The Sophiensaele earned an invitation to Theatertreffen 1997 with its very first production, Allee der Kosmonauten by Sasha Waltz & Guests and thus established its international reputation. Since then, they have become a mainstay of the independent theatre scene in Germany.
The theatre makes it home in a former trade association building in Berlin's Mitte district, next door to the world-famous Hackesche Höfe, the authentic historic ambience creating an interesting contrast with the theatre's new ideas about performance art.
The trades association building as a venue
The building where the Sophiensaele have their theatre was built in 1904-5. Sophienstraße was laid much earlier, about three centuries ago, and is one of the oldest streets in Spandauer Vorstadt. The building was erected as a place for education and socialising for people working the trades in early 20th century Berlin.
It became a centre for a politically active labour movement, eventually in the 1910s and 20s hosting meetings of leftist revolutionaries including the likes of Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht. During World War II, forced labourers from the Netherlands printed pamphlets for the Nazi government here. During the post-war Communist era, the Maxim Gorki Theater had its workshops here. Finally, in autumn 1996, the Sophiensaele was opened as a venue and production facility for independent theatre with Sasha Waltz as director.
Sophiensaele: creating and producing theatre
Production and presentation are combined here in a single location, thus creating an an ideal platform for the exchange of ideas among artists from Germany and beyond. Theatre, dance, performance, music, and visual arts all appear here on equal footing and complement each other. The programme includes such stage projects that go far beyond the usual concept of theatre.
Series such as Freischwimmer, a platform for young theatre, and Tanztage Berlin promote new forms of expression from the next generation of choreographers and artists. Important Berlin festivals also take place here regularly: 100° Berlin, a weekend dedicated to independent theatre; Tanz im August; and MaerzMusik.
From the very beginning, the building was a centre for education and gathering, a role that it continues to meet to this day, providing a space for artists and the public to engage in dialogue. There is no better place in Berlin to come so close to independent theatre.