The Puppet Theatre at the German-Sorbian Volkstheater Bautzen
Founded in 1961 at the suggestion of the Domowina (Sorbian League), this organisation of Lusatian Sorbs is the puppet (marionette) stage of the “Serbske ludowe dźiwadło” (Sorbian People’s Theatre). Initially, it played marionettes for children, and had no permanent home. In 1963, the two Bautzen theaters unified into the German-Sorbian Volkstheater, at which time the puppet stage became the smallest division of the house, while the German and Sorbian groups performed ensemble and musical theater.
In the late 60s, a former cinema became the regular home of the puppeteers. About 130 shows were held for kindergarten and grammar school children annually. In addition, guest performances were held in nearby towns and villages.
Gradually, alongside the traditional marionettes, simple hand and stick puppets were incorporated, so that the program got ever richer and more colorful. Since universities began professional training for puppet and object-theater, the visual aesthetics and the forms of puppet plays have changed and developed significantly. The Bautzen puppet theater, with its 6 players, maintains the old traditions in as well as the new forms.
Today 5 new plays are put on each season (approx. 400 performances) with about half performed in Bautzen in the newly built Burgtheater and the other half in German and in Upper and Lower Sorbian children’s institutions of the bilingual region.
Around 1000 events, 25 premiers, a great acting and puppeteering repertoire and a lot of theatre is what audiences can expect from the German- Sorbian People’s Theatre in one season. More than 150,000 visitors per year won’t miss out as the theatre in Bautzen has something to offer everyone.
The theatre in Bautzen is the only professional theatre in Germany where three languages are spoken on stage, not only German but also High and Lower Sorbian. And by the way: the Sorbian plays are simultaneously translated into German via headphones.
Additionally visitors have the opportunity to experience theatre in two different locations. The Bautzener Burgtheater/Dźiwadło na hrodźe (castle theatre), a newly-built theatre in the courtyard of the Ortenburg was opened in 2003. This theatre is home to small plays as well as the puppet theatre and the Sorbian children’s and youth theatre.
The big house of the theatre was opened after restoration in 2006 and offers a wide repertoire on the main stage for around 400 visitors.
A variety of Sorbian plays as well as the puppet theatre also travel the entire cultural region of Upper Lusatia and Lower Silesia.
The annual conclusion and at the same time the climax of every theatre season is the “Bautzener Theaterommer” (Theatre Summer of Bautzen) in June, July and August. The theatre offers a great outdoor theatre spectacle for the entire family in the courtyard of the Ortenburg.