Amateur theatre in Central Switzerland


Description

Amateur theatre is prevalent and firmly established in society throughout Central Switzerland. Half of the cantons have more theatre companies than municipalities (Nidwalden, Obwalden and Zug), and in the others they are also extremely widespread. The theatre scene is distinguished not just by quantity, however, but also by its quality. Many villages and towns are home to outstanding ensembles whose productions attract attention far beyond the boundaries of their own municipality. When rehearsing, designing stages and organising peripheral events, participants often invest almost as much time as a professional theatre company would. Some events have developed into theatrical institutions of national renown, such as the Japanesenspiel in Schwyz (established 1857), the Tellspiele in Altdorf (1899) and the Einsiedler Welttheater festival (1924). Central Swiss theatrical tradition is heavily influenced by Catholic performance culture. Religious festival productions were already performed on a grand scale in the early modern period. From the 19th century, amateur theatre was institutionalised through the establishment of theatre companies. Today, the scene is characterised by a lively mix of varying theatrical genres, including the Volksschwank (a popular form of versed-based, often comic theatre dating back to the Middle Ages), open-air theatre, Carnival plays, operetta and more challenging amateur theatrical productions.

Image gallery

  • Hansjörg Schneider's "Sennentuntschi", performed by the "Bühne 66" theatre company, Ibach (SZ), 2011 © S. Zürrer, Sattel/Bühne 66, Schwyz
  • "Trachtengruppe Altdorf" performing the two-act play "Ä herti Nuss" (A tough nut to crack) at the evening of traditional culture, Altdorf (UR), 2011 © Chr. Hirtler, Altdorf
  • Production of the play "Die Katze" (The Cat) by the Altdorf youth theatre company, Altdorf (UR), 2011 © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • The carnival "Japanesenspiel 'Bünte Bilder aus der Ober- und Unterwelt'", Hauptplatz, Schwyz, 1883 © Japanesengesellschaft Schwyz
  • Main square, Schwyz: emperor Tenno Hesonusode and his wife following the play from their throne © Markus Steiner, Schwyz/Japanesengesellschaft Schwyz
  • Main square, Schwyz: farmer 'Jöretönel' from the Muotathal mountain pasture Träsmeren taking part in the Japanesenspiel © M. Steiner/Japanesengesellschaft
  • The Altdorf "Tellspiele" (Uri): William Tell (Thomas Gisler) in a production by Volker Hesse, 2008 © Judith Schlosser/Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Altdorf (Uri): amateur actors from the "Tellspiel" association warming up before rehearsals, 2008 © Judith Schlosser/Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Theatre in Altdorf (Uri): a performance featuring Adam and Leo Huber (William Tell and his son Walter), 1925 © Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Tellspiele Altdorf (Uri): Werner Huber playing the tyrant Gessler, between 1956 and 1962 © Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Klosterplatz Einsiedeln (SZ): a red cloth is spread across the square for the opening of the "Welttheater" festival, 2007 © Judith Schlosser/Welttheatergesellschaft Einsiedeln
  • Poster for the "Einsiedler Welttheater" festival, 1937 © Welttheatergesellschaft Einsiedeln
  • "Einsiedler Welttheater": dance of the rich (Meinrad Bisig) and the beautiful (Irma Kälin), 1955 © Welttheatergesellschaft Einsiedeln
  • Hansjörg Schneider's "Sennentuntschi", performed by the "Bühne 66" theatre company, Ibach (SZ), 2011 © Stefan Zürrer, Sattel/Bühne 66, Schwyz
  • "Trachtengruppe Altdorf" performing the two-act play "Ä herti Nuss" (A tough nut to crack) at the evening of traditional culture, Altdorf (UR), 2011 © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • Production of the play "Die Katze" (The Cat) by the Altdorf youth theatre company, Altdorf (UR), 2011 © Christof Hirtler, Altdorf
  • The carnival "Japanesenspiel 'Bünte Bilder aus der Ober- und Unterwelt'" (Colourful images from the upper and underworlds), Hauptplatz, Schwyz, 1883 © Japanesengesellschaft Schwyz
  • Main square, Schwyz: emperor Tenno Hesonusode and his wife following the play from their throne © Markus Steiner, Schwyz/Japanesengesellschaft Schwyz
  • Main square, Schwyz: farmer 'Jöretönel' from the Muotathal mountain pasture Träsmeren taking part in the Japanesenspiel © Markus Steiner, Schwyz,/Japanesengesellschaft Schwyz
  • The Altdorf "Tellspiele" (Uri): William Tell (Thomas Gisler) in a production by Volker Hesse, 2008 © Judith Schlosser/Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Altdorf (Uri): amateur actors from the "Tellspiel" association warming up before rehearsals, 2008 © Judith Schlosser/Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Theatre in Altdorf (Uri): a performance featuring Adam and Leo Huber (William Tell and his son Walter), 1925 © Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Tellspiele Altdorf (Uri): Werner Huber playing the tyrant Gessler, between 1956 and 1962 © Tellspiel- und Theatergesellschaft Altdorf
  • Klosterplatz Einsiedeln (SZ): a red cloth is spread across the square for the opening of the "Welttheater" festival, 2007 © J. Schlosser/Welttheatergesellschaft Einsiedeln
  • Poster for the "Einsiedler Welttheater" festival, 1937 © Welttheatergesellschaft Einsiedeln
  • "Einsiedler Welttheater": dance of the rich (Meinrad Bisig) and the beautiful (Irma Kälin), 1955 © Welttheatergesellschaft Einsiedeln

