Puppet theater

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Puppet theater , also known as puppet theater or puppet theater , is a form of performing arts in which players act with figures on a stage in front of spectators.

Puppet theater with stage and curtain
Puppets in a mobile puppet theater

For definition

Puppet theater is also referred to as "artistic puppet theater" in the theater studies sense as a distinction from traditional puppet theater. This refers to the new forms of play, for example open play, mixing of figure shapes and different arts. Many theater scholars and puppeteers use the term puppet theater as an umbrella term to cover the broad field of puppet theater, artistic puppet theater, object theater and similar forms. The term “other theater” is often used for this.

The term puppet theater is more commonly used for traditional, mostly covert forms of puppetry. The term “puppet theater” did not appear until the beginning of the 19th century.


Early days and origins

Archaeological finds suggest that moving figures were used for religious and ceremonial celebrations even before our era.

An actual form of theater with a dramatic plot probably developed later. Initially based on the representation of religious events, the figures with dwindling spiritual function also lost more and more of their importance. Therefore the sources are relatively rare.

As the origin of space for the glove puppetry is Persia accepted. Jointed puppets ( marionettes ) are already known in ancient Greece. Aristotle describes a figure who could turn his head, move his neck, limbs and even his eyes. In his writings, Plato uses the image of the doll pulled by strings as a symbol of human dependence.

In the 6th century, the Bishop of Alexandria was referring to small wooden figures displayed at weddings that could dance through some sort of remote control. In China, the puppet theater can only be reliably proven from the Tang Dynasty , but it was widespread there. In Asia, shadow theater also developed, some of which is still dedicated to traditional mythical subjects.

middle Ages

It was only after the Crusades that the first images of playing figures were found in the West. The oldest representation of a puppet show dates from around 1160 and can be found in the Hortus Deliciarum of the Abbess Herrad von Landsberg . The next illustration can only be seen again as a border decoration in a Bruges manuscript (Ms. 251) from the 13th century and then in the Alexanderlied around 1344. It is a Possenburg, a hand puppet theater with spectators. Both manuscripts do not go into the theatrical form in the text, since it was probably now generally known, but still insignificant. The head of a hand puppet was found in Schwerin, which is also dated to this time.

From the renaissance to the romantic

Mobile puppet theater in 2009

The first fabrics and libretti for puppet theater were created during Shakespeare's time (16th century) . In Turkey the Karagöz theater developed , and in Italy the commedia dell'arte gained importance. From this time on, traveling puppet shows were a common sight on the markets. The fabrics often deal with archaic and mythical things like heaven and hell, good and bad. The puppet show by Dr. Faustus is an example of this. Some German traveling theaters were able to offer puppet theater as an alternative to acting. Often standing roles or funny people who are no longer modern on the stage were retained in the puppet theater ( Pulcinella or Punch, Pierrot , Hanswurst , Staberl ).

The intellectuals of the Enlightenment turned against the typical subjects of the puppet theater of the time - preoccupation with the supernatural was despised. In addition, jugglers of all branches have to struggle with city ​​regulations that limit the troops' possibilities ( see also: Parisian fairground theater ). In the 19th century, puppetry was romanticized . New pieces were developed specifically for this form of theater, but children were now specifically addressed.

20th century

During the First World War, soldiers were at the front and in the hospital with puppet theater, e.g. B. in the form of puppets, entertained and motivated to wage war.

After the revolution of 1917 , Russia recognized the possibilities of using this form of theater to “educate the people”. In Germany too, puppetry experienced a renaissance after the First World War, supported by the youth movement , theater, visual artists and educators. A permanent puppet theater, for example, was the artist marionette stage on Valentin-Becker-Strasse in Würzburg . The premiere was on December 4, 1934. The stage, led by the sculptor Joseph Bendel, the elementary school teacher Siegfried Lechler and the graphic artist Leo Flach, existed until 1939.

Nazi era

In the time of National Socialism , puppeteers were also banned from working, which they circumvented if possible. In addition, there was also inner emigration , hiding in niches, and flight in the puppet theater sector - but sometimes also the desired professional career. The Nazi state generally increased controls and, in the case of puppet shows, more and more consistently, especially instrumentalization for propaganda and Nazi education. Here the hand puppet-experienced Oberbannführer Siegfried Raeck from the cultural office of the Reich Youth Leadership was particularly involved .

