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Project Overview

The Festival Archive


Archive und digital installation of one of the nation's largest international performing arts festivals.




Contact: Nelly Haag



Since its first edition in Cologne in 1981, THEATER DER WELT has made new aesthetic developments in theatre work from all over the world visible and tangible. This task has since been achieved in changing host cities in cooperation with local theatres. The curatorship of the festival is re-assigned for each festival edition. In this way, new interactions between the performing theatre, the curators of each festival, the different venues in the festival city and the audience are constantly created – a unique and concentrated working format. But what is left when the festival is over?

The digital archive installation THEATER DER WELT offers an overview of all the THEATER DER WELT festival editions, its productions and performances, the participating individuals and groups, cities, venues and events. The installation is accessible digitally on this website and at changing venues.

In 2023, the installation will be on view as part of the "Theater der Welt" festival in the exhibition "Unearthing, unraveling, unfolding" at the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main. More information here.


The installation and the analogue archive with posters, press kits and show programmes from all four decades can be viewed permanently in the Media Library for Dance and Theatre. The THEATER DER WELT Archive sees itself as an archive in the making, which is constantly being supplemented and completed through research, interviews and new materials.           



Festival Editions

Theater der Welt 2023 in Frankfurt am Main/Offenbach

Programme Direction: Chiaki Soma

Organisers: Künstler:innenhaus Mousonturm, Schauspiel Frankfurt, Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, associated Partner: Amt für Kulturmanagement der Stadt Offenbach

Theater der Welt 2023 Programme


Theater der Welt 2020 in Düsseldorf

Artistic Direction: Stefan Schmidtke

Programme Direction: Wilfried Schulz

Programme postponed to 2021

Organiser: d'haus

Theater der Welt 2021 Programme


Theater der Welt 2017 in Hamburg

Festival director: Joachim Lux
Artistic programming team: Amelie Deuflhard, Sandra Küpper, Joachim Lux, András Siebold

45 productions from Hamburg to Samoa, from New York to Cairo and Damascus, from Sydney to China and Rio de Janeiro

Hosting theatre: Thalia Theater Hamburg in cooperation with Kampnagel

Attendance: 47,000

The focus of the festival was on the question and possibilities of contemporary networking and globalised structures. The port of Hamburg served as a space of investigation and a stage, a gigantic intersection for the global traffic of people, cultures and goods, a place of arrival and departure. Discussions were held on civic engagement, the future of democracy in the age of hyper-mobility and planetary interdependencies, and the growing rejection of migration

Theater der Welt 2017 Programme


Theater der Welt 2014 in Mannheim                                                                                                        

Festival directors: Burkhard C. Kosminski and Matthias Lilienthal

70 productions from cities including Tokyo and Johannesburg, Manila and Madrid, Melbourne and São Paulo, Santiago de Chile and Moscow as well as several German cities.

Hosting theatre: Nationaltheater Mannheim

Attendance: 26,000

The focus of the festival was on examining and questioning the “city of the future”. The concepts of the private and the public especially served to question the “exotic” and the “real” as a driving force for the artistic productions all over Mannheim. By bringing together artistic and industrial production sites, international artists directly addressed the local reality – Mannheim as an industrial city.

Theater der Welt 2014 programme


Theater der Welt 2010 in Mühlheim an der Ruhr and Essen                                                                                            

Director of programming: Frie Leysen

Artistic directors: Roberto Ciulli and Anselm Weber

32 productions

Hosting theatres: Schauspiel Essen, Theater an der Ruhr

Attendance: over 80 %

By locating the festival across the two cities of Essen and Mühlheim an der Ruhr, focus on the individual artistic personalities was intensified. The idea that it is not shared location but shared time that can be the motivation and spark for creative and political theatre work was at the forefront of the festival artistic direction.

Theater der Welt 2010 programme


Theater der Welt 2008 in Halle an der Saale

Festival directors: Christoph Werner and Torsten Maß

26 productions

Hosting theatres: Kulturinsel Halle, Bühnen Halle

Attendance: 56,000

The festival addressed the growing problems of the 21st century such as economic exploitation or the manipulative structures of growing information technologies, the focus of the geopolitical, social and cultural world was shifted to detailed examinations of phenomena and microstructures.

Theater der Welt 2008 programme                      


Theater der Welt 2005 in Stuttgart                                                                                        

Festival directors: Marie Zimmermann and Friedrich Schirmer

31 productions from places including Eastern Europe, Japan, Korea, China and South Africa

Hosting theatre: Staatstheater Stuttgart

Attendance: 50,000

The festival focus was on the artistic search for the lost certainties of the past, the echo of one’s own understanding and the form of transit as a permanent condition. Highly relevant regional topics such as migration and the future of cities were also explored.

