Berlin theatre figures present plan for gradual reopening

A scientific study suggests events could resume with attendance of 30 per cent and safety measures. Hopes are pinned on lockdown easings from Easter.

This will be us when the clubs are open again (just kidding, it's the dance corps of the Friedrichstadt Palast.)
This will be us when the clubs are open again (just kidding, it's the dance corps of the Friedrichstadt Palast.)Imago/Gueffroy

Berlin-After almost four months of full lockdown closure, Germany's cultural workers finally want to stage a return to live theatre and concerts - despite corona. 

Across the country, artists are pushing for a rapid reopening of the cultural sector. Together with a total of 40 organisations, sports clubs and medical professionals, they presented a study on Monday to persuade the federal and state governments to gradually allow audiences into events. A number of Berlin cultural institutions are among the signatories of the paper.

One of them is the Friedrichstadt Palast - the Friedrichstraße revue theatre has used the forced break for renovation. "Endless closures cannot be a political answer to corona," says theatre manager Berndt Schmidt. He says the concept is intended to show that "even a pandemic can open up scope for new performances."

The Friedrichstadt Palast hopes that the lockdown will be relaxed at Easter and that the theatre will be able to reopen. They are looking forward to a concert by rock singer Suzi Quatro, which is booked for May 17.

Nationwide, the culture industry has now been at a standstill for almost a year - apart from a few exceptions in the summer and fall of 2020, when individual concerts or theatre performances were allowed to take place. The sport and cultural event organisers' study, which was co-authored by virologists, now assumes that 25 to 30 per cent of the audience in halls or theatres will be able to attend events in the future as a first step toward opening up. In the case of open-air events, an audience share of 40 per cent should be possible - albeit subject to compliance with minimum distances and hygiene regulations, which will be tightened by a mask requirement in halls and auditoriums.

Performances planned - but corona aid still essential

"The concept is a prospective way forward that politicians should discuss," says Brigitta Valentin, spokeswoman for Komödie am Kurfürstendamm. The theatre is also one of the initiators of the study, with the German premiere of the play "Curtain Up for Cyrano" planned for April 9 and a guest performance by entertainer Gayle Tufts at the end of May.

Small stages such as Theater Adlershof are also working towards a new start: there are to be concerts and readings, as well as plays that will be shown in a rented circus tent starting in April, according to artistic director Kathrin Schülein.

Berlin concert promoter Burkhard Zahlmann is focusing on open-air shows in the summer - featuring stars like Katie Melua, for example. The concept for reopening is an important step toward finally reviving the cultural scene, he says. However, accompanying financial support from politicians would still be needed.

"Performances with an audience of 30 per cent are not economical for organisers," Zahlmann says. "They don't pay off until the audience reaches 75 per cent capacity."