Hebbel Theater

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The Hebbel Theater is located in Berlin-Kreuzberg and was built as a single-line house. The private theater with around 800 seats was built in 1907/1908 in Art Nouveau style as an early and unique work by the well-known theater architect Oskar Kaufmann and established his fame as a theater builder. The corner building is fully integrated into the row of houses at today's Stresemannstrasse 29 and represents the first of a total of six other Berlin theaters by the architect. Together with the Theater am Halleschen Ufer and the Theater am Ufer, the Hebbel Theater forms the Berlin theater institution Hebbel am Ufer ( HAU) since 2003.

The Hebbel-Theater in Stresemannstrasse today


History and construction time

As early as May 1906, the Hungarian theater director Eugen Robert (alias Jenö Kovázs) planned to build a theater in Berlin with the intention of staging popular and modern spoken theater there. He remembered an “extremely talented bedroom” that was exhibited at an exhibition in Wertheim that year. This room was designed and furnished by a fellow countryman Roberts by the name of Oskar Kaufmann. He had gained his first experience in theater construction with the Berlin architect Bernhard Sehring and made a name for himself in the capital Berlin, above all through exclusive and popular interior design, before the future theater director Robert commissioned him to build a theater in Berlin's Café Central. Presumably, Kaufmann himself came across the property in the southern Friedrichstadt , which the registered building owners association “Theater in der Königgrätzer Straße GmbH” acquired in October 1906 for 460,000 marks. The corner property was between Belle Alliance and Askanischer Platz in today's Stresemannstrasse 61 (formerly Königgrätzer Strasse 57/58 and Saarlandstrasse 29 / 29a). In this middle-class residential area, the theater was incorporated into the existing block development . Nevertheless, the location of the stage building looked very unusual at that time, despite the good tram connection, as it could not be compared with a more central position, such as that represented by the boulevard Unter den Linden . Oskar Kaufmann delivered the first drafts for the theater in August 1906. However, construction was postponed due to the sudden death of the financier Herzfeld and the related financial uncertainties. In addition, the Ministry of Public Works initially refused permission due to unclear legal relationships on the adjacent private road on which the theater was to be built. After minor changes to the plans, construction could not begin until February 1907. In addition to Oskar Kaufmann, three other employees were involved in the design of the theater: the two architects Albert Weber and San Micheli Wolkenstein and the private lecturer and structural engineer Bruno Schulz . However, their contribution to the construction of the theater is no longer fully understandable. Kaufmann also received specialist advice on the design of the facade from the painter Richard Böhland and the sculptor Hermann Feuerhahn .

The heyday of the 1920s

The theater was opened on January 29, 1908 after three months of construction as the Hebbel Theater , named after the playwright Friedrich Hebbel, who died in 1863 . Its bourgeois tragedy Maria Magdalene was also celebrated as the first premiere in the new building. The founder and first director of the house with 800 seats was Eugen Robert , who, however, had to give up the management of the theater at the beginning of 1909 due to financial problems. His artistic director was also criticized for numerous incorrect casts, an unfavorable selection of plays and the lack of independent director. After a short period of self-administration, the two directors Carl Meinhard and Rudolf Bernauer followed and the house was renamed Theater in Königgrätzer Straße on September 30, 1911 . In the years that followed, the theater was able to assert itself with the audience and establish itself in the capital thanks to its more progressive program of classical and modern plays.

