Popular emblem of one of Germany’s oldest cities

Augsburger Puppenkiste

Popular emblem of one of Germany’s oldest cities

Augsburger Puppenkiste

The lid opens, the curtain goes up: In the Heilig-Geist-Spital in Augsburg, a nasty little man from the woods is up to his usual tricks. Will the queen guess his name in time or will she have to give him her child? The children in the audience are utterly enthralled.

The afternoon programme at the Augsburger Puppenkiste is showing the well-known fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin. The puppets are skillfully moved around the stage under the arched roof of the former chapel until the lid of the puppet chest finally closes again: This is the signature of the Augsburger Puppenkiste – and has been for 69 years.

World-famous marionette theatre made in Augsburg

The Augsburger Puppenkiste welcomes all and sundry through its doors: Around 80 percent of its visitors come from Augsburg and Bavaria – the rest from Germany and the rest of the world. The Augsburger Puppenkiste is a real attraction in this city: “Many people associate the marionette theatre with the city of Augsburg and the city of Augsburg with the marionette theatre. It has become a permanent feature of the region”, says Klaus Marschall, who has been running the theatre since 1992.

'The Augsburger Puppenkiste has become a permanent feature of the region.'

The origins of the Augsburger Puppenkiste go back to the year 1943. During the Second World War, the Augsburg actor and puppet fan Walter Oehmichen built his first puppet theatre, the so-called “Puppenschrein”. This consisted of a simple door frame, with a table as a stage. After the “Puppenschrein” was destroyed by a bombing raid one year later, Oehmichen began to dream of a larger, more extensive playhouse. In February 1948 this became a reality: He founded the Augsburger Puppenkiste – perhaps the best known marionette theatre in the world.

“The name ‘Puppenkiste’, or ‘puppet chest’, came from my grandfather, because he wanted to create a transportable theatre – a chest, from which you could put on a play anywhere,” explains Klaus Marschall, who is the third generation of his family to run the business after his grandfather and his mother.

Augsburger Puppenkiste: Famous beyond national borders

In addition to children’s performances in the afternoon, there is also an evening programme for adults. The marionette theatre puts on around 400 to 420 performances each year. A further 100 to 120 appearances are made on tour. The stars of the Augsburger Puppenkiste, such as “Jim Knopf” and “das Urmel aus dem Eis”, are familiar to young and old everywhere. They came to fame in the 60s, 70s and 80s through television productions – commemorated by a permanent exhibition in the theatre’s own museum, “die Kiste”.

The international appeal of the Augsburger Puppenkiste is demonstrated by special exhibitions, which change every six months and feature puppet chests and figures from all over the world. Klaus Marschall and his team even take various pieces and programmes overseas: “For example, we have been to Japan, the USA and the United Arab Emirates. This year we received an enquiry from Rio de Janeiro, where we hope to perform in the autumn.”

Behind the scenes

Any new production requires a lead time of at least a year. From the author to the director, and from the stage builder to the puppet creator: The artistic ensemble of the marionette theatre consists of 16 highly creative people, who coordinate every precise movement.

'Every puppeteer is also an actor to some extent – just with different media.'

Once a piece makes it onto the stage, it is time for the puppeteers to shine: “Every puppeteer is also an actor to some extent – just with different media: Instead of using their own mimes and gestures, all they have is a wooden cross with ten strings, which they use to give their figure its character and to express emotions,” says Klaus Marschall. According to the 55-year-old, when dealing with puppets you need not only manual dexterity but also years of practice.

The ensemble is currently working on a new staging of the “Bremen Town Musicians”. Will theatre director Klaus Marschall also make the puppets dance? “Only if it’s absolutely necessary or if I want to give one of my favourite pieces a bit of kick.” Something special is surely on the cards.

Augsburger Puppenkiste
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address: Spitalgasse 15, 86150 Augsburg
Tel: +49 (0)821 450 345 0
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email: kontakt@puppenkiste.com
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web: //www.augsburger-puppenkiste.de