Permanent Exhibition: Puppet Theater / Fairground Attractions

First opened in 1984, the Puppet Theater and Fairground Attractions permanent exhibition can be found on the third floor of the Münchner Stadtmuseum. In an area extending over 20,000 square feet, it presents an attractive cross-section of the collection of the same name, the majority of which is kept in storage. Clearly organized by theme, the exhibition invites visitors on a tour of the history of puppetry since the 19th century. An adjacent room displays items from fairgrounds and funfairs revolving around the twin focuses of "Popular Entertainment" and "The Munich Oktoberfest."

The foyer area serves as a forum for new purchases and bequests and also hosts exhibitions on subjects of interest. Currently this area displays postwar puppetry which is represented by marionettes for a play written by Tankred Dorst for “Kleines Spiel” – a student theater in Munich.

Following an introduction to the various types of puppetry (glove, rod and shadow puppets, marionettes, and more exotic manifestations) and a display showing the Munich workshop of puppet maker Walter Oberholzer, the exhibition presents examples of traditional "Punch & Judy" shows and traveling marionette theaters from southern Germany. Its highlights include the attempts by the “Münchner Marionettentheaters” (Munich Marionette Theater) and its playwright Franz Graf Pocci in 1858 to modernize puppetry, and the "Artistic Puppetry Movement" which followed in his footsteps at the start of the 20th century. The exhibition also contains figures by Paul Brann from the “Marionettentheaters Münchner Künstler” (Munich Artists' Marionette Theater), rod puppets by Richard Teschner of Vienna, and cardboard puppets and set designs from the “Schwabinger Schattenspiele” theater which was established in 1907. Harry Kramer's "Mechanical Theater" sets the stage for contemporary puppet theater and its close ties to the art world.

Illustrations of Asian puppetry can be seen in the entranceway to the Fairground Attractions exhibit alongside two 14th century shadow puppets of Egyptian origin from the collection of the leading Orientialist Paul Kahle.

Other features include the "Auf geht’s beim Schichtl" ("Curtains up at Schichtl's") exhibit with the original guillotine from the traditional Oktoberfest attraction "Beheading of a Live Person" and a mechanical slackrope-artist from just after World War II. Further attractions on display range from a fully equipped shooting gallery, merry-go-round vehicles and animals, ornamental figures from the outsides of carousels and a giant, mechanical King Kong from a funfair ride, replica heads used as targets in "coconut shies," barrel organs and paintings from fairground booths. A "curiosity corner" brings together a Venus figure posing for artists, wax busts, and all manner of oddities traditionally used to amuse or alarm fairground visitors. Another indispensable highlight for Munich fans is the world's oldest horse and carriage set from the merry-go-round at the former "Betz'sche Gastwirtschaft" in Haidhausen.

Beyond special exhibitions, a program featuring puppet shows has been arranged in conjunction with a Munich community group, the Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Puppenspiels (Friends of Puppetry Association).

Additionally the Internationale Figurentheaterfestival München (Munich International Puppet Show Festival) is held every two years in collaboration with civic partners as well as the annual Figurentheaterfestival ANFÄNGE(R) (Puppet Show Festival BEGINNERS). Since 1950, over 700 puppet shows from more than 30 countries have been presented in cooperation with the Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Puppenspiels (Friends of Puppetry Association).

In 2008, the FigurenTheaterForum München (Munich Puppet Show Forum) was established with the joint participation of this voluntary organization and the Collection. For more information go to www.figurentheater-gfp.de.

Publication

A comprehensive exhibition publication “Puppentheater. Bilder, Figuren, Dokumente. Handbuch zur Schausammlung des Puppentheatermuseums” is available in German language, edited by Wolfgang Till, published by Universitätsdruckerei und Verlag Dr. C. Wolf und Sohn München, 200 pages. It can be purchased from the museum cashier or in our online-shop for € 15.