"Every foreigner and every new member finds something of virtue in it: focus without any apparent strain, beauty without preference, the diversity of all classes, ages and walks of life, without making an affected choice; the pleasure of enjoying a fine art form without growing weary; every mixing of race or sex, just like a garden of flowers."
Carl Friedrich Zelter,
director of the Berlin Choral Academy
(1758 – 1832)
The Maxim Gorki Theatre, located in the Choral Academy on the boulevard Unter den Linden, is the smallest and most beautiful of Berlin’s ensemble theatres and also a historically significant building. Founded in 1952 as a theatre for contemporary productions, it became a Stadttheater (municipal theatre) for the citizens of East Berlin in the very best sense – it was both critical and dissident. In 1988, when Thomas Langhoff staged Volker Braun’s Übergangsgesellschaft (A Changing Society), the theatre prophetically anticipated the peaceful revolution of the 9th of November, 1989.
It was also the 9th of November, but in the year 1848, that the first freely elected Prussian national assembly was driven out of the city – the assembly had been working on a democratic constitution for Prussia in the Choral Academy. Spanning the period between these two events is the story of the fight for a democratically constituted, just and open society: from the declaration of a German Republic in 1918, the November pogroms of 1938 and the oppression and murder of the Jews, to the unification of the city and the country, leading ultimately to today‘s debates surrounding the future of Berlin as a diverse European metropolis.
Are we once again living in a society in transition? The question inevitably arises when we are faced with a permanent crisis in economy and politics, a crisis which results in even more severe social and cultural conflicts in our societies.
The Gorki is opening itself up to the city: with its wonderful ensemble – photographed by Esra Rotthoff – with Studio Я headed by Marianna Salzmann, with the future Gorki columnist Mely Kıyak and our colleagues from Gorki X, who all invite you to get involved. The Gorki is for the whole city, and that includes everyone who has arrived in the city in the last few decades, whether in search of asylum, whether in exile, whether they be immigrants or simply people who grew up in Berlin. We invite you all to a public space in which today’s human condition and our conflict of identity will be reflected through the art of making theatre and watching theatre, in order to contribute to a thorough and patient debate about living together in today’s diverse world. How have we become what we are? And who do we want to be in the future? In short: who is "we"?
We look forward to seeing you in and around the theatre!
Shermin Langhoff and Jens Hillje