The prize is aimed at small and medium-sized theatres that have an impact on urban society with their cultural offerings, theater productions, guest performances and participatory projects. The focus should be on theatres outside the metropolises, away from the theatre centres. And so only two theatres from cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants are among the prize winners. In addition to nationwide attention, this also means 75,000 € for artistic projects, which will go to each theatre.
"The Ringlokschuppen Ruhr (Kultur im Ringlokschuppen e.V.) is one of the most important independent production houses in Germany. In the past 15 years, it has developed from a socio-cultural place where theatre has always existed to a fixed node in the performing arts network. The following are representative of the wide range of important artists: kainkollektiv, andcompany&Co., Marta Górnicka, LIGNA, Boris Nikitin, Gintersdorfer/Klaßen and René Pollesch. The Ringlokschuppen's programme questions the hierarchies of theatre - and this always refers to the social stage - with relish and intelligence. For example, when the KGI group creates an amateur ensemble in their productions in Mülheim that unites people of different backgrounds and abilities; or when productions are presented with titles in several languages. With this well-founded work, which is artistically highly advanced and just thereby enables access for a heterogeneous audience, the Ringlokschuppen is a productive disruptor and irreplaceable place in Mülheim's urban fabric. A house that works locally and at the same time is internationally connected and has transformed itself again since 2015 in the sense of an intercultural reopening based on this double self-image. The Ringlokschuppen Ruhr is thus a model of a future theatre in the post-industrial Ruhr region - and far beyond." - Jury statement
"Since 2009, the boat people projekt has been working on a new form of political theatre. It realises what is repeatedly demanded in many debates in the theatre business, but rarely dared: A collective of people from different backgrounds runs the theatre. It conceives its own productions and cooperates with ensembles and institutions at home and abroad. The variety of formats ranges from music theatre to solo opera performances to games. With great seriousness and joyful lightness, the boat people projekt finds a way of dealing with contemporary phenomena as well as with traditional materials and motifs; an approach that does justice to the complex 21st century - structurally as well as aesthetically. This genuinely transcultural work functions in Göttingen through a multitude of links with the urban environment, including its own mediation track. Ambivalences are allowed and demanded here, the democratic culture of debate is sharpened by the acumen of art, diversity is normality - on, in front of and behind the stage." - Jury statement
"The Piccolo Theatre in Cottbus is much larger than its name suggests: founded in 1991 by director and musician Reinhard Drogla, it is the largest children's and youth theatre in Brandenburg and has had a modern new building in the middle of the city since 2011. Two venues, one with 127 seats and the other with 70 seats, present plays, dance and puppet shows: political, engaging and always in tune with the time. Only last year, Brandenburg's AfD targeted the award-winning production "KRG", which warns of the dangers of fascism. Andreas Kablitz, leader of the state parliamentary group, questioned the theatre's financial support and enquired "how many plays with a decidedly topical social and or political reference similar to the play "KRG" have been performed at the Piccolo during this legislative period". Those who are familiar with the history of the Piccolo Theatre know: there are many and, in view of the political situation, there will be more to come: for a democratic, open and colourful Cottbus, for the freedom of art: because that's what the Piccolo Theatre stands for and that's what the jury is awarding the team for." - Jury statement
"The Landestheater Schwaben in Memmingen has been undergoing a comprehensive renewal and revitalisation since 2016: with a passionate and political programme, a large-scale opening into the city and beyond, and a strong focus on Young Theatre. The artistic director Dr. Kathrin Mädler and her team catapulted the Landestheater Schwaben back onto the theatre map and show how it is possible to generate supra-regional attention even in the so-called province and at the same time to bind the audience to the theatre locally in a wide variety of formats: for instance, with "United Pasts", a Doppelpass project in cooperation with geheimagentur, with a world premiere about the history of the murders of the sick in Irsee during the National Socialist era: "Fog in August", with young directors (50% of whom are women) and productions with challenging aesthetics and many premières and first performances, as well as commissions for plays. Finally, with the conference "The Theatre of the Province - Cultural Participation and Artistic Diversity as a Programme" in cooperation with the University of Hildesheim, the small theatre proved that it belongs to the big ones, and the jury awarded it for this." - Jury statement
