A birthday party is to be held only afterwards: next fall, in fact. Then, when the Puppenkiste will bring its new production to the stage. It should be elaborate and serve two specific purposes.
That would be a good question for a quiz show: What was the very first play performed by the Augsburger Puppenkiste?? Correct answer: "Puss in Boots". On 26. February 1948 was that, now 70 years ago. So there would be reason to celebrate in the puppet show. "But we don't do that," says Puppenkisten boss Klaus Marschall: "We don't want to hang the anniversary up too high."
Some pieces only for television
In Augsburg, only Jim Knopf and Lukas, the locomotive driver, or the "Urmel aus dem Eis" ("The Big Dipper"), are highly rated. Whereby – that is not quite true. For these famous characters were merely staged for television. They never made it to the Augsburg stage, that would not have been technically feasible, Marschall explains.
So let's stay with TV for now: "The Puppenkiste was the first children's hour in it," Marschall continues. It was shown for the first time just one month after ARD began broadcasting it: on 21 February. January 1953 with the fairy tale "Peter and the Wolf".
No more TV productions since 1995
Whole generations thereafter grew up with the eternal Lummerland ear-worm "An island with two mountains" and also with the "sea" around this island, which was in reality plastic foil – an almost prophetic special effect, considering today's littering of the oceans.
However, the Augsburg wonder creatures have long since largely disappeared from television. Since 1995 there have been no more annual productions, the program managers lost interest. This break came in Klaus Marschall's early days as head of the 37-employee Puppenkiste company. In 1992, he took over the business in the third generation. It was founded by his grandparents Walter and Rose Oehmichen. Today, about 90.000 spectators to the 420 or so performances, resulting in a 95 percent capacity utilization rate.
More than five million visitors and 300 productions
In addition, the museum, which opened in 2001, attracts another 70.000 people. "The box" it is called and still shows until 18. March the special show "Wishes and curses". From 21. March follows an exhibition about famous couples.
"In total, we have had more than five million visitors and 300 productions since our existence," Marschall sums up. These figures are impressive – but they are not enough: "Without the public sector, we would not be viable." 320.000 euros a year from the city of Augsburg and 200 million euros a year from the city of Augsburg.000 euros from the Free State of Bavaria.
Dwindling popularity among young people
Thanks to this support, Marschall can confidently make plans for the future. This year he wants to make a Christmas movie with his puppets for the third time. Following the biblical Christmas story in 2016 (100,000.000 viewers) and the Cornelia Funke story "Als der Weihnachtsmann vom Himmel fiel" (When Santa Claus Fell from Heaven) in 2017 (80.000), Marschall wants to bring Charles Dickens' Ghost Christmas to the cinema in 2018.
With his canvas strategy, the theater director is pursuing a specific goal: "Our popularity with young people is dwindling. We must therefore place ourselves more clearly."The Puppenkiste is present today in the form of its Punch and Judy, for example, as the mascot of the FC Augsburg soccer club, and in its hometown as a traffic light man. But as we said, you hardly ever see the hand-carved wooden puppets on TV anymore.
"Ring of the Nibelungs" in the fall
"But that's not a bad thing, because television no longer has an event character, people don't watch it with the attention they used to." But that is necessary to be able to follow the "good stories" of the box. "It's the content that matters to us, not effects."
This also applies to the "mammoth project" that is currently being planned, Marschall reveals. "In the fall, we want to stage Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs: four operas in two hours."When this is achieved, the 70th anniversary of the Puppenkiste will also be celebrated. Birthday something to celebrate. The new production, like all Puppenkisten offerings, also pursues two goals: "Good entertainment and the reduction of threshold fear of the theater."This approach, says Marschall, makes the Puppenkiste educationally valuable to this day. Even if it once began with a hangover – it is by no means for the cat.