The Hebbel Theater experienced its heyday as a director's theater in the 1920s, when Paul Wegener , Tilla Durieux , Elisabeth Bergner and Fritzi Massary, among others, in plays by Henrik Ibsen , August Strindberg , Frank Wedekind and later in works by William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang played by Goethe . The repertoire was comedies , social satire , political comedy and operetta-like extended performances in the sense of the prevailing public taste. In 1927 there followed a performance of Hans Kaltneker's mystery "Die Sister" with Maria Orska as Ruth. From 1925, when Victor Barnowsky took over the management of the theater, stars such as Hans Albers , Fritz Kortner , Paul Hörbiger , Curt Bois and the director Erwin Piscator were also hired until the National Socialists brought the house into line politically in 1934. The theater was placed under the general management of Eugen Klöpfer ( Volksbühne ), who completely renewed the equipment and reduced the seating to 672 seats. With the exception of one bomb hit in the 1943/44 season, the house was largely spared from destruction in the Second World War . Only the foyer in the front building and the roof of the stage were affected by damage, which, however, did not affect the structural design of the building. At the end of July 1945 the theater was operational again.

Post war and restoration work

In 1945 it was the only theater building in Berlin that remained almost intact. When the theater reopened on August 15, 1945, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's " Threepenny Opera " was performed with Hubert von Meyerinck as Mackie. The reconstruction work on the theater in 1946/47 was directed by the architect Karl-Friedrich Demmer. He had the oak entrance doors replaced by simple wooden portals, covered the roof in the front building with tiles and made many changes in the design of the interior. The house, located in the American sector , was renamed the Hebbel Theater again and was soon considered the most important stage in West Berlin . Due to its unique position in the bombed-out city, it was always a sold-out venue (entrance fee: coal for heating) for modern American and Western playwrights . Karl Heinz Martin was the artistic director until 1948 . His program again included works by playwrights defamed between 1933 and 1945 - in line with denazification in the Allied occupation zones . With the reopening of the larger Schiller Theater in 1951, however, it lost its importance. In 1952 Klaus Kinski performed there in the context of the ballet Der Idiot (based on The Idiot by Fjodor Dostojewski ) by Tatjana Gsovsky (choreography and text) and Hans Werner Henze (music).

1960s until today

West facade of the Hebbel Theater

After the Hebbel-Theater was transferred to a private company in 1952, it became very popular again in the 1960s as a popular theater , when under the direction of Rudolf Külüs a . a. Hans Epskamp , Harald Juhnke , Inge Meysel , Klaus Schwarzkopf and Rudolf Platte delighted the audience. The house was modernized in 1960 by the architect Sigrid Kressmann . She created the theater mainly in pastel colors, made it appear brighter through wide glass doors and paneled the walls with rough plaster . In addition, she put up advertising that was visible from afar above the entrance portals and renewed the lighting in the interior. After Külüs' death, his wife Hela Gerber took over the management, but was unsuccessful. After years of financial difficulties, the Hebbel Theater era ended in bankruptcy in 1978. After that, the house was used by other theaters as an alternative venue (including the Schaubühne on Halleschen Ufer ) and as a guest venue. In 1984, for example, the revival of Carl Graun's operaMontezuma ” took place here. Only the monument protection saved the theater from demolition back then. It has been owned by the State of Berlin since 1972. In 1989 Nele Hertling took over the house as managing director and artistic director. Through their efforts, the previously vacant building returned to the consciousness of the Berlin population and became an internationally respected stage for contemporary theater. However, Nele Hertling only had to resort to guest performance groups, as the theater did not have its own ensemble. Certainly also due to the recurring criticism that the city of Berlin already had sufficient speaking platforms, the Hebbel-Theater merged with the Theater am Halleschen Ufer and the Theater am Ufer to form the Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) in the 2003/2004 season. , the “theater combine of a different kind”. Since September 2003 it has been one of its three venues, which until July 2012 were under the artistic direction of Matthias Lilienthal . Lilienthal's successor since the 2012/13 season has been Belgian Annemie Vanackere , who had been artistic director of the Schouwburg in Rotterdam since 1995 .


Architecture and facade

Due to the cramped space on the narrow property, Oskar Kaufmann decided to build a rank log theater with two sides : a main facade on Stresemannstrasse and a secondary facade on the adjacent private road. This form of building a theater with tiers strictly delimits the auditorium from the stage and at the same time offers the possibility of integrating numerous seats in the room height - in contrast to an amphitheatrical system.