"Starting with contemporary author's theatre, the Theater Rampe in Stuttgart succeeds in establishing diverse connections to state theatres as well as to the local and national scene of independent performing arts, for which it is a vital source of inspiration. In just a few years, the artistic director duo Marie Bues and Martina Grohmann and their team have developed the theatre into a nationally respected production house for independent theatre of all genres. Numerous artists develop and present contemporary and socially critical, experimental, aesthetically challenging productions ranging from spoken theatre and performance to dance and interdisciplinary projects. In large-scale transdisciplinary collaborations, for example with institutions of the visual arts, and in collaboration with various community initiatives, the Rampe creates an impact far beyond the edge of the stage and into the centre of urban society. With participatory formats, the theatre creates relevant contributions to performative urban development, connects artists and audiences and is a motor and transmission medium for current social discourses. The Rampe Theatre in Stuttgart embodies a new type of urban theatre in the best sense of the word." - Jury statement
"Since its relocation from Cologne, where it was founded, to Hamm (1997), the HELIOS Theater has continuously expanded its appeal as a theatre for children and young people. Under the artistic direction of Barbara Kölling (director) and Michael Lurse (playwright), interdisciplinary productions are created such as "Gegenüber" (4+), a play that poses the question of digital reality together with a video artist. Particularly noteworthy is the programmatic focus on "theatre for the very young (2+), in which HELIOS is a pioneer and which it accompanies with scientific research in cooperation with other EU countries. Aesthetically, many of the in-house productions are characterised by object and material theatre and function accordingly extra-linguistically - one more reason for the ensemble's worldwide invitations to guest performances, which since 2017/18 have also included two artists from Iran. With the biennial organisation of the international theatre festival "hellwach" and not least through the committed work with local schools or in the intercultural "Café Welt" for refugee families, the HELIOS Theater manages to bridge the gap between communal and international commitment. - Jury statement
"The Puppet Theatre of the City of Magdeburg is one of the last independent ensemble puppet theatres in Germany: contemporary, relevant to the present and with great aesthetic diversity from material, object and puppet theatre. Productions for children and young people are on an equal footing with the evening programme for adults. It should not be underestimated how consistently young directors for puppet theatre are promoted in cooperation with the universities in Berlin and Stuttgart, for whom there is otherwise no structured training. Another impulse for the scene is the research project "Aufbruch", in which the structures of ensemble puppet theatres are questioned in order to shape the working processes of the genre for the future. With the puppet theatre festival "Blickwechsel" as an international industry meeting place, the large collection of puppet theatre in the affiliated "villa p.", a wide range of theatre educational offers as well as networking in the urban community, the house under the artistic direction of Michael Kempchen is a central anchor of German puppet theatre - for the past, present and future." - Jury statement
"Theater Thikwa is a genuine artists' theatre. Its ensemble is made up of many different characters, each with their own energy on stage as players, dancers, musicians and performers. This could lead to chaos. In the Thikwa Theatre, it leads to pure, unconventional and relentlessly direct productions that are as unpredictable as life itself. The themes arise from everyday life, revolve around communication, body images, life concepts and utopias, which are sometimes poetic, sometimes crazy, sometimes deeply existential - but above all they are never standardised. The players of Theater Thikwa do not allow themselves to be pressed into any roles, they do not act and think according to schemata. They practise a free play of heterogeneity