Berliner Ensemble begins test run for cultural opening
Tomorrow, Friday, the Berliner Ensemble (BE) will start a test run in the German capital to check the logistical feasibility of events in connection with antigen tests. “The tickets were sold out within four minutes,” said director Oliver Reese on Thursday in front of foreign media in Berlin. Among the buyers “there are many who have never been to BE”.
The pilot test, which will run until April 4, is being carried out in cooperation with various institutions: the Berlin Philharmonic, the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Berlin Club Commission (a club), the Volksbühne, the Unter den Linden State Opera and the Deutsche Oper and the city’s tourism organization, visitBerlin .
You can only register in advance for all events in order to guarantee traceability of the routes. In addition, all tickets are linked to a test, which is included in the unit price of 20 euros at the BE. The audience can have themselves tested at five cooperating test sites from twelve hours before the performance to the start of the performance, by prior arrangement. When entering the theater, the ticket, test result and identity card are checked. “We are asked to make a strict checkerboard pattern, we sell half the hall, 350 tickets,” said Reese. “Every second seat is sealed by us.”
“Panikherz” by Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre will be shown. This fits well because the piece addresses personal difficulties, but goes out with hope and Udo Lindenberg appears as a consolation figure. “I believe that people don’t even want to see Corona pieces and are fed up with dystopia,” said Reese.
He hopes that the pilot will lead to a real opening. “It is important that culture comes back to life. In Spain, Poland and Luxembourg, theater and opera are played,” said the BE director. “I would like Germany to find a more precise regulation, because the closure together with the restaurants is too coarse, too undifferentiated for culture to have a chance in the next few weeks.”
“It’s mid-March and we have no idea what will happen on April 4th or May. That doesn’t work, especially since we have recently seen politics deal with incidence figures politically: first 50, then 35, then 100.” These numbers are a “sham package”. No cultural institution can keep up and no audience can commit to it. He had telephoned the director of the Madrid Opera, Juan Matabosch, which has been performing in front of an audience for a long time. “Spain is proof of this, and the Salzburg Festival was proof that it works. Those are facts, the Madrid Opera is not a little bitch.” Culture has a value, it contributes to mental and emotional well-being.
But that’s not even present on stage at the moment: The mood is bad, says Reese. Those who work in the house are tested three times a week. “We haven’t had a single corona case so far.” There has been no rehearsal for six weeks. “For me, the cultural unword of the year is: premiere congestion. That sounds like urine congestion.” Otherwise there are only premieres and no performances, with closing days in between. “That’s why I postponed premieres early on. But that means that fewer directors are employed, fewer guest musicians, fewer composition commissions are given. That’s a rat tail. This season is more than halved.”
Nevertheless, the permanent employees would recognize their privileged position and behave in a disciplined manner. Due to short-time work, the BE will not slide into a deficit for 2020. “Like the Schaubühne, we are a private theater, even if we receive support. The Deutsche Theater is a state limited company that is not allowed to register short-time work and will have a high deficit.” Reese could not say anything for 2021, but: The prognosis looks much worse.
Reese’s appeal goes to politics, where culture is not properly heard. “We are highly subsidized institutions, which is how the state expresses its great appreciation, which should be reflected in opening scenarios.” It should be noted that the culture ministers in Germany do not have a very strong word. In the beginning, the culture ran under the common heading “Leisure time offers”, “together with brothels and fitness studios. That was quickly corrected. The conditions were retained, there was only a second heading.” Lobbyists of culture are fragmented, the Federal Commissioner for Culture “Ms. Grütters is a bit of a mistress without a realm of her own. We have to admit that culture has so far played a subordinate role in the crisis,” said the BE boss.
In response to the APA’s question about the recent resignation of his colleague from the Volksbühne, Klaus Dörr, following allegations of sexual assault, Oliver Reese said that this was “not the accompaniment of the cultural scene. As one of the first official acts at the Berliner Ensemble, he himself initiated an independent advice center without the theater management finding out what was being discussed there. Also with an anti-racism workshop one tries to act prophylactically. “That’s why I’m upset when something like this happens. The important thing is not to let it happen in the first place.” It is essential that everyone in the house knows that cases of abuse of power are consistently pursued and that they can be trusted.
And how will the performances continue? The cultural scene cannot currently say whether the opening will be at Easter: “I’m sitting there, the curtain is open, I don’t know.”