Austrian sculptor, graphic artist and puppeteer, of Czech origin. Richard Teschner studied at the Academy of Arts in Prague (1896-1899) and at the School of Applied Arts (School of Arts and Crafts, 1900) in Vienna. In 1901, he returned to Prague. In 1904, he made the “Entwurf eines Marionettentheaters” (Design for a Marionette Theatre). Then, in 1908, he directed the first performance in German of the play by [Maurice Maeterlinck], Pelléas et Mélisande (German: Pelléas und Melisande), at the German Theatre in Prague.
Richard Teschner lived in Vienna from 1909 onwards and became a member of the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna’s Workshops: a production community of visual artists in Vienna, bringing together architects, artists and designers).
Inspired by the Javanese [wayang] golek, Teschner created several delicate [rod puppets], 30 to 40 centimetres high. These puppets were beautifully decorated and dressed in sarongs made of materials of the Wiener Werkstätte and inspired by Viennese Art Nouveau. The puppets were controlled by rods, and were additionally fitted with internal strings that allowed Teschner to more easily manipulate their joints and limbs. He presented these puppets, starting in 1912, with the “Goldenen Schrein“ (“Golden Shrine”), a small, shrine-like stage. A “Polyphon”, a large musical box with interchangeable metal disks, produced the original music to accompany the puppet performances enacted purely in mime. The first performances were inspired by old Javanese legends such as Kosuomos Opfertod (Kosuomo’s Sacrifice) staged in 1912; Nabi Isa (an Indonesian story about Jesus) in 1912; Nawang Wulan (a Javanese moon-princess deity) in 1912; Prinzessin und Wassermann (The Princess and the Water Spirit), staged in 1913.
These first creations opened the way for more personal productions. The Weihnachtsspiel (Christmas Plays), created in 1916, were presented to the public for the first time at the Austrian Museum for Art and Industry in Vienna in 1920.
It was in 1932 that Richard Teschner presented his Figurenspiegel (Figure Mirror) played with concave mirrors framed in gold and decorated with the signs of the Zodiac, which introduced a new concept in the spatial presentation of puppets, thereby rejecting the confined spaces of the traditional puppet stage. The invention of the mirror stage allowed Teschner to experiment with theatrical lighting and cinematic illusion; for example, illuminating individual puppets with spot lights that could then fade in or out to reveal other figures in contrasting proportions.
Between 1912 and 1948, Teschner created around one hundred and forty puppet characters. Despite the success of his work, Teschner performed abroad just once: in London in 1934.
Richard Teschner died in 1948, and his wife, Emma Bacher-Paulik, took up the reins and continued to present puppet shows. In 1953, Richard Teschner’s theatre joined the Theatre Collection of the Austrian National Library – the Theatersammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Since 1991, the Figurenspiegel is housed at the [Österreichisches Theatermuseum] ([Austrian Theatre Museum]) where one can see some of Teschner’s productions, including Der Drachentöter (The Dragon Killer, 1929) and Traum im Karneval (Dream in the Carnival, 1930, also a film).
- Behrendt, Klaus, and Jarmila Weißenböck. Die Lebens-Uhr. Figurenpantomime von Richard Teschner [The Life-Clock. Figure Pantomime of Richard Teschner]. Wien: Österreichisches TheaterMuseum, 1998.
- Behrendt, Klaus, and Jarmila Weißenböck. Der Basilisk. Figurenpantomime von Richard Teschner [The Basilisk. Figure Pantomime of Richard Teschner]. Wien: Österreichisches TheaterMuseum, 2002.
- Behrendt, Klaus, and Jarmila Weißenböck. Weihnachtsspiel. Figurenpantomime von Richard Teschner [Christmas (Nativity) Play. Figure Pantomime of Richard Teschner]. Wien: Österreichisches TheaterMuseum, 1992.
- Behrendt, Klaus, Joseph Gregor, Franz Hadamowsky, Lucia, Jirgal, Josef Mayerhöfer, Oskar Pausch, Arthur Roessler, Richard Teschner, Jarmila Weißenböck. Der Figurenspiegel Richard Teschner [Richard Teschner – Figure Mirror]. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 1991.
- Hadamowsky, Franz, ed. Richard Teschner und sein Figurenspiegel [Richard Teschner and His Figure Mirror], 1956.