Puppet theater in the west wing of Leipzig: In the puppet hall

Puppet theater in the west wing of Leipzig: In the puppet hall

Where once stovepipes were stored, people now let the puppets dance. Industrial culture and entertainment art are playfully combined in the west wing of Leipzig.

Illustration with dolls in and in front of a house

A game with the dolls Photo: Sebastian Koenig

LEIPZIG taz | A big W lures you from Leipzig’s gastro mile on Karl-Heine-Strasse to a small side street. A heavy wrought-iron gate opens beneath the W. It was once the entrance to a ballroom, later the entrance to a tube manufacturer’s warehouse. Now you can enter the International Production Center for Puppet Theater in Leipzig.

The name is a bit awkward. But it also describes precisely what here in the west wing a former dance hall happens: figure and puppet theater is produced and presented. Playing with dolls and objects is traditional in East Germany much more firmly anchored as an independent art form. And it goes without saying that you see dolls as art objects here in the stairwell, in the bar, even in the courtyard, sometimes even as creatures that appear to be alive when a breeze sets the doll mobiles in motion.

Many are made by the puppet maker and puppeteer Michael Vogel. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, he and his partner, the musician Charlotte Wilde, woke the west wing from its slumber.

Walls breathe history

In 1975, the Frölich oven pipe and tin goods factory ceased operations here. She used the former ballroom, opened in 1900, as a warehouse. Size markings can still be seen on the walls today, indicating which barrels of which caliber were stored here. In times when Gas pipes become a political issuesuch markings are charged with new meaning.

The original splendor of the Art Nouveau building, in which more than 100 years ago Leipzig residents, Plagwitz residents and Lindenfels residents twirled with and around each other to the music of dance bands, has faded but is still recognizable. Some of the color pigment shimmers golden, the wrought-iron railings and railings have wild flourishes. They lasted far longer than the entertainment company they were originally made for. In 1939 the building was purchased by the stove pipe manufacturer Bernhard Frölich and converted for his purposes. You can regret that, see it as a demotion. On the other hand, a place of waste and pleasure industry became a useful place for basic necessities.

Now basic services and entertainment are united in the west wing, and on top of that there is also local history. In the Frölich & Herrlich bar – named after the family of manufacturers, one of whose descendants occasionally runs the bar – there is a sheet that tells the family story. The factory was founded in Leipzig in 1885 by a trained spoonsmith. It grew because Leipzig grew and became an industrial city in which iron was smelted and coal was burned for it. Factory founder Bernhard Frölich was also an inventor and held, among other things, a patent for an automatic stovepipe bender.

The material metal, which Frölich used, now reappears in the wire figures of the puppet maker Vogel. High up in the building, Vogel has his workshop, which is overflowing with doll lives, doll bodies and the tools from which they are formed.

management in the collective

Two puppet theater ensembles, in addition to Wilde & Vogel, Lehmann and Wenzel, work permanently on the house. The management is collective, consists of three curators and the artists – in this composition a rarity even for the independent scene. The sponsoring association owns the house and property. Good in view of the rising rents in Leipzig. The whole house is often used, from the ballroom to the foyer and bar down to the basement, which is even suitable for ghost train arrangements.

Many ghosts can live here, a real gem in the shadow of the gastro mile in Leipzig’s west.

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