The "Kasperle Theater" is the German equivalent of the English "Punch and Judy" puppet show but its roots reach back as far as the 16th-century Italian "Commedia dell'arte." Originally the Kasperle Theater was shown at fairs to an audience of adult and juvenile viewers.
In 1921 a new branch of the Kasperle Theater originated in the East German Erzgebirge where Max Jacob founded the "Hohnsteiner Puppenspiele." In this theatre Kasperle no longer was a rough and smutty character but a witty and wise guy, always keen on fighting for the good cause with the help of his friends. Thus the Kasperle Theater became a somewhat pedagogical institution.
The traditional cast on the side of the good, law and order is:
- Seppel, his friend, who is well-tempered but rather a bit dull
- Gretel, friend of Kasperle and Seppel
On the side evil and chaos appear:
In our times the Kasperle Theater mainly aims at an audience of Kindergarden children or pupils in primary schools. The plays are usually derived from fairy tales. There are quite a few books around with Kasperle plays so especially at church and community bazzars there is still a good chance to find a Kasperle Theater.
But viewing a Kasperle play is only part of the fun. Quite often it is even more fun for the children to play their own Kasperle Theater by gathering on a certain afternoon making up their own play and drawing their own scenery so that by the end of the day the parents find themselves to be applauding admirers of their kids’ latest production.
There is actually a great panorama by Bruce Hemming on this event, showing a "Punch and Judy Theatre"