with the means of contemporary theatre. And that has political potential in today's world. Together with their two directors Nicole Hummel and Gerd Hartmann, the Thikwas take every risk and overcome the supposedly impossible. The performer sitting in a wheelchair becomes the protagonist of a dance evening, love songs resound almost silently in the room via sign language. No exuberant stage design, no opulent costumes distract from this impression. The Thikwas repeatedly invite guests from the independent scene to participate in this permanent expansion of the art zone as directors, choreographers and performers. For this evocation of social diversity, which is outstanding in the theatre scene, with a simultaneous desire for artistic radicalism, the jury honours Theatre Thikwa." - Jury statement
"Located in a back street not far from Flensburg harbour, the Theaterwerkstatt Pilkentafel (Theatre Workshop Pilkentafel) looks far beyond the city's borders. Flensburg. That means harbour city. Tourist town. Rum city. But also a retreat town for the National Socialists in the Third Reich. City of the profiteers of the slave trade and exploitation. Elisabeth Bohde and Torsten Schütte pursue their themes in long chronological lines, linking city history with world history, the present with the past. They never want to lecture. Their productions bear witness to attitude, but also to constant doubt, which is the beginning of all thinking. In their small theatre space, which once actually housed a workshop, we look inside the human machine. "Von der Begierde Burgen zu Bauen" is the name of a introspection, "Vom Reisen in ehemaligen Kolonien" is a positioning piece that links the colonial history of the Virgin Islands with the present-day wealth of the Hanseatic city of Flensburg. The Pilkentafel's pieces draw on the means of drama, performance, object theatre and new music. Complex, multifaceted and groping, they resemble a common search in which the performers constantly put themselves at risk. As one of the few independent theatres in Schleswig-Holstein, Pilkentafel is also actively involved in expanding the independent scene. The opening for young people is also a top priority in order to develop the theatre workshop, whose radiance as a productive place for thinking about and negotiating socio-political issues extends far beyond the city, into a central, supra-regionally networked production house for the independent scene in Schleswig-Holstein. The jury considers this essential pioneering work of many years to be absolutely worthy of an award." - Jury statement
"Under the directorship of Florian Lutz, the Halle Opera has gained national appeal with its new aesthetic programme. Their experimental music theatre has quickly won the young directorial team the attention of the professional audience and a number of awards. With the Raumbühne, a multi-perspective 'stage on stage', into which the opera team also invited the other theatres of the Bühnen Halle to try out the relationship between artists and spectators in a new way - with one world premiere per year, transcultural projects such as the multi-stage overwriting of the opera "L'Africaine" by Giacomo Meyerbeer. The Halle Opera team is increasingly seeking contact with its audience in pre- and post-performance discussions. The jury sees in this opera concept highly remarkable innovation that cannot be outplayed by the frictions it has also generated, both in the opera staff and in the city society." - Jury statement
"Under the artistic direction of Katja Ott, the Erlangen Theatre is positioning itself in the Nuremberg metropolitan region as the "city theatre of the future". In January of this year, on the occasion of its 300th anniversary, it organised a forum with theatre professionals, representatives from politics and the "ensemble-netzwerk" (ensemble network) on this topic, and also carried out an in-house mission statement process with all employees. As the largest art institution in the city of 110,000 inhabitants, it networks with other institutions in Erlangen such as the university, which shapes the city, with schools, associations and the city library. With a citizens' consultation hour for the dramaturgy, it opens itself up to public participation. In its programme, it sets accents with contemporary plays on the big stage and cooperation with renowned artists from the independent scene such as Hans-Werner Kroesinger and Turbo Pascal. With 14 female directors in 25 productions, Erlangen makes an important contribution to gender equality in German theatre, and new talent is discovered and promoted in the Young Directors Competition." - Jury statement
On May 27, 2019, the prize ceremony of the Federal Theatre Prize 2019 and the conference "Dialogue with the urban society" took place at the Theater Gera.