The structure of the theater apparently serves precisely this purpose of optimal use of space and the clear arrangement is divided into a front building with theater vestibules (entrances, cloakrooms, stairs and foyers), the auditorium, the stage and the administration wing. This grouping of the front and rear buildings can be recognized by the different heights on the side facade. Both sides are also acting by a almost to the gable up monitored Rustika coated whose dimensional effect is generated by the block association of alternately wide and narrow stone layers. In front of the representative main facade made of shell limestone is an inviting flight of stairs , which leads to the three entrances set into the wall and is accompanied by two bronze chandeliers. Above it arches a polygonal bay window which is set back into the facade, bordered by a balustrade and closed by a gable with an (original) copper roof. This niche-like construction is structured by elongated window strips and ocular windows. The latter are framed by relief figures . This division by windows is repeated on the stairwells to the left and right of the bay window and on the side facade of the front building with three long and three round windows. The rounded, convex gable of the front is decorated on the sides with mask reliefs by Hermann Feuerhahn. The design of the main facade did not follow any well-known models at that time and was adopted in its new form of cohesion and concentration by other architects, such as Fritz Schumacher for the Dresden crematorium. The exterior architecture by Oskar Kaufmann is particularly impressive because of the absence of superfluous or senselessly splendid structural elements. The construction and the decoration of the building are mostly limited to necessities and serve the actual purpose of the building: the theater performances. The rear buildings hardly appear due to their simple, functional design and plastering. In front of the towering stage building are the two stair towers, which are covered by simple domed roofs. The façades of the three rear buildings appear to be withdrawn due to the uniform vertical arrangement of the windows and the simple plastering without decorative elements.

Interior design and equipment

The front building of the Hebbel Theater houses the entrances and vestibules to the auditorium. The oak-lined entrance hall, where the ticket counters are located, leads to the cloakroom and corridors paneled with rosewood-colored walnut. From there, side stairs lead to the main foyer and the tiers. The second tier can be reached from the outside through the two side doors and stairwells. The stairway to the mostly cheaper places at the time is thus separated from the decorative and decorated entrance hall. The two-story main foyer, the representative room of the theater, is built in an oval-elliptical shape and paneled with reddish-brown mahogany and black pearwood. Rosewood and mother-of-pearl inlays can be found at the top. Oskar Kaufmann attached great importance to the interior decoration of all rooms, since he made his living with interior fittings in his early days in the capital. The theater's administration and dressing rooms were specially furnished and carefully decorated by him.


View into the auditorium of the Hebbel Theater in 1908

For the most important room in the theater, the auditorium, Kaufmann chose a 'reduced two-tier system'. The second tier is not completely brought up to the stage in order to give all viewers the best possible visibility and to prevent a distorted oblique view of the stage. The tail shape of the parapet is characteristic of Kaufmann's architecture and was used as a single-tier system in the Berlin Renaissance Theater and in the New Playhouse in Königsberg . The two cylindrical towers on either side of the stage, each of which houses stairs, are coordinated with the curved tiers of the auditorium. The hall, which can seat 800 people, is almost completely clad with reddish to golden-brown stained panels made of birch wood and was originally decorated with valuable silk fabrics. The monotony of a usual rank theater is avoided by rounding the ramps. The wood paneling, which was manufactured by the EE Lehmann company, extends up to the second tier and also includes the two towers. This cladding creates the uniform spatial impression, which is deliberately not broken by the installation of rear boxes behind the first tier and thus represented the decisive innovation of Kaufmann compared to the theater building of that time. The ceiling is unadorned and the obligatory chandelier is missing. With the different design of the tiers and boxes, Kaufmann includes the various social positions of the theatergoers. The decoration and seating of the parquet and box seats reflect the social positions of the more well-to-do visitors, while the simple design and the simple, but numerically higher wooden seating of the second tier are intended for the simpler middle class.

