Dynasty of fairground puppeteers from southern Germany with a history going back to the last third of the 17th century.
The first generations of the Schichtl family devoted themselves to the construction of mobile crèches (see Nativity Scenes), operated Kunstkabinette (Mechanical Art Cabinets), travelled as instrumental virtuosos, and presented zoological museums. Three of the sons of Johann Evangelist Ignatz Schichtl – Julius, Franz August and Michael August – founded, in 1869, a theatre of magic. Their younger brother, Johann, began his professional puppetry career in 1867 with the Münchner Kasperltheater (Kasperl Theatre Munich), which he expanded to include a travelling Spezialitätentheater (Variety Theatre of Specialties) in the 1870s. Beginning in 1880, Franz August and Michael August travelled from festival site to festival site all over Germany with their magnificent canvas and wooden structures. Their programme offered a variety of shows: Fantoche Trickmarionetten (Animated Fantoche Puppets), scenes with Kakautzky figures, Theatrum mundi, Laterna magica (Magic lanterns) projections, Phantasmagorien (Phantasmagoria), Kinematographie (Cinematography), magic shows, and pantomime.
The three sons of Johann Schichtl – Hans, Karl and Julius – successfully made the jump onto the international scene of big city variety shows in 1907. Together, they presented until 1922 Fantoche (Fantoccini) puppet performances on major concert tours across Europe and the United States. Then they separated and travelled alone with their families until the decline of the variety shows in the 1960s.
Hans Schichtl and his children founded the company Schichtl-Rulyans. Their programme was based primarily on mechanical puppets from the Austrian, Christian Tschuggmall (1785-1845), owned by the family, as well as larger figures of wire artists built on the same technical principles used by Tschuggmall.
Finally, it should be mentioned that Xaver Schichtl took over the variety theatre from his father Karl in 1913 and in addition to animal numbers, acrobatics, optical illusions and Fantoche puppet shows, he gave dramatic string puppet performances of fairy tales and legends in schools and public places in Germany. Nowadays there are no longer any traditional Schichtl family theatres in existence.
(See Fairs, Germany, Itinerant Troupes, Travelling Puppeteers.)
- Dering, F., M. Gröner, and M. Wegner. Heute Hinrichtung. Jahrmarkts- und Variétéattraktionen der Schaustellerdynastie Schichtl [Today’s Execution/A Head Will Fall! Fairground and Variety Showmen of the Schichtl Dynasty]. Wien/München, 1990.
- Werle-Burger, Helga. Vornehmstes Familientheater. Schichtl’s Marionetten-Varieté-Theater [Most Distinguished Family Theatre. Schichtl’s Puppet Variety Show]. Husum, 1993.