Albrecht Roser is not a man of many words. What he has to say, he says by means of
thin, almost invisible strings -- strings which are grasped by the hand on the control -- reaching down onto the marionettes, which are, generally, on stage as taciturn as their master. There, in his marionettes and theatre figures, in his perception of puppets and performance with them, lies the real core of this artist and man.
The following interview is an abridged version of several conversations which the Stuttgart journalist Evelyn Lattewitz had with Albrecht Roser between 1990 and the present day, in part for the Süddeutsche Rundfunk (SDR).
E.L: In 1922, Albrecht Roser, offspring of an Alemannic family, is born in Friedrichshafen at the Lake of Constance. Shortly afterwards, the family moves to Stuttgart. A sheltered childhood and happy school years come to an abrupt end with the beginning of the war. As a young soldier he survives the invasion into Russia; after the war, is interred for a short period by the British, and then released in Celle. Following the turmoil of the post-war years, he returns to Stuttgart at the end of the 1940s. Still without any specific perspectives for the future, he must first find means to support himself; which meant, to find a source of income. And one of these sources soon proved to be quite promising -- it was the carving of arts and crafts objects. Thus, during the early 1950s, destiny took its course....
A.R.: Yes, there were all kinds of activities, many different attempts, and one day there was a commissions to make heads for puppets. I was familiar with wood-carving and so I gave this job my full attention with pleasure, and noticed that this interested me in a very particular way. I threw myself enthusiastically into this work and realized: this is it., this is a sign, this is the path. Then I heard of Fritz-Herbert Bross. He was a very unusual and strong personality. His ancestors were wood sculptors from the Erzgebirge. At the insistence of his parents, he studied engineering as a way to earn his living; for many years he held a good position as mechanical engineer with Porsche, and was also active in doing research with the army during the war. But wood-carving was in his genes, and he had studied art history as well. After the war, he decided to give up his job and devote his energy to making theatre figures -- at first, hand puppets and later marionettes. I went to see him -- he had just barely opened the door when I stepped right in and declared that I wanted to learn from him. At first, he was somewhat stunned and said, "Just a moment, Just a moment"..- But then, I pulled out my figures, and we quickly reached an agreement. We got along together beautifully, it was a very productive cooperation. I learned so much from him, soaking up everything he said like a sponge while working with him at the workbench -- much of which I only understood later.
E.L.: When was this?
A.R.: That was in 1951.
A.R.: I was really taken by the technique which Bross had developed. He had examined innumerable existing systems and had worked out the common denominator. I always expected from the marionette that its movements have nothing doll-like, awkward, nor incomplete, as the primitive idea of a doll would indicate. In my view, the marionette must move with as much accomplishment as possible, it must be technically perfect. That is one of the basic elements of my entire work.
E.L.: You just said: I always expected from the marionette..., that it do this or that -- that
it not be doll-like. From this, I could conclude that the figure, at some point, becomes a very independent creature with which one is in constant clinch when one demands something from it. That sounds like it is more than just a figure, as if it is a constant challenge, always fascinating anew, revealing new possibilities, even for he who knows it so well that he has been holding it by the strings for 50 years?
An instrument called a figure...
A.R.: That is, undoubtedly, my basic understanding. When one does not envision the theatre figure as an instrument -- when the object is reduced to a mere prop in the performance -- how can figure theatre originate? There are so many other possibilities which certainly can be called theatre, but it is simply not figure theatre. Just as music is produced through a music instrument; in the same way in figure theatre, a performance, a play, or a scene is presented with the instrument of the marionette.
E.L.: Now, there is the saying that instruments have a soul and I assume this is also true for the marionette. When does the marionette receive its soul? Does this soul already exist in the imagination before and while the figure comes to being? Does it gain this soul while it is being tried out, or does it, similar to the birth of a child, bring this soul with it in an unexplainable way?
A.R.: That is a difficult question, but also a very interesting one. Does a marionette have a soul,...
READ the whole article in the new book!
Buy it here or get a signed copy by Prof. Albrecht Roser
Ask for further informations - where to buy and how - H E R E !