Swiss puppeteer. Having obtained in 1919 his primary teacher degree, Jakob Flach travelled for many years throughout Europe. In 1928, Jacob Flach became director of the Schweizerisches Marionettentheater in Zurich. In 1937, he established his own company, the Marionettentheater Asconeser Künstler (Ascona Puppet Art Theatre) in Ascona in Canton Ticino (Tessin), Italian-speaking Switzerland, where he had lived since 1925. The theatre was created jointly with Mischa Epper, painter and puppeteer, Fritz Pauli, the expressionist painter, Werner J. Müller and other sculptors and poets, all of them German speaking.
Jakob Flach is one of the pioneers of the string puppet technique in Switzerland. The heads and hands of his puppets, generally made of wood from the lime tree, were totally out of proportion with the rest of the body. This peculiarity made the puppet characters’ expressions more vivid, more forceful. Flach and his colleagues did not want a puppet theatre that would be a miniaturized copy of a theatre with human actors. They saw it more as a synthesis of all the arts, a harmonious whole made up of several elements: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, architecture and the play of light. There was a utopian quality about the plays written and produced and the performances were aimed at transporting the viewer to a world of dreams.
Performances were held from July to October in the old stables of the Castello Ghiriglione. During the twenty-four years of its existence, the Marionettentheater Ascona had staged some sixty original creations. Forty-seven of these were written by Flach himself or by his friends, and almost a hundred and fifty puppeteers worked on these productions. The company had staged more than seven hundred and fifty performances; unfortunately they were rarely if ever in Italian, although that was the local language.
Among the most important of the company’s creations are: Notturno (Nocturne, 1937) by Richard B. Matzig, the theatre’s first production; Der Heiratsantrag (The Marriage Proposal, 1944) by Anton Chekhov; Es ist eine alte Geschichte (It’s an Old Story, 1945) by Heinrich Heine; Molière’s L’Étourdi (The Scatterbrain/The Bungler, 1945); Der Bramarbas (The Braggart, 1948), based on Plautus; Sechs bis Sieben Todsünden (Six or Seven Capital Sins, 1953) by Flach; Carnevale estivo (Summer Festival, 1954) by Flach; Fahrendes Volk (The Nomads, 1955), with a text by Flach and music by Leo Kok; Eine Meerfahr (A Voyage by Sea, 1960) by Flach.
In 1961, the theatre closed down. Some of the troupe’s 40 to 50 centimetres high string puppets, with their large stylized heads, are with the Theatersammlung in Berne and some have joined the collection of the Puppentheatermuseum in Munich.
- Flach, Jakob. “Puppenspiel in der Schweiz” [Puppetry in Switzerland]. Puppenspiel und Puppenspieler [Puppet and Puppeteer]. Nos. 31 and 32. Kloten, 1968.
- Flach, Jakob. Wir bauen ein Marionettentheater [We Build a Puppet Theatre]. Zürich: Schweizerisches Jugendschriftenwerk, 1952.
- Kotte, Andreas, Simone Gojan, Joël Aguet, and Pierre Lepori, eds. Theaterlexikon der Schweiz/Dictionnaire du théâtre en Suisse/Dizionario teatrale svizzero/Lexicon da teater svizzer. Berne: Chronos, 2005. (In German, French, Italian, Romansh)