Paper theater

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Paper theater (from a Nuremberg toy pattern book from the 19th century)
Paper theater with the theme: Journey around the world in 80 days in the Museum of European Cultures in Berlin (1890–1900)

In the middle of the 20th century, the collector and player Walter Röhler summarized all the names that were used for these theaters in the 19th century under the name paper theater . He defines “paper theater” as follows: “Small stage made of paper on which the technical diversity of a human stage can be imitated or tested in a model form”.

Around the year 1810 these miniature stages were created in Germany and England at about the same time as cut-out sheets such as paper theater sheets, model sheets of buildings, oblades as a culture of remembrance; In the Biedermeier period they were part of the so-called “illustrated arch culture” of the 19th century. Forerunners were the paper cribs, peep boxes and "Mandlbögen" (personnel sheets for professional groups and the military). As a means of acquiring knowledge and shaping the culture of the time, paper theater has been absent in almost every educated middle class house.

The structure

As with its role model, the large theater, the paper theater has a “proscenium” (stage portal) and a, usually splendidly designed curtain. The stage technology was taken over by the "real" stages with more or less great effort. The most common figure guidance is still today the guidance from the side; on playing sticks or grooves milled in the floor. The figures are led individually or in small groups from the side through the alleyways. For the spectators, this adds a moment of movement, which is increased by turning the figure with appropriately modified sticks. Figure guidance from above and / or below is also possible.

The texts were played according to specially written textbooks with the corresponding roles, whereby the selection of plays was based on the most popular theater plays and subjects of the time.

The stage sets were based on the zeitgeist of the big stages, or adaptations of them.


These sheets were initially black and white lithographs. Coloring was done at home using stencils. Color lithography developed noticeably and thus contributed greatly to the spread of paper theater. The sheets were cut out, glued (laminated) to cardboard or the like. House music was added to the performances, if possible. The acoustic means were similar to those in the big houses: noisy utensils such as a cardboard tube filled with peas as a sonic "rain machine", pot lids, pipes and metal sheets as so-called thunder sheets. The dramaturgy naturally also provided for text summaries. These performances, which were certainly only a little inferior to what was experienced in the big theater, and contribute to the popularity of these miniature theaters (cf. today the fun of karaoke).

Initially, simple candles or oil lamps were sufficient as lighting, which today extends to a DMX 512-controlled lighting system on ambitious stages and with theater-compliant trains for brochures and decorations for quickly changing scenes.

The repertoire and the educational requirements

These picture sheets were mainly bought and used by educated middle classes for edification, entertainment and instruction of their children. The paper theaters were the symbol and identification medium of the theatrical enthusiasm of the citizens who discovered opera and drama in the first half of the 19th century. In 1866 the ban on playing on commercial professional stages in Germany was lifted.

The repertoire of paper theaters therefore included the repertoire of contemporary theaters. Operas such as B. "The Magic Flute", "Fidelio", "Der Freischütz", "Zar und Zimmermann", "The Huguenots" and "Oberon" were often played pieces, which was reflected in the various text books, figure and backdrop sheets of the numerous publishers .

In the German-speaking region, the theater featured among others Faust (freely based on Goethe or the legend), Egmont (Goethe), Wallenstein's camp, Wilhelm Tell (both by Schiller), Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind (Raimund), Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (Kleist) as well as Shakespeare's Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Othello popular fabrics. Walter Röhler points out that after the success of the Freischütz in Berlin in 1821, at least 16 companies brought out 25 different figure arcs for this opera at its premiere.

historical development

What the staging did not provide, supplemented the audience's imagination. There were friends, neighbors and relatives of the players and a Sunday afternoon could be spent very nicely with them. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that paper theater turned into children's theater. After 1918, also with the development of radio, and later with television and PC, it was increasingly forgotten as a communication medium for education. The content and forms of education also changed with the development of society.

Today's scene of paper theater enthusiasts is broken down into different areas; the graphic collectors, players from paper theater are storytellers, but also enthusiastic puppeteers, interested in theater technology; Folklorists who devote their attention to the folklore development of pieces, texts and representation, model makers.

From the 1960s onwards, collectors in London , Nuremberg and Copenhagen rediscovered it in the toy trade or at antiquarians and has since experienced a renaissance.

The most famous publishers in the German-speaking area in the 19th century were:

  • Renner, Nuremberg
  • Matthäus and Joseph Trentsensky, Vienna, 1819, led by Matthäus alone from 1837, after his death in 1868 by his widow. (The publisher specialized in lithographs, especially the printing of almond bows)
  • Winckelmann and Sons, Berlin
  • Gustav Kühn and Oehmigke & Riemschneider, Neuruppin
  • Joseph Scholz, 1829, Mainz
  • JF Schreiber , still in existence since 1831, Esslingen am Neckar
  • Ad. Engel, Berlin

A major manufacturer in England was Benjamin Pollock.

In Denmark, another center of European paper theater production, there was a magazine in the 19th century that is still around today: "Suffløren " by Alfred Jacobson (1853–1924).

And in the succession of this publisher: Vilhelm Prior with "Prior`s Dukketeatre"; In 1977 Egon Petersen took over this publishing house and also brought out new pieces.

In Spain it is the publishing house Seix & Barral in Barcelona, ​​which around 1925 brought out small-format paper theaters in folder form.

Paper theater today

Commercially available forms

Today, paper theaters are mostly on sale again as scan prints based on historical models. The Philippsruhe Castle in Hanau, is "forum Papiertheater" the seat of; an association that takes care of paper theater and shows regular paper theater performances.

