Theatre in Public Space is not a new idea. It is even the basis for our present-day western understanding of theatre. Even in ancient Greece, open-air theatre plays were staged for the polis. In Athens in the fifth century B.C., in honour of the god Dionysus, the city's annual Dionysia celebrated. Attending the theatre performances was a political right and a religious-moral duty of the citizen. On the Great Dionysia, 14,000 to 17,000 spectators flocked to the open-air theatre at the foot of the Acropolis. Other precursors of street theatre include the carnival tradition with its parades, the Commedia dell'Arte and the travelling theatre that developed in Germany in the 17th century as a counterpart to the court theatres of the princes. In the 18th century, this form of popular theatre gradually lost importance. At the beginning of the 19th century, theatre performances took place more and more in fixed houses.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it was, among other things Max Reinhardtwho discovered public space for himself. Max Reinhardt was not only concerned with testing new performance venues, he also realised them with an astonishing willingness to take risks. He was a theatre practitioner, theatre entrepreneur, inventor of alternatives to the peep-box principle. He staged the Midsummer Night's Dream in a forest, moved the Merchant of Venice to the original locations and founded in 1920 with the Everyone on Salzburg's Cathedral Square is a success story that continues to this day. With his arena productions and the idea of a "Theatre of 5000", Max Reinhardt, as he himself once explained, strove to recreate the dimensions with which the great effects of ancient theatre were so closely linked and to make theatre accessible to a broader section of the population with cheap admission prices.
In the 60s and 70s, it was especially political theatre actions that conquered public space.The Living Theatre from New York or the Brazilian theatre maker Augusto Boal with its Theatre of the Oppressed are worth mentioning here. Through the student movement of the 1960s and the associated politicisation of society, theatre and the other artistic disciplines are changing. The traditional boundaries between the genres disappear.
From the 1980s onwards, cultural summer programmes and festivals with performances in the field of street theatre began to appear in more and more German cities. At first, it was mainly groups from Southern Europe that performed in Germany. Fura del Baus from Spain, Teatro Nucleo from Italy, later Jo Bithume from France or Karl's Bold Alley Show from Switzerland. They fascinate their audience above all with spectacular and expansive productions. Fireworks, artistry and huge set-ups characterise the image. They also inspire many German groups. At the end of the 80s, juggling gained more and more followers, who mostly showed their performances on "the street" as well.
Almost everywhere today, the events take place at free admission takes place. The free accessibility to theatre for all citizens of a city is unique in Germany. Today the Theatre in Public Space has become a part of contemporary theatre. It reaches broad sections of the population, all generations as well as educational levels can be found in the audience. In Germany, there are currently over 30 street theatre festivals and various summer programmes with a focus on street theatre/theatre in public spaces.
Theatre in Public Space
In 2005 the Federal Association for Theatre in Public Space e.V. was founded. Its aim is to "establish, promote and network theatre in public spaces as an independent cultural form and genre". The term "theatre in public spaces" was deliberately chosen to emphasise the theatrical aspects of the genre and to distinguish it from purely circus performances or comedy shows.
The high Debt level of German municipalities has led to significant restrictions on cultural events for several years. While initially budgets mainly stopped increasing, in the meantime cuts and cancellations of financial resources for the further development of street theatre have had a significant impact. Festivals and summer programmes are being cut or cancelled. Due to the policy of lateral transfer in municipalities, vacancies in cultural offices have often been filled by personnel from outside the field. As a result, culture often loses competent contact persons. One of the most important tasks of all those involved will be to find new ways of maintaining and strengthening the forums of genres.
List of German street theatre festivals
International Street Theatre Festival in Holzminden; European Street Theatre Festival in Detmold; Tête-à-tête - International Street Theatre Festival in Rastatt; World Theatre of the Street in Schwerte; Gassensensationen - International Street Theatre Festival in Heppenheim; La Strada - International Street Circus Festival Bremen;International Street Theatre Festival in Ludwigshafen; Via Thea - International Street Theatre Festival in Görlitz;Sommerwerft - Theatre Festival on the River, Frankfurt; Just for Fun, Darmstadt; International Music and Theatre Festival in Pforzheim; Naumburg Street Theatre Days; Idar Oberstein Street Theatre Festival, Da Capo - Street Theatre Festival in Kronberg