By Joe Brandesky
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Extra info for Czech Theatre Design in the Twentieth Century: Metaphor and Irony Revisited
Prague had one of the ﬁrst Jewish communities in central Europe. D. 907 a settlement near Old Town, the historic center of Prague on the east bank of the Vltava River, was given to the Jews. This area, later given the name Josefov, still exists and currently has two working synagogues, but the Jewish population of Prague and Czechoslovakia was virtually annihilated during World War II. There are several readily available sources on the Jewish presence in Prague, among them a pamphlet, The Prague Golem: Jewish Stories of the Ghetto.
The plague was an unwelcome visitor to the Czech lands in previous centuries. Thousands died and were memorialized in plague columns, impressive structures that traditionally occupied squares in villages throughout Europe and featured artists’ renditions of the bones of the deceased, capped with a cruciﬁx. They symbolized the Christian belief in the sometimes agonizing transition from earthly life (“Remember man you are dust and to dust you shall return . . ”) to heavenly salvation. The rather grotesque appearance of these reminders of our mortality is all the more jolting when they are placed in the center of village life where one cannot avoid contact with their visual codes and messages.
Two that are particularly helpful are A. H. Hermann’s A History of the Czechs and E. Garrison Walters’s The Other Europe: Eastern Europe to 1945. The former describes the geographical importance of the Czech people in central Europe while the latter clariﬁes the place of the Czechs regarding neighboring countries. 2. Jarka Burian provides an excellent digest of Czech theatre history from 1780 through 1999 in Modern Czech Theatre: Reﬂector and Conscience of a Nation. 3. Kostnice is the ossuary located in All Saints Church in the village of Sedlec.
Czech Theatre Design in the Twentieth Century: Metaphor and Irony Revisited by Joe Brandesky