Marionettist and director of a German puppet theatre, nick-named “Papa Schmid”. With the active support of Count Franz von Pocci, Josef Leonhard Schmid opened the first Münchner Marionetten-Theater on December 5, 1858 in Munich. Schmid presented his string puppet shows for children and adults in various locations until the city of Munich built for him a permanent establishment. The new theatre building opened November 3, 1900 and is being used as a marionette theatre to this day.
“Papa Schmid”, as he was known, was a gifted Kasper player. He and his theatre began a reform of the puppet theatre in Germany. By assembling a repertoire of dramatic works specifically written for the puppet theatre he emancipated it from that of the actors’ theatre. Over forty authors and composers wrote for Josef Leonhard Schmid. Franz von Pocci alone contributed fifty-three fairy tales and adventures of Kasper.
In addition to fairy tales and legends, the traditional repertoire also included Goethe’s Faust, Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (Little Catherine of Heilbronn) by Heinrich von Kleist, Genovefa by Raupach, Agnes Bernauer by Friedrich Hebbel as well as parts from text collections from Engel and Kollmann. Sets and puppets helped to create the illusion of an animated miniature world inside the stage. This conception lasted until it was swept away by the puppeteer Paul Brann in the early 20th century.
The artistic legacy of Josef Leonhard Schmid is preserved in the Puppentheatermuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum (Puppet Theatre Museum in the Munich City Museum).
- Katalog Kasperl Larifari. Blumenstraße 29a. Das Münchner Marionetten-Theater 1858-1988. München: Hrsg. Münchner Stadtmuseum/Stadtarchiv München, 1988.
- Riedelsheimer, Anton. Die Geschichte des J. Schmid’schen Marionettentheaters [The History of J. Schmid’s Marionette Theatre]. München, 1906.