German puppeteer, writer, puppet designer, playwright, and director. Together with his wife Benita, Peter Klaus Steinmann influenced, like few others, the (West) German puppet theatre of the first generation after 1945. He embodied the attempt to reconcile the popular art of puppet theatre, like that of Hohnstein (Max Jacob, Friedrich Arndt) with the artistic form of Figurentheater (Figure Theatre), building a bridge between the educational Kasper theatre characters and the psychologically more nuanced types of roles.
The Literarische Figurentheater Steinmann “die buehne” (Steinmann Literary Figure Theatre “the stage” – written in lower case) was a part and at the same time a driving force of an emancipation movement of the German puppet theatre that was characteristic of the 1960s and 1970s and that still has some influence in the present. Artistically, this movement was partially tied to the aesthetic achievements of the years 1920-1930 and, politically, it struggled for the recognition of the puppet- and figure theatre as a theatrical art form that is taken seriously.
There were three important aspects to Steinmann’s work. First, he abandoned the boulevard comedies and Kasper plays and instead used the language of great dramatic literature. He made it possible for the puppet to embody a character playing a nuanced role. He staged the plays Alle die da fallen (All That Fall) by Samuel Beckett, Die Ballade vom großen Makabren (The Ballad of the Grand Macabre) by Michel de Ghelderode, Romulus der Große (Romulus the Great) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, among others. The second aspect of his work was the opening up of the stage allowing for more freedom of movement. This had two consequences. On the one hand, Steinmann placed the puppet in a scenic context with the puppeteer which gave their relationship dramaturgical perspective. On the other hand, he offered the main stage of the “big” theatre as a space for movement. The third aspect was the intense reflection throughout his career not only on his own work but also on the entire guild, which can be found in numerous writings: Reflexionen über ein Medium (Reflections on a Medium). In these writings he distinguished himself by the self-confidence of a theatre artist from the norms of popular knowledge and he shared this knowledge of a changed awareness with his colleagues and the public. Steinmann sought to establish the internal and external boundaries of the art of puppetry and consistently defined figure theatre as its own branch of contemporary theatre culture.
Peter Klaus Steinmann also worked for television and taught in schools.
- Lepschy, Christoph. “Hommage à Peter Klaus Steinmann”. Manip. No. 3. Paris: THEMAA, 2005.
- Puppen für “die bühne”. 40 Jahre Literarisches Figurentheater Steinmann [Puppets for “the stage”. 40 Years of the Steinmann Literary Figure Theatre]. Published by the Puppentheatermuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, 1999.
- Steinmann. Exhibition catalogue. Münchner: Puppentheatermuseum, 1999.