The conference, which was hosted by the ITI as part of the prize ceremony, brought around 120 participants from all areas of the theatre landscape into an intensive dialogue. Keynote speeches by the cultural researcher Hilke Berger and Wolfgang Schneider from the Institute for Cultural Policy at the University of Hildesheim kicked off the discussion. Hilke Berger in particular with a critical look at the concept of participation; Wolfgang Schneider with an all-round look at cultural policy initiatives for "theatre in the province", which should not only focus on the municipal theatre, but also on the independent scene and amateur theatre.
Then 13 discussion groups led from theory into practice, which concretely brought projects of the prize winners and of houses that had applied for the theatre prize into conversation. Examples: The great role played by long-term mediation work was made clear by the example of the Gera Theaterfabrik; how an audience is reached through concrete engagement with Flensburg's city history was shown by the Theater Pilkentafel; what staying power it takes to involve the citizens of a city in the project "Staging Democracy" was reported by the Lichthof Theater from Hamburg; how really topical plays for children are created because the separation of theatre makers and theatre pedagogy is abolished in the Piccolo Theater Cottbus; how an inclusive project becomes a theatre work with its own artistic quality - this experience was shared by the Theater Thikwa from Berlin. A summary of all discussion groups will be part of the documentation.
The second part of the conference under the title "Theatre under Pressure?" confronted the theatre associations with three impulses, which demanded from the theatres not only the dialogue with the urban society, but also the associated, necessary change of perspectives and structures in the houses. Laura Kiehne (ensemble network) and Sören Fenner (art but fair) made an urgent plea for fair pay and fairer structures at the theatres. Marc Grandmontagne (Deutscher Bühnenverein), Dorothee Starke (INTHEGA) and Anne Schneider (Bundesverband Freie Darstellende Künste) did not want to close their minds to this demand. Above all, because they all saw great potential in a theatre freed from traditional hierarchies and enriched by respect and artistic dialogue at eye level, also for dialogue with urban society. Christophe Knoch (Die Vielen) also focused on this open theatre that engages with society. Enabling social groups to participate in the theatres' cultural offerings also means participating in what is being discussed in society. Dorothee Starke expressly invited Knoch to the next INTHEGA conference and showed here, as in other statements, that the guest performance theatres are another pillar of the theater landscape that must be taken seriously.
For the International Theatre Institute (ITI), Kay Wuschek brought it down to these two points: Theaters should be involved in society, should listen and participate in what social issues and cultural community mean to others. And they should not see this as making up for deficits, but as a great potential for their artistic development.
An outlook that gives courage and strength, also in view of the questions that also dominated the discussion with the European elections (and the local elections in Thuringia). "Art is free and it will always remain so", was the core sentence of the speech by Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters at the subsequent prize ceremony. Monika Grütters praised the artistic achievements of the prize winners as an example of the great diversity of the theatre landscape. A diversity that is made possible by the states and municipalities, and in which artists repeatedly provide food for thought on social issues.
Gera's mayor Julian Vonarb and Thuringia's Minister of Culture Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff expressed their commitment and strong statements about the need to create political attitudes, support and a social climate for this at local level.
The 31 theatres that were awarded the Federal Theatre Prize in 2015, 2017 and 2019 are portrayed in the magazine "Stadt, Land, Kunst - Theater im Dialog mit der Gesellschaft an den Rändern der Städte und jenseits der Metropolen" (City, Country, Art - Theater in Dialogue with Society on the Fringes of Cities and Beyond the Metropolises).
Produced in collaboration between the German Centre of the International Theatre Institute and the editorial team of Theater der Zeit, the special publication is now included in the May 2020 issue of Theater der Zeit. Authors from the theatres present the work of small and medium-sized theatres in individual studies. These portraits are complemented by two roundtable discussions that examine the role of the prize both from the perspective of theatres that have not yet been able to win the prize and from the viewpoint of representatives of the theatre associations.
The supplement to Theater der Zeit also includes a brief evaluation of a survey on how the Federal Theater Prize is perceived among theatre professionals and what effects are attributed to the prize in the theatre world.
The digital version of the special publication is available free of charge here.