Schichtl’s Marionette Cabaret: "The Most Exclusive and Elegant Family Theatre"
Our exhibition on the Schichtl-family started in July 2014
Let us take you back to the Golden Twenties to present the “world’s best marionettes” on stage in circus tent. You can almost hear Xaver Schichtl welcome his audience: “Ladies and Gentlemen! Come in and be amazed by our art!”
What you can expect from our exhibition
Acrobats, artists, magicians and clowns are among the greatest stars of cabaret. For decades they have captivated their audiences making audacious tricks look easy. Our new exhibition presents selected “stars” of Schichtl’s famous marionette theatre. Trick marionettes such as the Chinese walking on a ball, which is manipulated by five puppeteers, and the dancing Mickey Mouse meet Mr. Shelton - the trumpet player walking on stilts - and the oriental belly dancer. The international ensemble of puppets also includes Russian dancers and an Afro-American jazz trumpeter.
The puppeteers’ props and tools are presented in a workshop-like atmosphere. Here you can find out how marionettes are built and historical pictures illustrate the illustrious life of the travelling artists.
Who are the Schichtl's?
As showmen, the extended Schichtl family represents an entire era of marionette theatre, in Germany and Europe. Their work can be traced back to the 17th century and for hundreds of years, the Schichtl family showed its art on international fairs. The Schichtl name stood for the highest artistic and moral qualities. In 1913, Xaver Schichtl (1888-1965) took over the theatre from his father, Franz August. Seven years later, he settled down in Magdeburg, where he and his family resided in a large house on the Arndtstrasse until 1944. The family’s theatre was a returning participant at the Magdeburg Dommesse, until 1939. During the summer months, Schichtl and his travelling cabaret and puppet theatre visited many fairs and exhibitions in Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony and Thuringia.
Xaver Schichtl’s recipe for success
At the height of cabaret, Schichtl’s performances were held in the highest regard. Even though the better-off people usually did not attend fairs because they were afraid of lice and other pests as well as the frequent brawls, Schichtl managed to attract the bourgeoisie to his shows. He appealed to their desire for culture and education and turned his theater into a veritable location for sophisticated entertainment. The furnishing of the theater’s auditorium met the standards of the high society. The floor was laid out with parquet, the armchairs were covered with red fabric and the stage was lit with electric light.
Another important aspect of Schichtl’s success was that the upper classes especially could identify with the plays’ topics. Thus Schichtl’s theatre became one of the few outlets for emotions otherwise unacceptable in public where the people wept, laughed and shrieked freely.