Theater der Welt 2005 programme                                      


Theater der Welt 2002 in Bonn, Köln, Duisburg and Düsseldorf

Festival director: Manfred Beilharz

Programming: Matthias Lilienthal

41 productions from cities including Buenos Aires, Lyon, Moscow, Peking, London

Hosting theatres: Theater Bonn, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Theater Duisburg und das Schauspiel Köln               

Attendance: 18,000                                                   

The central aspect was the question of artistic engagement with political issues. Above all, conceptual formats such as the simultaneous re-enactment of the Bundestag debate "Deutschland 2", Christoph Schlingensief's "Aktion 18" or "x-Wohnungen" targeted the social and political situation in the Ruhr region and the Federal Republic. The fact that "Deutschland 2" could not take place in the former plenary hall in Bonn as planned, since it was not approved by the president of the Bundestag, shows the controversial nature of these artistic approaches.

Theater der Welt 2002 programme                                                    


Theater der Welt 1999 in Berlin

Festival directors:  Nele Hertling and Maria Magdalena Schwaegermann

36 productions

Organiser: ITI Deutschland

Attendance: 23,000                                                                                                             

The festival questioned and researched the concepts of “import” and “export”, the power and effect of art and the idea of theatre work as a place between letting go and arrival.

Theater der Welt 1999 programme


Theater der Welt 1996 in Dresden

Festival directors: Hannah Hurtzig and Dieter Görne      

29 productions

Hosting theatre: Staatsschauspiel Dresden

Attendance: 19,000                                    

The fundamental idea of the festival were impulses and discourses about the “foreign” and the “familiar”.

Theater der Welt 1996 programme


Theater der Welt 1993 in Munich                                                                                                                 

Festival directors: Renate Klett, Günther Beelitz, Dieter Dorn

20 productions

Hosting theatres: Bayrisches Staatsschauspiel, Münchner Kammerspiele

Attendance: 30,000

The festival deliberately chose not to follow a specific motto

Theater der Welt 1993 programme                                                    


Theater der Welt 1991 in Essen                                                                                                             

The choice of venue for the fifth edition of Theater der Welt, which took place in 1991, proved to be a decision that set the tone for its cultural policy. Far from the usual major cities, the festival moved to the Ruhr city of Essen, which thus hosted a festival for the first time ever.

Under the title “Theatre Paths to the Future”, theatre director Hansgünther Heyme and festival director Börries von Liebermann sought to promote interdisciplinary work processes, but also the questioning of conventional venues and modes of performance. A total of 15 venues in and around Essen played host to over 40 productions during the entire festival period and were visited by around 28,000 interested members of the public. 

In contrast to other festival editions, the strong dramaturgical line pursued in 1991 by the organising theatre, Theater und Philharmonie Essen, proved to be a special feature. In some cases, two productions from the same country were deliberately invited in order to create a deeper understanding of its theatre culture and contexts. In addition to a tribute by the Burgtheater Wien to Thomas Bernhard, who had died two years earlier, the focus was on international dance theatre – Laurie Booth & Company or the Sumie Yoney Dance Company were among those invited – and theatre from Latin America with works by Grupo Theja or Teatro Buendia. The fall of the Berlin Wall – barely two years earlier – also played a significant role in the festival’s programme through productions by Schauspiel Essen or Grips Theater.

Theater der Welt 1991 programme


Theater der Welt 1989 in Hamburg                                                                                                          

From the 16th of June to the 2nd of July 1989, the fourth edition of the Theater der Welt festival took place in Hamburg under the artistic direction of Jürgen Flimm, director of the Thalia Theater, and Renate Klett. More than 30 productions were shown to 37,000 visitors at 8 venues in Hamburg on 17 festival days. A separate series “Glasnost Theatre” with productions from the former Soviet Union and the GDR (including "Brothers and Sisters" by the Leningrad Maly Dramaticheskij Theatre, “The Wage Pusher” by Heiner Müller from East Berlin, “Transition Society” by Volker Braun from Dresden, “Sponsai – Remembering, a Midsummer Night's Dream” by the group Zinnober, also from East Berlin) attempted to theatrically address the political upheavals of perestroika. Other productions from Italy, the USA, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, China and South Africa were presented under the mottoes “Avantgarde Theatre” and “The Five Continents”.

The guest performance by the Shanghai Folk Art Theatre had to be cancelled a few days before the performance – after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese authorities had not issued visas. The performance was re-enacted with Hamburg actors and actresses and the ticket proceeds were donated.