Stage of the Hebbel Theater in 1908

Stage space

Oskar Kaufmann strove for a strict separation of stage and auditorium by designing the stage frame like a real picture frame. This funnel-shaped proscenium promotes the impression of a 'peep show stage' and was later to become a characteristic of Kaufmann's architecture. With the almost square format of 12 m height and width of the opening, the game appears on the stage as a framed picture and thus completely separates the dramatic action from the audience hall. The spacious stage house (19 × 16 × 14 m) contained a new type of revolving stage with a diameter of 12.3 meters. In the Kaufmann concept, musical and opera performances were also planned. The first rows of parquet in the auditorium can be removed and the hollow space below them can be used as an orchestra pit .


  • Antje Hansen: Oskar Kaufmann. A theater architect between tradition and modernity . (= The buildings and art monuments of Berlin. Supplement; 28). Gebr. Mann Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-7861-2375-6 .
  • Anton Jaumann: The Hebbel Theater in Berlin . In: German art and decoration. Illustrated monthly booklets for modern painting, sculpture, architecture, home art and artistic work for women . Volume 22 (April – September 1908), pp. 116–133 ( digitized version )
  • Dirk Jonkanski: The Hebbel Theater by Oskar Kaufmann . In: Gerard Kutzsch (ed.): The Bear of Berlin. Yearbook of the Berlin History Association . ISSN  0522-0033 , Volume XXXVIII / XXXIX (1989/1990), pp. 77-93.
  • Christiane Kühl: 100 years of the Hebbel Theater. Applied theater lexicon based on Gustav Freytag . Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin 2008
  • Dietrich Worbs: Comedy and Theater on Kurfürstendamm. The legacy of Oskar Kaufmann and Max Reinhardt . Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich [a. a.] 2007, ISBN 978-3-422-06694-6 .


  • Curiosity & Risk. The Berlin Hebbel Theater and its European partners . Documentation, Germany 1997, 60 min., Director: Christoph Rüter. * Table of contents from Christoph Rüter Filmproduktion

Web links

Commons : Hebbeltheater  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dirk Jonkanski: The Hebbel Theater of Oskar Kaufmann. in: Gerard Kutzsch (Ed.): The Bear of Berlin. Yearbook of the Berlin History Association. Berlin / Bonn 1989/1990. ISSN  0522-0033 . P. 77.
  2. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 77.
  3. See Antje Hansen: Oskar Kaufmann. A theater architect between tradition and modernity. Berlin 2001. ISBN 3-7861-2375-6 . P. 222 ff.
  4. a b See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 78.
  5. See Hansen 2001, p. 222.
  6. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 79.
  7. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, pp. 79-80.
  8. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 84.
  9. a b See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 85.
  10. a b See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 87.
  11. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 88.
  12. See archive link ( Memento of the original dated August 28, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.hebbel-am-ufer.de
  13. http://www.hebbel-am-ufer.de/de/geschichte.html?HAU=1  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.hebbel-am-ufer.de  
  14. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 81.
  15. a b c See Hansen 2001, p. 225.
  16. See Anton Jaumann: The Hebbel Theater in Berlin. In: German art and decoration: illustr. Monthly booklets for modern painting, sculpture, architecture, home art etc. artistic women work. Stuttgart / Darmstadt 1908. p. 117.
  17. See Hansen 2001, p. 225.
  18. See Jaumann 1908, p. 119.
  19. Cf. Jaumann 1908, p. 117.
  20. a b See Jaumann 1908, p. 128.
  21. See Hansen 2001, p. 226.
  22. See Jaumann 1908, p. 131.
  23. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 77.
  24. See Jonkanski 1989/1990, p. 81.
  25. a b See Jaumann 1908, p. 124.
  26. a b See Jaumann 1908, p. 124 f.
  27. http://www.hebbel-am-ufer.de/en/produkttext_11858.html?HAU=3  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.hebbel-am-ufer.de  

Coordinates: 52 ° 30 '0.2 "  N , 13 ° 23' 14.4"  E