Producer
Director
Jobst Knigge
Editor
Genre
Culture
Broadcaster
ZDFtheaterkanal / 3sat / ZDFdokukanal
Length
1 x 30'
Format
Digital Betacam
Year
2008
Theatrescapes
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

For almost a hundred years, the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz has been a haven of creativity in Berlin. Located in the centre, not far from the Alex, Unter den Linden and Hackescher Markt, it has retained its own life. For a long time it was a workers' theatre, a left-wing stage for the masses. A history that is understood as a challenge.

The history of the Volksbühne begins in 1890 when the "Verein freie Volksbühne" is founded as a cooperative organisation against the bourgeois monopoly on education and culture. It gives popular education and political emancipation with critical period plays by Ibsen and Hauptmann. "Art for the people" is the motto. The association's great goal is to have its own house. In 1914 the time had come. The workers' association has collected over 2 million Reichsmarks and the renowned architect Oskar Kaufmann is commissioned to build a theatre on Bülowplatz. It becomes the most modern of its time.
The theatre's first great period began in 1924 when Erwin Piscator became head director and director at the Volksbühne. Piscator wants "working people's theatre". His political-documentary productions are great successes and remain stylistically influential to this day. At the same time, bloody street battles in front of the Volksbühne, on Bülowplatz, mark the end of the Weimar Republic. After the Second World War, the communists set about building a state according to their ideas, in which a Volksbühne association no longer had a place. The proletarian opposition theatre of the past becomes the state theatre of the GDR.

It was not until the 1970s that a new great era began under the Swiss theatre man and Brecht student Benno Besson. The Volksbühne becomes one of the most important theatres in the world and Besson does not stop at criticising socialist functionaries with his productions. But with the expatriation of Wolf Biermann in 1977, a cultural exodus begins in the GDR. Many artists followed, including Volksbühne stars such as Armin Müller Stahl and Winfried Glatzeder, and Besson's directorship also ended in 1978. The second, very great epoch of the Volksbühne is over. Soon a new one is to begin. But before that, something completely different changes. An entire country, the GDR, goes under.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frank Castorf began his unstoppable rise to fame and triumph at the Volksbühne in 1992. Castorf polarises with his productions like no other and makes the Volksbühne the most exciting stage of the 90s. To this day, the Volksbühne is one of the style-forming theatres in Germany and, in addition to Castorf, Christoph Schlingensief from the Rhineland and the Swiss Marthaler and Kresnik work here.

Esther Schweins guides us through the eventful history of the Volksbühne and, in addition to Frank Castorf, Dimiter Gotscheff and the actors Winfried Glatzeder, Ursula Karusseit and Sophie Rois, among others, have their say.

First broadcast on ZDFTheaterkanal: Thu, 02.10.2008 7:00 pm

Theatrescapes: Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

For almost a hundred years, the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz has been a haven of creativity in Berlin. Located in the centre, not far from the Alex, Unter den Linden and Hackescher Markt, it has retained its own life. For a long time it was a workers' theatre, a left-wing stage for the masses. A history that is understood as a challenge.

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