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Ilka SCHÖNBEIN · Theater Meschugge

Director · Puppeteer · Puppet builder

Born in Darmstadt, Ilka learned the eurythmic dance of Rudolf Steiner, who used to advocate the union of soul and movement rather than effort and technique. Then she studied in Stuttgart with puppeteer Albrecht Roser. Once she completed her education, she joined companies on tour for around 10 years and eventually created her own company Theater Meschugge and took to the road with her own shows.


Metamorphoses was conceived as a street show, aimed at all kinds of audiences. Then, without renouncing the street, Ilka agreed to adapt her initial show for the stage. She added a second character, first played by her German technician Thomas Berg, then by the French actor, Alexandre Haslé, and finally by Mô Bunte, a German puppeteer. Each time Ilka created a new version, and with her last partner, she even did two. Masks and costumes changed, certain scenes and characters vanished to give space for new ones. There were successively five versions of Metamorphoses, later Metamorphoses of Metamorphoses, all of them moving from caustic humour, so typical of Central Europe, to an intensely black vision of the world, first emphasizing puppet play, then mime and finally
dance, resulting in a general balance of all means of expression. No matter how long or how often she presents a certain show, Ilka never considers it to be perfect or finished. She is part of it and it is part of her.

Frog King (Le Roi Grenouille)

Frog King was for her an opportunity to come back to young audience.
The show was created in May 1998, co-produced by the Théâtre d’Ivry- Antoine Vitez, in close
cooperation with the Conseil Général du Val de Marne, the Montpellier National Theatre, the
festival Mimos of Périgueux and the Théâtre National des Jeunes Spectateurs of Montreuil. There have been two versions of Frog King, the first one with Alexandre Haslé, the second one with Mô Bunte.


In 2005, Ilka put it back on stage under the title Frog King III with the actresses Simone Decloedt and Britta Arste, the accordion player Rudi Meier and countertenor Christian Hilg, then later with countertenor Philipp Kais.


Winter Journey (Voyage d’hiver)

Winter Journey (Voyage d’hiver): opening Autumn 2003 at the Théâtre Gérard Philippe of Frouard (Lorraine) in cooperation with the ABC of Bar-Le-Duc, the Théâtre Romain Rolland of Villejuif, the Prisme of Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines and the Conseil Général du Val de Marne. The play was shown at the World Puppet Festival of Charleville-Mézières, at the Manufacture of Nancy, at the Nouveau Théâtre of Angers CDN, at the Théâtre de la Commune d’Aubervilliers
and at many other theatres.

The play draws its inspiration from Frantz Schubert’s and Wilhelm Müller’s work, and was directed by Ute Hallaschka and Ilka Schönbein, who also created the masks and costumes and played the leading role. Christian Hilg interprets Schubert’s lieder and Rudi Meier has magnificently transposed the original work for accordion. Simone Decloedt assists him in the role of a harpy. The French text was first recorded, later played on stage first by the actress Paule d’Héria, later by Marie-Laure Crochant. In spite of the immediate success of the play, Ilka decided two weeks after the opening night to get down to work again. She theatricalised
Christian Hilg’s interpretation (who took very well to his new part) and added interludes evoking both the endless journey of the character and the atmosphere of funfair. In 2005, with the help of the US-American artist Mary Sharp, Ilka included in her play the actress Nathalie Pagnac who accompanied this long lyrical song and showed how this feeling of sorrow and perdition could be expressed by body and voice.

My Own Flesh and Blood (Chair de ma Chair)

was created in August 2006 at the Théâtre du Grand Parquet, in Paris, thanks to the Métamorphoses Singulières and ARCADI, with the support of the City of Paris, DRAC Ile de France and the Paris 18th district city council. The play is an adaptation from the novel Why the Child was Cooking in Polenta by Aglaja Veteranyi, a desperate and wonderfully poetical narration by a little circus girl which evokes alternately the mother and daughter relationship, grief of loss, solitude, frenzy, adversity, nomadism and exile…

Ilka worked on the dramaturgy with Mary Sharp and confided the interpretation of the French text to the actress Nathalie Pagnac. The world premiere was in Charleville-Mézières World Puppet Festival. In order to intensify the funfair and circus ambiance, Ilka added a third actress, Bénédicte Holvoote, for a couple of contributions in Italian. There were four language versions of this play: French, Spanish, English and German. The show was on tour in France, Spain, Italy,
Switzerland, The Netherlands and Germany.