Theater der Welt 1989 programme


Theater der Welt 1987 in Stuttgart                                                                                      

The third edition of Theater der Welt took place in Stuttgart in June 1987 with the main programming sections “Theatre from the USA”, “Theatre from Japan”, the “International Programme” and a “Dance Series”. Under the direction of Thomas Petz, Renate Klett, Wolfram Kremer and the hosting theatre Staatsschauspiel Stuttgart, of which Prof. Wolfgang Gönnenwein was the director, groups and artists such as the Squat Theatre from New York, Kazuo Ohno from Japan or Michael Clark from London gave guest performances on the Stuttgart stages. These and many others among the 39 pieces were regarded as examples of groundbreaking theatre forms, in which the links between words, music and dance were constantly reassembled. Productions such as “Cerceau” by the Taganka Theatre or “Linie 1” by the Grips Theatre expanded this aesthetic discourse on form with thematic discussions about the form, emergence and development of community. Numerous articles and responses appeared in the press and among the public, which above all discussed and praised the great playful emphasis and the harsh social criticism of the theatre productions. With almost 35,000 tickets sold, this first festival edition in Stuttgart showed a high attendance for almost all productions and a large interest in all the events of the main and accompanying programme.

Theater der Welt 1987 programme


Theater der Welt 1985 in Frankfurt am Main                                                                                      

The 1985 festival edition of Theater der Welt in Frankfurt represented the idea of theatre work as an opposite pole to the progressive mechanisation of life through new media. With the 29 productions shown, the festival placed particular emphasis on the non-reproducibility of theatrical live events. It was organised by the Gesellschaft für die Frankfurter Kunsthalle in der Schirn, with Christoph Vitali as managing director and first director. Thomas Petz was responsible for the festival’s programming. Productions and performances were invited whose work was and is characterised by the will to conceptualise – theatre, in other words, by those who demonstrated recognisable, verifiable attitudes in their theatre work. There should be nothing arbitrary, nothing random, nothing interchangeable or confusable. Invited artists who lived up to this claim were, for example, Peter Brook , Robert Wilson, and the Squat Theatre. With Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s group Rosas, another focus of the festival was shown – Flemish theatre.

Theater der Welt 1985 programme


Theater der Welt 1981 in Cologne                                                                                                          

The first edition of the Theater der Welt festival, founded by Ivan Nagel, took place in Cologne in 1981 under his direction and the artistic direction of Jürgen Flimm. A total of 10 venues gathered around the festival centre at the Neumarkt. The spiegeltent erected there in 1920 served as a meeting place for artists and audience, as an information point, place for discussion, press centre and was also used for the night programme after the official programme.

In contrast to its predecessor, Theater der Nationen, the festival intentionally did not stage national or regional representative shows. The focus was on individual outstanding artistic productions. Among the 44 productions, guest performances by New York’s Squat Theatre, Het Werktheater or the Sanskrit Theatre Kutiyattam, among others, represented the idea that West German theatre could not be a purely “self-sufficient theatre”, but needed contact with other theatre aesthetics and other theatre thinkers. With the invitation of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, which performed all of her pieces, and the representation of the “dancing dervishes” from Istanbul, the focus was placed on a new physicality in the performing arts that no longer concentrated exclusively on fixed texts.

The opening production of “The Secret of the 11,000 Virgins or Tears Don’t Lie” directed by Jérôme Savary received special attention from the press.

Theater der Welt 1981 programme


Theater der Nationen 1979 in Hamburg                                                                                                        

From the programme: Theater der Nationen 1979 wants to show the people of Hamburg and their guests what theatre in our time can be and what it can achieve – in all its various forms and for different audiences. For the theatres of our city and for the independent groups working here, this global theatre convention is a challenge; a challenge to rethink one’s own position and what has been achieved. A city like Hamburg, which claims to be a cultural metropolis, needs such food for thought – the theatre-makers as well as the audience. Theatre of Nations 1979 will not only take place in the city centre and at the traditional venues. A large part of the programme will be offered in the outskirts of the city, in the districts and in unconventional places: in shopping centres, in schools, in communication centres, on streets and squares. With its performances, experiments and workshops, the “North German Theatre Convention” is dedicated to the theme of “On-site Theatre”. The aim of the German and foreign groups participating in this programme is to encourage the citizens in the city districts to engage in new forms of interpersonal communication through the medium of theatre. The Hamburg Senate, which has declared the theme of “district culture” to be the cultural policy focus of this legislative period, will follow the local theatre work with particular interest.

Theater der Nationen 1979 programme