Prague, March 22 (CTK) – Helena Stachova, a puppeteer who played the key female roles of Manicka and Mrs Katerina in the comic tales of the Spejbl & Hurvinek (S+H) Puppet Theatre, which she headed from 1996, died last night at the age of 72 at home, her daughter Denisa Kirschnerova told CTK.

“Despite the long struggle with a serious illness, my mum devoted herself to the theatre, to which she dedicated both her professional and personal life, until the last moment. We will try to keep the theatre life of our wooden family alive,” Kirschnerova said.

Stachova joined the S+H theatre when she finished her secondary school studies. After graduating from the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU), she became a member of the popular ensemble in 1966. In the 1967 she started playing the role of the girl Manicka who was the main partner of the father and son team of Spejbl (Spaybul) and Hurvinek (Hurveenek).

She married the theatre director and puppeteer Milos Kirschner (1927-1996) who created a new puppet character of granny Mrs Katerina for her in 1971. Manicka and Katerina have become the female counterparts of Spejbl and Hurvinek and they are highly popular in the Czech Republic.

Stachova started playing the female roles also in foreign languages. The theatre has been travelling all around the world, performing in the languages of the host countries. Under Kirschner, it had performances in 18 languages, and under his successor Martin Klasek in 12 languages.

Klasek said he joined the ensemble at the age of 16 and performed 44 years together with Stachova. “She was the soul of the theatre,” he said.

Due to Stachova’s illness, Marie Simsova started playing the role of Manicka lin 2016.

Stachova also worked for the radio and television. In the Czech version of American animated sitcom The Simpsons, she speaks the part of Lisa Simpson. She wrote Czech plays for both children and adults, several books and many scripts. She directed her own plays and was the theatre’s manager after her husband’s death.

The Czech record company Supraphon has issued more than five million records, tapes and CDs with Spejbl and Hurvinek plays.

In 2008, Stachova won the right to use the characters of Spejbl and Hurvinek after an eight-year-long court dispute, thanks to which the theatre could continue its work.

Being founded by Josef Skupa (1892-1957) in 1930, the Spejbl and Hurvinek theatre was the first professional puppet ensemble in the country. Skupa named Kirschner his follower in the interpretation of Spejbl and Hurvinek, and Kirschner later named Klasek in the same way.

Skupa worked for the S+H puppet theatre 30 years, Kirscher 44 years and Stachova 50 years. “I would never change this joint path of ours for anything,” she said previously.