The first permanent puppet theatre in Switzerland. Established in 1903, the theatre was in existence for forty years, used string puppets and played mainly for a younger audience. Its founder, the Municipal Counsellor, Hermann Scherrer (1853-1948), drew his inspiration from Germany’s Münchner Marionetten-Theater (Munich Puppet Theatre) and, in the beginning, reserved his shows for an invited audience. But very soon performances were opened to the general public and, from 1912, the theatre presented a show every weekend in a hall that seated one hundred and twenty people.
Following the Munich example, Scherrer chose to work with figures approximately 25 centimetres high and opted for the realistic style of popular theatre with the puppet character, Kasperl Larifari, a quibbler, dressed in a rainbow coloured costume and speaking in the Bavarian dialect, as his comic lead.
The scripts came mainly from Lustiges Komödienbüchlein (Little Book of Amusing Comedies) by Count Franz von Pocci. The children loved the stories, and so did the adults, as is proved by a Swiss textile trader who, during his travels in Bavaria, made it a point of attending performances at the St. Gallen theatre. Different groups of amateurs were invited to animate the puppets under Scherrer’s direction. He produced no less that sixteen of Pocci’s plays, among which are Das Glück ist blind, Zauberspiel mit Gesang (Happiness is Blind, a Magical Play with Songs, 1907), Kasperl als Prinz, moralische Komödie (Prince Kasperl, a Comedy with a Moral, 1909), Die Zaubergeige, Märchendrama mit Gesang und Tanz (The Magic Violin, a Dramatic Tale Accompanied with Songs and Dances, 1911), Das Eulenschloss, Märchendrama (The Palace of Owls, a Fairy Tale Drama, 1912). Much later he brought to the stage another kind of story: Doctor Faust in 1916 and, in 1923, he directed Frau Wahrheit will niemand herbergen (Madame Verity Truth Refuses to Keep Lodgers), written by Hans Sachs.
The puppets were sculpted in wood and dressed according to Scherrer’s wishes. Some are genuine works of art, particularly those designed by Hedwig Scherrer, the founder’s niece, who also produced the décor for the proscenium. In 1991, two hundred and fifty puppets were sold to a collector. However, all the puppets used for the last play staged, Heidi, based on Johanna Spyri’s book, are housed in the St. Gallen Museum of History.
- 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)