Scene from the old district town of Lennep

Common size categories:

  • A Width: 52–57.5 cm - height: 34–40 cm - figures: around 11.5–15 cm
  • C Width: 37–50 cm - height: 31–32 cm - figures: around 10–11.5 cm
  • F Width: 38 cm - Height: 26 cm - Figures: around 10 cm
  • D Width: 26.5 cm - Height: 19 cm - Figures: 7 cm


  • There is an international annual festival (Preetz Papiertheatertreffen) in Preetz , Schleswig-Holstein.
  • From August 1st to 3rd, 2014, paper theater days took place in Wolgast for the first time. This meeting was initiated by the operator of the private paper theater in Heringsdorf, Robert Jahresig. The Wolgast Paper Theater Days are to take place every two years.
  • The world's first international opera festival for paper theater stages successfully took place in Mering in 2016 . In addition to various German theater groups, theaters from Denmark and the Ukraine were also represented with their opera performances. The non-profit association Opera in Stellis e. V. organized opera festival will experience a new edition every two years. In addition to organizing the opera festival, the association has set itself the goal of encouraging and guiding those interested to play paper theater themselves and thus to keep this old tradition alive.
  • The page offers a good overview of the current festivals.

A selection of existing stages

  • The paper theater INVISIUS in Berlin , which has existed since 1983, is an active theater .
  • In Remscheid , “Haases Papiertheater” continues the old tradition, both stationary and mobile.
  • Papiertheater Kitzingen : Gabriele Brunsch has been running her miniature art stage in Kitzingen since 2003, which regularly plays in public.
  • Ulrich Chmel's paper theater : Ulrich Chmel has been producing and playing paper theater in Vienna since 2002, performing publicly and for private occasions.
  • Multum in Parvo Paper Theater : Since April 2014, privately booked opera performances have been taking place regularly at this permanent venue in Mering, Bavaria. On September 5, 2014, the smallest opera house in Germany officially opened its theater with the opera “Die Zauberflöte”.
  • Since 2009 there is the "Papiertheater Heringsdorf" in the seaside resort Heringsdorf with a stationary and a mobile stage.
  • "Theatrum Papyrus": This private paper theater specializing in operas has existed near Frankfurt am Main since 2015.
  • The Papiertheater-an-der-Oppermann has existed in Berlin since 2011.
  • "Papirniks Papiertheater" has been active in Essen with its Thespis car since 2012 and only plays pieces from the musical theater sector.
  • Box meeting in Cologne

Paper theater collection

See also


  • Journal for paper theater. ISSN  1616-8585 , Solingen. (2005 = 5th year with 31 issues)
  • Walter Röhler: Great love for small theaters , Hamburg, Marion von Schröder, 1963, 160 pp.
  • Peter Baldwin: Toy Theaters of the World . London, Zwemmer, 1992. ISBN 0-302-00614-1 (English)
  • Georg Garde: Theater history in the mirror of children's theater . A study in popular graphics. Copenhagen, Borgens, 1971. 355 pp.
  • John Hadfield: Victorian Delights . New York, New Amsterdam, 1987. ISBN 0-941533-02-6 (English)
  • Theodor Kohlmann : Das Papiertheater, guide sheets of the Museum für Deutsche Volkskunde, Berlin, 1976.
  • Wilfried Nold: Museum theater with children , Frankfurt, 1980. ISBN 978-3-922220-06-0
  • Kurt Pflüger, Helmut Herbst: Schreiber's Children's Theater , Pinneberg, Renate Raecke, 1986. 212 pp. ISBN 3-923909-13-6
  • Annegret Reitzle: Die Texthefte des Papiertheater , A contribution to the reception of popular theater material and literature for children and young people. Dissertation. Stuttgart, Betr. Reinhard Döhl, 1990.
  • George Speaight: The History of the English Toy Theater , London, Studio Vista, 1969. (English)
  • Povl Syskind, Paul Brandt: Alfred Jacobsens Danske Teaterdekorationer & Danske Billeder . Copenhagen: Dansk Dukketeaterforening, 1967 (Danish)
  • Adolf Wild (Red.): Paper theater from the Josef Scholz-Mainz publishing house . Mainz, 1997 (Publications of the City Library and the Mainz Public Library - Anna Seghers; No. 51; booklet to an exhibition in the Mainz State Theater)
  • Katharina Siefert: Paper theater - the stage in the salon. Insights into the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg 2002
  • Self-published Austrian Museum for Folklore, Vienna: "Paper Theater" catalog of a special exhibition from Viennese collections. Vienna, 1985 ISBN 3-900359-28-8

Web links

Commons : Paper theater  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Estate of Walter Röhler Nachbarschaftsheim Darmstadt eV 1963
  2. ^ JF Schreiber Museum in the Esslingen City Museum . Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  3. ^ Preetzer Papiertheatertreffen. Retrieved May 26, 2014 .
  4. a b Heringsdorf paper theater.
  5. ↑ Paper theater Mering Opera Festival. ( Memento of the original from November 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ Paper theater festivals. Retrieved May 25, 2016 .
  7. ↑ Paper theater INVISIUS. Retrieved May 25, 2016 .
  8. ^ Haase's paper theater under the roof in Remscheid. Retrieved May 26, 2014 .
  9. Kitzingen Paper Theater. Retrieved November 3, 2014 .
  10. Ulrich Chmel's paper theater. Retrieved March 1, 2015 .
  11. Multum in Parvo Opera House
  12. Theatrum Papyrus
  13. ^ Papiertheater-an-der-Oppermann