In 1937, the promotion of puppetry was increasingly politically oriented and the folklore-customs department was taken over by the organization Kraft durch Freude . Here, too, at least one employee was a puppet show expert, checked puppeteers, got involved in the leisure organization KdF and occasionally represented Nazi puppet shows abroad politically. A 92-page guide - entitled Das deutsche Puppenspiel. Commitment, successes, objectives - was distributed in large numbers throughout the German Reich in 1939 to professional puppeteers, amateurs and KdF organizers. In addition to an ideological orientation, the booklet also included excerpts from the pieces, reference addresses and descriptions of the puppeteer's profession as well as technical and economic information. The design of puppet figures was severely restricted as a result. The National Socialists used this form of theater a little later for propaganda purposes . In some cases, the use of brutal violence against opponents of the Nazi system was called in puppet theaters. Among other things, the content of the anti-Semitic propaganda paper Der Stürmer served as a template for puppet plays . In advertising, for example, the figure of Kasper, once denying authority and inclining to enjoyment, sometimes mutated into a cute toothbrush model. The Nazi state expected the greatest propaganda benefit, above all from the hand puppet and marionette game. While maintaining the necessary aesthetic standards, he was sure of his high emotional effectiveness. The possibility of spreading central Nazi ideologems ( national community , anti-Semitism , chauvinism , leader principle ) was facilitated by the simple technical requirements - the possibility of use even in the smallest village - and by the chance to reclaim popular traditions and to reinterpret them as "folkish".

The hand tools of the puppeteers should also correspond to a given standard. Series of doll sets with 24 different types of figures were designed and industrially produced. In the catalog Games and Heads for the Puppet Theater of 1940, in addition to traditional figures, there is also an anti-Semitic figure - who was supposed to represent a Jew in stylized form. Between 1939 and 1944, the play material was sold primarily to the Nazi youth organizations, the Wehrmacht ( front puppet theater ) and professional stages - around ten thousand hand puppet heads from April 1942 to March 1943 alone. In line with this catalog, play texts by various authors were published by the RI in the series “Political Puppet Play” and “Das Deutsche Puppenspiel”. Professional stages were encouraged to show mandatory "political interludes" during the performances.

A Reichsinstitut for puppet shows was founded in 1938 by Nazi organizations (including the Hitler Youth ) with the aim of central coordination, control and promotion, but also the propaganda instrumentalization of amateur puppet shows and professional puppet stages. The far-reaching goals of the RI included above all: comprehensive equipment of the Nazi youth organizations with standardized, often politically colored game material (game pieces / texts, the matching hand puppet heads, dramaturgical instructions), coordination of the performances of professional puppet stages and their assessment, implementation of courses and the Production of the first puppet theater films. In 1939, however, only one preparation point for the RI was set up in Berlin. Just one year after the start of the Second World War, many plans could no longer be realized, including the move to the planned institute building in Stuttgart. Harro Siegel took over the artistic and from 1941 provisional overall management . Due to the war, the RI stopped all work in the summer of 1944.

Showcase of the puppet theater "Hans Wurst Nachfahren" on Winterfeldtplatz in Berlin

Shortly after the Second World War, like other arts, puppetry tried to break free from the “corset of practicality”. Experimental pieces emerged, as well as new types of figures through to pure material, as well as connections between the various stage forms. In addition, the “people-oriented” and often targeted pieces continued to exist: in traffic education, for example, the traffic jasper, in the theater form named after him, took on the leading role of friend, helper and advisor to the children in questions of dealing with traffic and as an opponent of the traffic devil.


In the GDR , the puppet theater was one of the branches of the performing arts and had a permanent state theater in almost all districts (including Schwerin , Gera , Erfurt , Dresden , Berlin , Magdeburg , Neubrandenburg , Halle ) with mostly extensive ensembles and workshops. The training to become a puppeteer at the "Ernst Busch" Academy of Dramatic Art in Berlin was correspondingly comprehensive, based on the renowned drama methodology of this university. There was / is more detailed training in puppetry technology than in other countries.

There are also permanent ensemble theaters in West Germany (including Lübeck , Düsseldorf , Munich , Schwäbisch Hall , Augsburg , two in Cologne and two in Würzburg), but these have always been privately run and fight for subsidies or sponsors (with the exception of e.g. The local dialect theater Hänneschen-Theater (puppet shows of the city of Cologne). For this reason, the puppet theater in West Germany mostly presented itself as a traveling solo stage or a player duo (man-woman). The players were often self-taught who had to attend seminars independently for their further education or to sit in on an existing stage.

It was not until 1977 that the Association of German Puppet Theater founded a training commission, which in 1983 succeeded in setting up the " Puppet Theater" course at the State University for Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, the first training facility for puppet theater in Western Europe. At the Karlsruhe University of Education , the puppet show was integrated into educational teacher training by Wolfram Ellwanger and further developed by Siegbert A. Warwitz in the form of the Verkehrskasper as a modern teaching theater for traffic education .


The German tragedy "of the terrifying magician Johannes Fausten , his soul trade with the devil and his eventual journey to hell" then brought the most played piece for puppet theater to the small boards. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was inspired to create his Faust by such a puppet theater .

Heinrich von Kleist wrote his essay on puppet theater in view of a puppet theater performance .

One of the great poets of puppet literature is Franz Pocci , who wrote primarily for the Munich Marionette Theater, whose artistic texts are still printed today and were used for several children's radio plays in the 1970s.

