Research on Puppetry

Research on contemporary puppetry is being undertaken at the Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Bern within a joint research project as well as in an individual project.

Visible Manipulation in Drama, Dance and Music Theatre. Cross-Disciplinary Responses to a Puppetry Aesthetic

SNSF-funded research network, directed by Beate Hochholdinger-Reiterer, Christina Thurner and Andi Schoon


Puppetry for adults is becoming increasingly visible on the institutionalised stage. This development is symptomatic of the progressive destabilisation of genre boundaries within the arts. Puppetry has seen considerable development over the past 20 years. This development is attributable to the intensified use of visible manipulation, a puppetry technique by which objects are accorded equal status to humans as actors.

The Research Project: Object and Objectives

Puppetry is currently one of the most innovative genres of the performing arts due to its ability to assimilate different materials, narratives, and expressive techniques. Yet despite its versatility, puppetry – which is often equated with children’s theatre – only receives marginal attention within academia. The aim of this research project is threefold: 1. To establish puppetry as a field of theatre/dance-scholarly interest, 2. To reinvigorate the discourse on contemporary puppetry by intensifying interdisciplinary research, and 3. To open new areas of enquiry by questioning the implicit value systems underlying current theatre/dance scholarship.

Scientific and Societal Context

The individual studies subsumed under this research project draw on an array of methods and approaches from theatre/dance scholarship and musicology. These include performance analysis, historiographical research, and reception aesthetics. Focussing on the principles and practices of puppetry, these studies seek both to refine the conventional methods they utilise and to inform current scholarly discourse. It is for the latter reason in particular that the research project is working in close cooperation with puppetry festivals and training centres both domestic and foreign.


Beside Oneself. Configurations of Players and Puppets in Contemporary Puppetry

SNSF-funded doctoral dissertation project (PhD student: Franziska Burger)

The technique of visible manipulation developed into the dominant aesthetic of European puppetry in the mid-20th century. Artists no longer hid behind curtains or booths but appeared above, behind, or alongside the puppets they were manipulating. This visualisation of the process of figuration raises metatheatrical questions about the mechanics of theatre and drama which are indirectly addressed in puppetry productions.