Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage
The character of Kasper is a central figure in the puppet theatre. It embodies a play principle that evolves with social changes rather than being static. The tradition of hand puppets dates back to the 14th century. The characters were called Meister Hämmerlein, Hanswurst, Putschenelle and Kasper.
- Crucial date: Troughout the year
- Inscription: 2021
- Domain: Performing arts
- Where to find: Nationwide (and abroad)
They embody characters that are everywhere - always funny, naïve, daring, quick-witted, eloquent and also a bit silly. The Kasper character became a feared critical voice in puppet theatre in the markets and streets of the 19th century, standing up to authority and evil mythical creatures. The character is on the side of the audience, takes their ideals and defends them until the last antagonist is on stage.
At the beginning of the 20th century, reform pedagogy changed the play principle of the Kasper character. The character becomes more refined, helpful and clever, exudes joie de vivre and knows how to hold its own with wit. After 1933 the character was subordinated to the National Socialist cultural policy. The middle of the 20th century saw the emergence of the Verkehrskasper (traffic Kasper), Gesundheitskasper (health Kasper) and later the Umweltkasper (environmental Kasper). In the course of the professionalisation of puppet theatre in the FRG and the GDR, however, the figure regained its critical features. Puppeteers in the GDR rediscovered Kasper in the 1980s as a voice that critically addressed social conditions.
Over 350 puppet theatres in Germany
Today, various incarnations of the Kasper puppet show are part of the repertoire of more than 350 puppet theatres across Germany. Elbe-Elster Land in Brandenburg is a lively puppet theatre centre. Here, the Central German Puppet Theatre Museum and the International Puppet Theatre Festival are dedicated to the tradition of the Kasper character in the region and his relatives around the world.