Puppet Figure Theatre by Robb Schinnour


Robert Schinnour




What later came to be known as the Melusine Figure Theatre Project had its inception in the late 1970’s when I decided to do the French tale “Beauty and the Beast” as a marionette theatre piece. In 1981/82 while in Switzerland, work on all the heads of the figures was undertaken with Yvonne Lowe. These were sculptured in clay and later plaster- of- paris moulds were made so multiple heads of each figure could be fabricated, which was with the ‘Beauty’ figure made five times.

In 1985 with the help of Robert Windrum, work on the painted scenery began and most of the props for the tale were constructed.  Meanwhile, body construction for the figures continued and after seeing the work of the Austrian artist and puppet master Richard Teschner at a puppet conference in Switzerland in 1987 and then later going to Vienna to actually see the stage he created as well as the figures, I decided to change the figure format from marionette to rod puppet along the lines of the Teschner figure design.

For a six month period in 1989, Peter Chabanowich came to visit and all the scenery was completed and Peter also undertook construction of remaining props needed and all the hands for the figures. Christine Buck, Ushi and Juliane Thomsen were also instrumental in work on the figures.

With the help and encouragement of the colleagues of the Rudolf Steiner Schule Harburg – Hamburg, I was given a hall with work rooms which then became the Melusine Figure Theatre. From 1987 onwards, the puppet theatre was constructed and by 1989 a group of people came together and we began working on acting and movement exercises weekly, which then led into the 6 month schedule of blocking and creating the presentation of the tale. The group of players of the figures were: Karin Buck, Marion Kampmann, Brigit Kranzusch, Michael Matthiesen and Kate Stark. Recitation of the tale was given by Klaus Maurer and Helge Philipp. Music was created and presented by Betina Grube and Helga Peters.

After lighting dimmed in the hall, the tale began with three curtain openings to music and had a running time of 59 minutes and the challenge was to integrate the spoken word and musical sound effects so that each scene blended into the next, without a break. We attempted, through this and the movement of the figures to present a magical, imaginative experience for the audience.

The production ran from September - Michaelmas, 1991 through to the late Spring of 1992 with the last performance given in English as a gift to Peter and friends, visiting from Canada. Many hundreds of people, classrooms of children, adults and seniors groups attended, many coming a second or third time. It was an intensive and wonderful experience for all and gave a cultural speciality to the southern Hamburg area.


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