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The free scene grows up

Happy anniversary to the free scene! Radialsystem V, Ballhaus Ost, Sophiensaele and Ballhaus Naunystraße all have something to celebrate this month and here's how they're doing it.

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The Greatest Show on Earth. Photo by Nicolas Ritter / Maika Knoblauch

What was in the water 10 (or 20) years ago? Berlin’s independent “free scene” theatres are celebrating anniversaries all over the place, and we at Exberliner tip our hats. It’s pretty exciting to see these onetime feisty youngbloods stay fresh for so long.

Radialsystem V in Friedrichshain is turning 10 – they opened in September 2006 as a “new space for art and ideas.” Though you might know the venue now as “a great place to see music, dance, or the kind of cool, intermedial performance we aren’t sure whether to call music or dance.” To celebrate the anniversary, on September 5, Radialsystem V will host a forum investigating 10 challenges facing the cultural sector: what’s the state of criticism in the age of likes? What kind of audiences are we cultivating, actually? The list of artists, academics, cultural leaders and rabble rousers invited is a who’s who of Berlin’s arts scene. It’s all in German, but the big anniversary party with DJ Ipek on September 9 needs no translation. 

Ballhaus Ost is also 10, and will use the occasion to explore their physical plant – the building that houses the theatre and studios was built in 1907 as an event hall for the humanist “Free Religious Community.” In September, it turns into Hotel Berlin: surely a commentary on AirBnB and gentrication in Prenzlauer Berg over the last decade. The tagline “Sleep where artists work!” is way less exciting if you’ve ever spent the night on the couch in your art school’s common lounge (no comment) but as immersive theatre lovers, we’re down. 

Meanwhile at Sophiensaele: People! Crisis! Sensations! The radical theatre founded by Sasha Waltz is turning 20, and they’re bringing a circus! No, really! It’s called The Greatest Show on Earth and they don’t give a crap about copyright! Dance darling Meg Stuart is gonna be in it! And provocateurs Monster Truck are gonna do something provocative and spectacular in the Hof! Step right up… 

Finally, if you thought Ballhaus Nauynstraße was also 10 based on this year’s “Ten Years of Post-Migrant Theatre” event series, you’re mistaken – the Ballhaus’ history actually goes back to 1863. Nonetheless, stay tuned for more “anniversary” events next month.

Culture of the future: 10 Challenges. A forum for exchange and inspiration Mon, Sep 5, 10:00 Radialsystem V, Friedrichshain (registration required) | HOTEL BERLIN Sep 7, 9-11, 13-18, 20:00 Ballhaus Ost, Prenzlauer Berg | The Greatest Show on Earth Sep 21-23, 20:00 Sophiensaele, Mitte