The Court Theatre at Mnichovo Hradiste

Mnichovo Hradiste Stage
Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 7:32am

Mohler, Frank, "THE COURT THEATRE AT MNICHOVO HRADISTE: THE GROOVE SYSTEM SURVIVES ON THE CONTINENT," Theatre Design and Technology, Winter 2003, pp.48-58.

Mnichovo Hradiste is a small town north of Prague. Although the palace was begun in the seventeenth century, a theatre was built in one of the great halls at the end of the eighteenth century. The present theatre, however, was installed in 1833. It is unique since it is one of the few continental theatres that used the groove system for the wing change instead of the typical mechanized system.

The Theatre

The theatre is relatively small; the proscenium is about 22 feet wide by almost 14 feet high. The entire hall is about 32 feet wide by 60 feet long.

The Parts of Theatre

Although there is no evidence that the theatre was intended to be a temporary installation, the theatrical elements appear to be easily removed. The illustration shows the parts necessary to turn a ballroom into a theatre.

The Scenic Change

The wing change is the most significant element of the this theatre. It is an example of groove system common in England and America, but not on the continent. The lower grooves on the floor hold three wings and have rollers to reduce friction. The upper grooves are attached to a framework. The placement of the grooves is also unique - they are set obliquely rather than parallel to the front of the stage.

The back drops and the front curtain are wound on rollers and controled by a loop of rope at the end of the rollers.

When the wings and the drops are changed together, the change would look like this.

The Lighting

The lighting equipment at Mnichovo Hradiste consists of pivoting poles behind the wings and a hood that pivots up to block the light from the footlights.

The footlight hood pivots up from under the stage when a small winch at the prompter's location is turned.

The following movie shows the footlight hood blocking the footlights followed by the rotation of the lighting poles.

Other Groove Systems

The Benedictine Abbey at Lambach, Austria also has a surviving theatre with an upper and lower groove system for changing the side wings. Like the theatre at Mnichovo Hradiste, its wings are set at an angle to the front of the stage.

The earliest documented manual flat wing change is probably the plan and section for the1640 Stuart court masque, Salmacida Spolia, designed by Inigo Jones. The computer model below shows how such a scene change would appear to the audience.

Mnichovo Hradiste Auditorium
Building the Theatre at Mnichovo Hradiste
Mnichovo Hradiste Grooves
Rollers in Grooves
Roller Drops

the development of scenice spectacle


usittThis material is made possible, in part, by a grant from the New Initiatives Fund, United States Institute for Theatre Technology and by grants from the University Research Council, Cratis D. Williams Graduate School, Appalachian State University.


Dr. Frank Mohler
Department of Theatre & Dance
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

QEP Global Learning