References and documentation

Publications
  • Renato Cavoli: Gelebte Tradition im Dorf. Theater – eingebettet in Musik, Gesang und Geselligkeit. In: Heimatkunde des Wiggertals 59. Willisau, 2001, p. 190-201

  • Anne-Christine Gnekow: Das Einsiedler Welttheater. In: Theater der Nähe. Welttheater – Freie Bühne – Cornichon – Showmaster Gottes. Ed. Andreas Kotte. Zürich, 2002, p. 13-190

  • Georg Dufner: Studententheater an der Klosterschule Engelberg (Engelberger Dokumente 9). Engelberg, 1981

  • Stefan Fryberg: Bretter, die die Schweiz bedeuten. Von den Anfängen der Tellspiele Altdorf. Altdorf, 1991

  • Heidy Greco-Kaufmann: Zuo der Eere Gottes, vfferbuwung dess mentschen vnd der statt Lucern lob. Theater und szenische Vorgänge in der Stadt Luzern im Spätmittelalter und in der Frühen Neuzeit. Zürich, 2009

  • Ernst Halter (Ed.): Volkstheater in der Schweiz und im Fürstentum Liechtenstein. Zürich, 2000

  • Karl Imfeld: Volksbräuche und Volkskultur in Obwalden. Kriens, 2006

  • Detta Kälin: Dem Meister ein Spiel. Calderón, die Einsiedler und ihr Welttheater. Einsiedeln, 2013

  • Kulturkommission des Kantons Schwyz (Ed.): Das Einsiedler Welttheater. Beiträge zur Geschichte des Einsiedler Freilichtspiels. Dokumentation zur Überreichung des Innerschweizer Kulturpreises 1974 (Schwyzer Hefte 8/9). Schwyz, 1976

  • Louis Naef: Theaterlandschaft Innerschweiz. Zur Geschichte des Laien-, Volks- und Landschaftstheaters. Zürich, 2008

  • Nidwaldner Zeitung (Ed.): Facettenreiche Theaterszene Nidwalden. Beilage zur Nidwaldner Zeitung. In: Nidwaldner Zeitung. 29. Januar 1993, p. 1-4

  • Cäsar Rossi: Der Mensch im Mittelpunkt. Zuger Volkstheatertradition. In: Zuger Neujahrsblatt 1996. Zug, 1996 p. 110-116

  • Viktor Weibel: Hesonusode. Theater, Geschichte und Fasnachtskultur. 150 Jahre Japanesengesellschaft Schwyz. Schwyz, 2006

Documentation