Plays for living puppets around 1800

The third online meeting on the PuppetPlays Facebook page took place on Tuesday 23 March 2021 at 18:00. Jean Boutan introduced us to theatre for “living puppets”: thus the enigmatic title the comic playwright August von Kotzebue gave to his play The Count of Gleichen (1808), which opens up outlooks on a small but very original corpus of plays from the turn of the 1800s, specifically written for this innovative form of figure theatre, in which actors play like puppets. The speech is followed by a discussion with Xavier Galmiche, professor at Sorbonne University and a noted expert on the culture of entertainment in Central Europe.

This is an opportunity to have a closer look at some writers who used puppet theatre and living puppets in order to create an alternative form of literature to the dominant trends of their time, and with whom posterity was quite often unfair.

The first of them had the idea of writing a play of this kind, the one-act play Alfarazambul or The Marionettes (1790), when he saw a performance by a travelling theatre company including both actors and rod puppets. The anonymous author happened to be Johann Georg Jacobi, and was known for his anacreontic lyrics and light-hearted poetry, that were set to music by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert or Mendelssohn.

Siegfried August Mahlmann published a collection of puppet plays, but also tried his hand with living puppets in a play within the play Simon Lämchen, or Hannswurst and His Family (1803). He pitted his wits against Kotzebue himself, back then very famous for his comedies, and who is our last example of this theatrical form that seems to anticipate the experimental creations of modern theatre.



Last updated : 12/04/2021