Friends of Italian Opera
|The illustrious-sounding name Friends of Italian Opera, under which the theatre originally made its mark on Berlin’s cultural scene in 1990, has been changed to the English Theatre Berlin (ETB), which, though slightly more mundane, is undoubtedly more to the point.
Berlin’s only English-language theatre performs in the back of an industrial complex in Fidicinstraße. The layout is magical; tables and benches are arranged in the open air, and a huge factory chimney looms above. Artists and gallery curators work in the one- and two-storeyed workshop and studio buildings.
The Mühlenhaupt-Höfe, or courtyards, were named after the painter Kurt Mühlenhaupt, who bought them in 1989 with the intention of turning them into an artists’ space. They are located in the neighbourhood around the Chamisso-Platz, at the southerly edge of Kreuzberg. What a few years ago was just a Zimmertheater, a one-room theatre seating about sixty people in five rows (of which the first was hardly more than an arm’s length away from the stage), has now changed considerably. ETB and Theater Thikwa, which puts on plays for people with special needs, share a factory hall with high ceilings, a large stage on the ground and sloped rows of seats for an audience of up to 150.
This unique venue also trades under the abbreviation F40, which stands for Fidicinstraße 40. It received a grant from the Lotto foundation, and is the first German theatre of its kind where wheelchair users can access both the stage area and the seating.
The ETB’s projects and staff are very involved in Berlin’s international cultural scene. Their own programme of events ranges from classic to contemporary plays and comedy as well as guest star performances. There is a potentially large audience base, composed of an estimated 100,000 resident native English speakers in Berlin, as well as the numerous German and international English language enthusiasts.