German Swiss puppeteer. Therese Keller is among the pioneers of puppetry art in Switzerland. After training as a nursery school teacher, Keller started work as a professional puppet artist at the age of twenty-six. She produced glove puppet shows that were staged both in Switzerland and in Germany. Her performances, some for children and others for adults, were clearly realistic in content but, concealed behind the outward appearances, is a symbolic and spiritual quality in the productions. It is said that a little mute boy, fascinated by the puppets, was suddenly able to speak.
Therese Keller wrote her own plays for the theatre; there are about twenty, but they are difficult to date. More often than not, her scripts are evocative of the struggle of good against evil. The most important of her works for children include: Gump i Sack (Leap into the Bag), Schlangenprinz (The Serpent Prince), Hinderem Mond und vorem Mond (Behind and in Front of the Moon), Güldechruut und Silberhorn (The Golden Grass and the Silver Horn). Two characters appear often in many of her shows for children: Kasperli and Fritzli. The first represents courage and the second the innocence and purity of childhood.
For adults she created, among other plays, Der Webstuhl am Ende der Welt (The Loom at the End of the World) and De Tannebarti (The Bearded Man of the Forest).
Keller made about four hundred glove puppets of which a hundred and six are today housed in the Münsingen Chateau Museum and about fifteen are in the collection of the Theatersammlung in Berne. Keller’s art is notable for her meticulous attention to detail, a marvellous technique of manipulation and the ease with which she communicated with her young audience.
Therese Keller wrote several books that have contributed to the development and the recognition of glove puppets as an art form in her country. At her death, she was at the head of a large group of puppeteers working for children.
- Keller, Therese. “Eine Handpuppe wird lebendig” [A Glove Puppet will be Alive]. Der Hochwächter. No. 2. Bern: Verlag Paul Haupt, 1954.
- 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)
- Streit, Jakob. Therese Keller. Portrait einer Puppenspielerin [Therese Keller. Portrait of a Puppeteer]. Bern: Zytglogge Verlag, 1974.