Whatever happened to… Johannes Minuth?

Donnerstag, 27. April 2017 | 

Schlagwörter »  |  Thema: 2017-1, Allgemein, englisch, Newsletter, Was macht eigentlich?

Dr. Johannes Minuth studied German and geography at the University of Freiburg from 1980 to 1995 and earned a PhD in German studies. Instead of going on to become a teacher, he founded the puppet theater “Freiburger Puppenbühne” – an institution that enjoys success well beyond the borders of the region and brings pleasure to an audience of children and adults alike with its great passion and spirit.

alumni’aktuell: How did you discover your passion for puppet shows?

Puppeteer Dr. Johannes Minuth (Photo: Johannes Minuth)
Puppeteer Dr. Johannes Minuth (Photo: Johannes Minuth)

Dr. Johannes Minuth: Toward the end of my time as a trainee teacher in Denzlingen, my wife began making hand puppets. When I saw with my own eyes how the puppets slowly took shape and came to life I was particularly fascinated by the traditional German puppet character Kasper and put him on my hand to play with him. This moment had a deep influence on me. I sensed a bond between me and the puppet. So I eagerly started by playing for my own children, and the laughs I got out of them in response made me so happy that I discovered my talent for puppet theater. Then me and my wife decided to put on public performances and make a career out of bringing people pleasure through the artistic power of puppet shows.

alumni’aktuell:Have you ever felt a desire to change jobs or go back to becoming a teacher?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: I worked part-time as a teacher for a year while I was building up the puppet theater, but once it was all set up I wanted to be a puppeteer one hundred percent of the time. Although I enjoyed being a teacher and received positive feedback, puppeteering was the only thing I wanted to do. I’ve never had a desire to change jobs. The puppet theater fulfills me completely. Besides, hiking and other free-time activities keep me in good shape, so I’m still fit enough to act behind the stage.

alumni’aktuell:The puppeteer, like Kasper, is an interesting character in literature. How did you gain expertise in the field?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: At first I worked intuitively and tried to expand my knowledge on the subject. For example, I took elocution courses at the university to train my voice and practiced my rhetorical skills so I could make use them behind the stage and create a stable foundation for giving puppet shows. Now I pass on my knowledge by giving seminars and training courses to employees of Caritas International or to dental assistants engaged in youth cavity prevention programs.

The puppets Mephisto and Faust (Photo: Johannes Minuth)
The puppets Mephisto and Faust (Photo: Johannes Minuth)

alumni’aktuell: Your puppets are very detailed. Who makes the costumes and designs the puppets?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: My wife makes the costumes, props, backdrops, and the heads of the puppets. For the children’s shows – we also write the plays ourselves – it is mostly her work. For complex effects like Pinocchio’s nose we engage the help of the Hamburg specialist Michael Benicke. For our evening performance Faust, we had the puppets made by Martin Thoms, a graduate of the Ernst Busch School in Berlin, and the Freiburg Shakespeare comedian Bernd Lafrenz helped us with the production work.

alumni’aktuell: Besides a lot of fairy tales and Kasper stories, your evening program includes Goethe’s classic Faust. What distinguishes the performance of this play on the puppet stage?                       

Dr. Johannes Minuth: Goethe came up with the idea for Faust after watching a puppet show. I’ve now closed the circle by bringing the classic back to the puppet stage. Most of the lines are from original, but I expanded on the character of Kasper by making him into a commentator who doesn’t just appear at the beginning of the play but also comes out during interludes. Kasper gives his take on the play and speaks to the audience in his typical ambiguous manner. This adds dramatic flavor to the play. Gretchen is saved by Kasper, for instance, and the dog Bello and Kasper are the ones to introduce Faust, Part II. My Kasper is modeled on the Shakespearean fool.

alumni’aktuell: What fascinates you about the Kasper character?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: I had already studied the topic of Kasper theater and the history of its development in puppet theater in my doctoral dissertation, which I wrote under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Scholz. It is therefore very important for me to provide a carefully considered presentation of the functions Kasper served in various epochs. I think he should be shown – following his removal from the stage during the Enlightenment – as humorous, mischievous, strong, energetic, tactful, and rebellious. Kasper is a people’s character who laughs even in moments of crisis and comments the action with plays on words to cheer up the audience.

alumni’aktuell: What do you want the audience to get out of the performance?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: I want to reach the audience emotionally, open children’s hearts with the stories, and make people laugh. Puppet shows should give people pleasure.

Impressions from a performance of Dr. Johannes Minuth’s Faust (Photo: Johannes Minuth)
Impressions from a performance of Dr. Johannes Minuth’s Faust (Photo: Johannes Minuth)

alumni’aktuell: Why did you decide to study in Freiburg?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: After finishing school in Heidenheim an der Brenz, I decided consciously to study in Freiburg because I liked Freiburg’s reputation. The town is liberal, the students are open-minded, and there’s an alternative scene. Other things I liked are that it is not too large, everyone is friendly and kind, the city has a lot of modern environmental technology, and there are unorthodox thinkers. Not to forget the appeal of the landscape and the nearby Black Forest. I also love being close to Switzerland and France, where I put on bilingual plays.

alumni’aktuell: What do you like most about the region?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: I like the hiking possibilities in the Black Forest, the seasonal country wine taverns, and the natural surroundings. This summer my former classmates and I are meeting in Freiburg for a hike in the Glottertal valley.

alumni’aktuell: How did your time as a student shape your life?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: My years as a student had a major influence on my life. I was transformed from a shy German studies student into a talkative and inquisitive young man with an understanding of complex processes, polished rhetorical skills, and a lot of culture. Without my studies, my work for the theater today would be unthinkable. My plays work on several different levels, and that’s something I learned at the university. That’s where I got my basis. I am very grateful for that and also for my dissertation supervisor, who motivated me to write about Kasper from a theoretical perspective in addition to my practical work with the character.

alumni’aktuell: Do you have a saying from Kasper you could give us as advice to Freiburg students?

Dr. Johannes Minuth: If you fall, if you fail, stand back up, adjust your crown, and carry on cheerfully.

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