Vienna’s curiosity shop selling magic, stories, imagination and puppetry.
There was a man who built a small theater and lived on its stage. And in this theater was a boat, his grandmother’s armchair that had split at the seams and puppets hanging in the window.
Once the man had built the stage, he would sit in front of it every night, with a glass of wine in hand, wondering how he would bring it to life. People often came into his puppet workshop attached to the theater, that smelt of sawdust and a grandmother’s bedroom, and asked him what he was doing, to which he would answer, “I’m not really sure.”
The only thing he did know, was that he wanted to bring to life those very puppets that spent their days hung in his windows, looking out onto the real world.
This is a true story about a half-British, half-Austrian man named Mike that plays out in Vienna’s third district.
Today, standing within Mike’s Werkstatt, like the puppets, I too look out onto the real world outside as if standing in another one, from another time. It’s almost as if I’ve leapt onto the page of a Charles Dickens novel. While I’m out of character, Mike looks the part; egg-shaped eye glasses, paddy cap, tanned leather vest.
Mike’s Werkstatt is the kind of place in Vienna you either stumble across or never find. Many have said the same about the love of their life.
It is not a place with a particular purpose other than to house what is inspired within the space of Mike’s imagination. Mike was a busker and traveler. The master plan 10 years ago was to create a space where his traveling puppet show could live during the winter season.
While the traveling puppet show is still in the works, Mike has created a curiosity shop where antique articles (from scientific and medical instruments to top hats, puppets from all over the world and other oddities) are sold out front, and a small performing arts theater out back.
It’s a mystery how you can feel nostalgia for a time you never lived. I have often thought I was born too late. I feel it here. I assume Mike is of similar disposition, but he puts me straight:
Not often heard in this time in which seems like everybody is commuting on the same metro line, in the same direction, all heads down focused on their iPhones that are updating, composing a symphony and digesting the morning’s breakfast for you at the same time.
Mike tells me the power of puppetry is in its combination of storytelling, and it’s ability to inspire children to think, to sing and create entire new worlds.
This also applies to those ‘grown-ups’ amongst us who prefer to sleep and dream on stages and in worlds that we build ourselves.