Coronavirus epidemic sees theatre groups close, but puppeteer group still performing in hospitals

Photo: archive of Loutky v nemocnici drama-therapy group

The coronavirus epidemic has hit the Czech culture sector badly, especially live performers. Theatre productions have had to remain closed, with one exception. Loutky v nemocnici (Puppets in hospital) is a drama-therapy group that is still allowed to perform in several of the country’s hospitals. I spoke to its chairwoman Marka Míková just ahead of her trip to Prague’s Motol hospital and asked her how things have changed during the epidemic.

“There are places where we cannot go, for example the oncology department, because children there are very much in danger. We also have to listen to the advice provided by nurses and doctors of course.

Photo: archive of Loutky v nemocnici drama-therapy group

“However, departments such as neurology or rehabilitation in the huge Motol hospital in Prague still ask for us. We go there about three times a week. The hospital in Brno also lets us come, but less frequently.

“We have to wear masks and maintain safety rules, such as disinfecting one’s hands, but the children wait for us. They are really happy that there are still people who want to play, laugh and smile with them, bringing a good mood.”

Have you thought of bringing a coronavirus theme into your plays?

“I have to admit that I am preparing something on that topic with a slightly humorous take on the situation. We do want to explore this question. It must be said that some children, as well as adults, are afraid of the coronavirus. It is good to open up this topic and just speak about it.

Photo: archive of Loutky v nemocnici drama-therapy group

“I am preparing a play where there are two sisters, one of whom gets the coronavirus. The other sibling becomes really small so that she can go and fight the virus herself and do everything she can to help her sisters. It will be fun to play and good for puppets.

“I hope that children will be able to laugh about it, but that it will also open this serious topic up for discussion.”

Performing in hospitals at this time must be particularly risky. Has any one of you caught the virus themselves?

“Just one member of our team got the virus. She spent most of the time at home, because she is 65-years-old, but still managed to get it. Right now, there are 25 of us able to perform, so I am really happy.”

The group of puppeteers also uploads several of their plays in video format online on websites such as YouTube. While still allowed to perform during the epidemic, the frequency of their performances has been cut and they accept donations on their website: