Caught by the Camera — European puppetry pioneer Richard Teschner

This is circulating in the puppetry community because it catches rare footage of Richard Teschner performing.  According to Bil Baird’s The Art of the Puppet, “In 1911, an event occurred that had a profound effect on a large segment of popular puppetry. Richard Teschner of Vienna and his new wife traveled to Holland on their honeymoon, and there he encountered and became intrigued with the high artistic quality of the Javanese wayang figures and their simple effective means of operation.”

At the time in Europe, you would see glove puppets, shadow or string puppets. While this form was well-known in Java as wayang golek , it was previously unknown as a style in the West. In fact, the British announcer calls them “marionettes” in this clip. While Teschner adapted the style and created new systems of control, the roots are undeniably Javanese.

Now, this style is very popular in the U.S. and Europe. In fact, Kermit the Frog is a hybrid of two styles, he’s a moving mouth hand and rod puppet.

Since Teschner only performed in his own studio to audiences no larger than 70 people, this is a delightful and rare opportunity to see some of his puppets in motion.

I’ll also note that the lady with the sail chair is pretty darn fun, too.


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