The Old Lady and the Beast (La Vieille et la Bête)

The Old Lady and the Beast was first played in October 2009 at the Theatre on the river Bank Vidy Lausanne, Switzerland and then in February 2010 at Grand Parquet in Paris. The Old Lady and the Beast is about a little donkey, about death and aging, Ilka meets the musician Alexandra Lupidi who writes and
performs the music for this show. They performed in French, German, English, Spanish and Italian and toured in many towns, mostly in France, but also in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain until May 2013: At the Forum de Meyrin, Festival Effervescence de Nevers, Théâtre Firmin Gémier d’Antony, Théâtre Romain Roland de Villejuif, L’espal au Mans, ABC Dijon, Festival du Théâtre Pan (Lugano, Switzerland), Les Contes Givrés de Saint Vallier, Champs de la Marionnettes à Saint Germain Les Arpajon, Théâtre de Morsang sur Orge, CDN d’Aubervilliers – Théâtre de la Commune, L’Agora de Billère, Théâtre des 4 saisons à Gradignan, L’Astrobal de La Rochelle, Le Libournia à Libourne, Théâtre de L’Espace ; scène nationale de Besançon, Scène Nationale de Forbach, Centre Pablo Picasso d’Homécourt, ATP des Vosges à Epinal, La Maison du Théâtre d’Amiens, Le Safran d’Amiens, L’arche de Béthoncourt, Mainz, Festival Mondial de Charleville-Mézières, Cottbus, Munich, Potsdam, Berlin, La Comédie de Béthune, Saint Barthélémy d’Anjou, le strapontin de Pont Scorff, La paillette de Rennes, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Scène Nationale de Limoges, les sept collines de Tulle, Cusset, Ramonville, Urrugne, Oloron Sainte Marie, L’estive de Foix, Bergerac, Théâtre Edwige Feuillère de Vesoul et Festival Figura de Baden, Festival d’Offenburg, Espace Soutines de Lèves, Centre Culturel de Chef Boutonne, Le Carré ®C Les Colonnes de Blanquefort, La scène Nationale de Châteauroux, La Maison du Théâtre de Brest, La Merise de Trappes, Le Centre Malraux de Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, Le Centre de la Marionnette de Tournai, Le Théâtre National de Namur, Le Manège de Maubeuge, Festival Titirimundi (Ségovia, Burges,
Valladolid, Madrid).

Sinon je te mange… (Or I’ll eat you)

was produced by Theater Meschugge and le KSamka, co-produced by the Théâtre de la Commune CDN d’Aubervilliers, Le Fracas – Centre Dramatique National de Montluçon – Région Auvergne and the Théâtre de Villeneuve lès Maguelone, Scène Conventionnée en Languedoc- Roussillon. Ilka was inspired by the fairy tale The Wolf and the seven young kids. This is her second show in collaboration with Alexandra Lupidi. It had its premier at Théâtre de la Marionette in Paris in autumn 2014. It was then played in Montluçon, Chinon and Villeneuve lès Maguelone. In the following two years, Ilka Schönbein withdrew from performing on stage to concentrate on directing.




„Well, dance the winter away now!“ says the ant to the grasshopper, who in his misery has begged for a crumb of bread. And so the little grasshopper dances. Maybe she’ll touch the ant’s heart? Read more


Photo © Marinette Delanné  2017



In addition to her own shows, Ilka works as an artistic director with other puppeteers. In 2006, she collaborated with Kerstin Wiese for the creation of Le loup et les septs chevraux (The Wolf and the seven young kids) which was performed 300 times on tour. In 2009 she directed two shows with Laurie Cannac: Wolfed down, 325 performances, which was nominated for the Molières Jeune Public Prize in 2010, and Queue de poissonne (Fish tail) in 2013. She directed Ricdin Ricdon (Rumpelstiltskin)with Pauline Drünert and Alexandra Lupidi in 2017.