partisan Puppet Theatre in a 1944. This was a surprising cultural phenomenon, which rose during the war in Europe, with themes appropriate to those times.


Dr. Niko Kuret with a puppet of Pavliha
Dr. Niko Kuret with a puppet of Pavliha - 1939.
String puppets were the predominant feature of the early era of Slovenian puppets. Dr. Niko Kuret, ethnologist, was the first who created a stage for hand puppets. Five years later he took Pavliha and his company to Radio Ljubljana and established Pavliha as the Slovenian version of Pulcinella, Kasperl, Punch, Petrushka… Jože Pengov has been the heart and soul of this sly and merry character from the very beginning. Pengov later became the first (informal) artistic director of the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre that brought Pavliha to the new stage for hand puppets.

MLG (City Puppet Theatre) – LGL (Ljubljana Puppet Theatre) Key points in development

As the heir of all the tradition the City Puppet Theatre was tangled in the web of various aesthetic trends. This is why the first years were the years of discoveries – thematic and organisational. Jože Pengov, managing director, artistic director, director, stage manager, actor, writer, translator, publicist and founder of modern Slovenian puppet theatre was the one who guided the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre to find its own artistic expression and reached an enviable artistic level. His performances of Sleepy Star (Zvezdica Zaspanka), Pinnochio, Blue bird (Sinja ptica), The Little Witch … led the theatre to the European stages.
Jože Pengov and the Kasperl puppet
Jože Pengov and the Kasperl puppet - Franz Pocci: The Magic Violin, directed by Jože Pengov - 1951.
Frane Milčinski: Sleepy Star
Frane Milčinski: Sleepy Star, directed by Jože Pengov - 1955. (This was also the first Slovenian puppet feature film.)
C. Collodi-R. Bufano-N. Kuret: Pinnochio
C. Collodi-R. Bufano-N. Kuret: Pinnochio, directed by Jože Pengov - 1959.
France Mihelič
France Mihelič visiting the exhibition of his puppets for the performance of (Bluebird) Sinja ptica; directed by Jože Pengov 1964.

Sixty years (1948 - 2008)

Ensemble of “Kozlovska sodba v Višnji gori”
Ensemble of “Kozlovska sodba v Višnji gori” performance with our Chinese hosts on stage of a theatre in Beijing - 1981.
Upon the sixtieth anniversary of our theatre we took inventory and peeked into the statistical data. We could hardly believe our eyes … In the middle of 2008 we counted 252 premiere performances, which have been repeated over 23,000 times for approximately 3.2 million people. We toured all the continents and audiences of hundreds of cities met us. We have already stopped counting the amount of awards we have won at different festivals.