The Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz is a famous theatre in the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin, located on the Kurfürstendamm boulevard. It is a conversion of the Universum cinema, built according to plans designed by Erich Mendelsohn in 1928.
The cinema then was the centrepiece of the wider WOGA housing complex, designed by Mendelsohn in a New Objectivity styled urban development ensemble, with a shopping walkway, apartment blocks, lawns, and a tennis court in the back. It possibly was the first Modernist cinema built in the world, as opposed to the Moorish, Egyptian and baroque styles that predominated. Mendelsohn wrote a short text on his cinema, declaring 'no Baroque palaces for Buster Keaton'. The cinema would become very influential on Streamline Moderne cinema design in the 1930s.
Heavily damaged in World War II, it was rebuilt and re-opened as a cinema, from 1969 as a dance hall and for musical theatre. The building's current use as a lyric style theatre dates from the late 1970s, when the Schaubühne ensemble around Peter Stein, formerly residing on Hallesches Ufer in Kreuzberg, searched for a new venue. From 1978 to 1981 the interiors have been completely changed, centered around a theatre hall with adjustable spaces and no separation of audinece and performers.
The Schaubühne ensemble itself was founded in 1962, it became the domain of Peter Stein in 1970. Stein had sparked a theatre scandal in Munich, where he had staged Peter Weiss' Viet Nam Diskurs, by collecting money among the theatre-goers in order to support the Viet Cong. Strongly influenced by the Protests of 1968 and the German student movement, already his first production of Brecht's The Mother starring Therese Giehse immediately earned fierce protests by conservative West Berlin politicians, who spoke of "communist agitation". The next year the ensemble received the Deutscher Kritikerpreis award for the performance of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. In the following years, the Schaubühne directed by Stein and his dramaturgical assistant Botho Strauß became one of the leading theatre stages in Germany.
In 1999 Thomas Ostermeier took over as Artistic Director at Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin alongside co-directors Jens Hillje and Sasha Waltz. Waltz opened the Schaubühne under new direction with the debut of Körper (2000).
Waltz left on the expiration of her five-year contract and reactivitated her independent company Sasha Waltz & Guests based in Berlin.
Since 2005, Thomas Ostermeier and Jens Hillje have been responsible for a vigorous modern orientation of Stein's former theatre, where tradition still has its place with a focus on interpretations of classic works.
Under Ostermeier and Intendant Tobias Veit, Schaubühne productions have toured internationally extensively.
Australia in particular has seen Schaubühne productions since 2006. Hamlet toured to the 2010 Sydney Festival (under the artistic direction of Lindy Hume), Trust toured to the 2011 Perth International Arts Festival (under the artistic direction of Shelagh Magazda), and Schaubühne made its Australian debut with Nora at the 2006 Adelaide Festival, followed in that city by Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the 2008 Adelaide Festival (both under the artistic direction of Brett Sheehy).
Schaubühne's Hedda Gabler toured to Australia for the 2011 Melbourne Festival, and An Enemy of the People toured to the 2012 Melbourne Festival (again both under the artistic direction of Brett Sheehy).
- Bruno Zevi (1999) E. Mendelsohn - The Complete Works. Birkhäuser Verlag ISBN 3-7643-5975-7