The Voice of Puppetry – Special Exhibition at the Museum of Puppet TheatreCulture

by | Jan 15, 2022 | Raise the curtain

The museum for Puppet Theatre Culture (PuK) has once again succeeded in putting on an unusual and interesting exhibition in 2019! Due to the corona-related closures, The Voice of Puppetry will be extended until 30.12.2020 and gradually also expanded upon.  

The exhibition presents distinctive or famous female speakers: actresses, dubbing (voiceover) actors and, of course, puppeteers.Through photos and the thematic descriptions accompanying the exhibits, the voices, some of which are probably well known, suddenly also have a human face beside the face of the character to whom they lent their vocal interpretation.

The perception of the voices of the deceased is unusual when heard in the context of a performance allowing one to imagine a living person from the photos on display.

The oldest ‘exhibited’ voices are from the Spejbl and Hurvínek productions, which have existed since the 1920s until today. Josef Skupa (1892-1957), the inventor of the two, was the first speaker; his successor Miloš Kirschner (1927-1996) spoke both in 17 languages on countless international tours; today the speaker is Martin Klásek (born 1957). Helena Štáchová (1944-2019) gave a striking vocal characterisation of Mánička. Since 2016, this role has been spoken by Marie Šimsová.

Karl Walter Diess (1928-2014) shaped the Kasperl of the Salzburg Marionette Theatre. Albrecht Roser (1922-2011) spoke grandiosely in his Swabian accent with his grandmother, who stiltedly delivered in the respective national language on the international tours; Roser, whose programme was otherwise without language, had not allowed himself to be deprived of this.The sonorous voice of Walter Büttner (1907-1990), a solo public actor, well versed in traditional hand puppetry, is also not absent: his Faust production, which was very popular until the end, can be heard once again in an impressive way.Radio and later television made the actors particularly popular. Have younger viewers ever asked what or whom they liked so much, knew so well?Behind Jim Knopf’s voice, for example, is Winfried Küppers, who to this day also works for the Düsseldorf Marionette Theatre in playback recordings. Käptn Blaubär speaks with the voice of Wolfgang Völz, Urmel speaks with the voice of Max Rößl (1925-1973). Wolf Buresch can be heard again with his rabbit Caesar. “Die Hohnsteiner” are there with recordings from the 1960s, which can be selected and played today in this exhibition with one of the music boxes that were popular at the time.

Benita Steinmann (1940-1996), introduced here as the narrator of Mr von Bödefeld from Sesame Street, developed by Peter Röders in 1983, spoke, wrote and acted a lot for television. She always said: If you want to speak a character, you should get to grips with its countenance, its rhythms and its vocabulary – a wisdom learnt through her craft that also coincided, for example, with Walter Büttner’s approximately 70 years of traditional professional experience.

Liesel Simon in the special exhibition The Voice of Puppetry at PuK

Radio was made available to the public in 1923 and was already a mass phenomenon by 1924. The puppeteer Liesel Simon became interested in the new medium. Born on 21.8.1887, Karoline Liesel Goldschmidt grew up sheltered in a large manufacturing family, marrying the merchant Paul Simon and giving birth to two sons. After the First World War, she began to perform her Punch and Judy show very successfully. She staged it with professional freelancers and was often to be found on tour.

In addition, she created children’s programmes for SWR radio from 1924 – as did other authors later. She invented the radio Kasperlestunde, which was broadcast regularly every first Sunday of the month from 1927 onwards with great success – live! She was Aunt Liesel, the Punch and Judy aunt, the fairy tale aunt; Kasper was an adult male narrator who sometimes seemed quite childlike and then again adventurous and brave. The role was worked into Grimm’s fairy tales, but also into self-written plays in which Kasperl, for example, sometimes outwits the policeman or flies over towns, villages and forests within a soap bubble. Fan mail testified that the shows were extremely successful and some were even recorded on shellac records by Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon.

In 1933, as a Jew, she was expelled from the Gleichgeschaltet Deutscher Bund der Puppenspieler, to whose board she had been elected in 1931, and was banned from performing. She continued to play for the Jewish Cultural Association. She only just escaped to Ecuador in 1941 to join one of her sons, where she died on 23 May 1958. Memorial stones in the pavement were laid for the family in Frankfurt in 2018. Liesel Simon’s surviving documents, stage parts and hand puppets have been in the Frankfurt Historical Museum since 2015.

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