For a long time, classic fairy tales and well-known children's books such as B. those by Janosch or Otfried Preußler as well as stories that the puppeteers develop for both children and adults. Jo Micovich and Heinrich Maria Denneborg are among the puppeteers who are more active as a writer than usual .

Today in professional puppet theater, contemporary authors are often adapted for the stage, commissions are given to writers or competitions are advertised. In addition, the play materials are often developed in a team through improvisations and brought to stage maturity with the involvement of dramaturges. But also subjects of the "big" theater are sometimes used in puppet shows. The Salzburg Marionette Theater is known for its performances of great works of opera literature.

From 1953 onwards, the Augsburger Puppenkiste puppet theater successfully combined television and puppet shows. The Wuppertal puppet brought 1960-1970 commissioned by the WDR and NDR total of 45 shows for the afternoon program of the ARD about the topics Biblical history, Greek legends, etc.

Different figure shapes

Well-known puppet theater

Puppet and puppet theater festivals

Known puppeteers

Schools, training

Speech training

In addition to the depicting speaking, acting basics and making figures and the tray is speech training offered. Speech training can also be studied as an independent subject or as a focus / specialization within bachelor's and master's degrees.


Part of the puppet theater collection in the Central German traveling puppet theater in Bad Liebenwerda

Intangible cultural heritage

The puppet theater is currently experiencing increasing protection worldwide by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage . UNESCO already has the Sicilian puppet theater “Opera dei Pupi” (2001), the Indonesian Wayang Kulit (2003), the Japanese Ningyō Jōruri Bunraku (2003) and the Cambodian shadow theater Sbek thom of the Khmer (2005) as masterpieces of the oral and immaterial heritage explained to humanity . The People's Republic of China also declared both shadow play and puppet theater to be an intangible cultural heritage of the People's Republic of China in 2006 and ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2004. In the German-speaking area, all states apart from Liechtenstein have acceded to this convention.

See also


  • Markus Joss and Jörg Lehmann: Theater of Things. Puppet, figure and object theater (Lesson 7). Theater der Zeit, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-95749-069-8 .
  • Andrea Sommer-Mathis: Puppet theater. In: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon . Online edition, Vienna 2002 ff., ISBN 3-7001-3077-5 ; Print edition: Volume 4, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-7001-3046-5 .
  • Gyula Molnàr: Object theater records, quotations, exercises . Theater der Zeit, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-942449-35-9 .
  • Barbara Rott: Felix Fechenbach and the puppet show. In: Roland Flade, Barbara Rott (Eds.): Felix Fechenbach , The Puppeteer. A novel from old Würzburg. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1988, ISBN 3-88479-376-4 , pp. 31-43.
  • Manfred Wegner (Ed.): Handbook for artistic puppetry 1900–1945. Germany, Austria, Switzerland. Hand puppet and marionette game . Utzverlag, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-8316-4783-5 .

Web links

Commons : Puppet theater (stages and characters)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Puppet Theater  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Puppet theater  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. http://science.orf.at/stories/1741992 When Kasperl was not yet harmless, ORF.at of July 7, 2014 based on the master's thesis by Evelyn Zechner-Mateschko, Kasper rushes from victory to victory , published in: Journal for the sociology of literature and theater
  2. ^ Barbara Rott: Felix Fechenbach and the puppet show. 1988, p. 33 f.
  3. Leaves for after-work advice , issue 10, ed. from the management of the teaching system in the Reich Labor Service , Leipzig 1935, p. 9
  4. Der Stürmer , No. 16, April 1936, cited above. n. Joseph Wulf : Theater and Film in the Third Reich. A documentation . Gütersloh 1964, p. 150
  5. ^ German forum for puppet theater and puppetry ev: Gerd Bohlmeier: The Reich Institute for puppetry. A contribution to the history of puppet theater . Braunschweig 1993, https://www.fidena.de/publish/db3aa5a2_e081_515d_742bba7ab8e42499.cfm?objectid=cbc5e9be_e081_515d_74c5bc7b99ead952
  6. Wolfram Ellwanger, Arnold Grömminger: Hand puppet play in kindergarten and elementary school (= Herder library 9064 pedagogy ). Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) 1978, ISBN 3-451-09064-3 .
  7. ^ Siegbert A. Warwitz : The traffic jasper is coming. In: Siegbert A. Warwitz: Traffic education from the child. Perceive - play - think - act. 6th, updated edition. Schneider-Verlag Hohengehren, Baltmannsweiler 2009, ISBN 978-3-8340-0563-2 , pp. 252-272.
  8. Festival website
  9. http://www.figurentheaterfestival.de/
  10. http://www.imaginale.net/imaginale/
  11. http://www.no-strings-attached.de/
  12. http://www.fest-der-puppen.de/
  13. Change of look
  14. klapps - PuppenSpielTage Augsburg / Friends of Augsburger Puppenspiel eV: klapps - PuppenSpielTage Augsburg. Retrieved October 20, 2017 .
  15. http://www.figurentheater-wels.at/
  16. Figura Theater Festival