Children and young people are to find a place in the future in the then renovated Zoogesellschaftshaus that will give them access to culture. For this is to be home to the future children's and youth theatre, for which the head of culture, Ina Hartwig, presented the usage and operating concept on Friday, September 18. It will be quite a while before the theatre opens its doors. But at least another important step has been taken, because the concept is the basis for the content and the last step before the architectural competition for the concrete renovation and conversion measures in the Zoogesellschaftshaus.
"It is a unique opportunity that Frankfurt will not miss. A children's and youth theatre can now be created in the Zoogesellschaftshaus, which is long overdue for our lively, growing and diverse city. Frankfurt will have a theatre that could have an artistic and conceptual impact far beyond the region and even internationally. The usage and operating concept that is now available puts the project into concrete terms in terms of content, finances and spatial requirements," said Hartwig during the concept presentation.
"The Corona pandemic has further intensified the trend towards isolation. You see young people's desire for community experiences in all public places these days. The performing arts in particular can provide enormous support for children and young people in their creative and social development and bring them benefits for life as a whole; theatre for children and young people raises social issues and empowers co-determination and emancipation. Theatre is a place of utopias and unconditional togetherness and thus a profoundly democratic space," the head of culture further explains.
The performing arts will be considered in the concept in their diversity - speech, dance, music, object and figure theatre and performances. One focus could be dance theater. "Children's and youth theatre should be ready for artistic ventures, develop new stories and tell old ones again in a new context, experiment, go to and beyond boundaries, research artistically and involve new generations of artists," says the head of culture. With artistically strong contemporary theatre for young audiences as well as co-productions and guest performances on a regional, national and international level, it is intended to have an impact beyond the city limits. Particularly important to Hartwig are theatrical educational offerings and play clubs: "Interactive and participatory offerings will become a trademark. And at all levels of decision-making, the cultural diversity of society should be evident. For these tasks a rigid concept is forbidden, in this respect the children's and youth theatre is a learning, constantly inventing, model place."
For Hartwig, the inclusion of the independent children's and youth theatre scene in Frankfurt in the creation of the concept is elementary: "In addition to its own ensemble, the house should also become a house for the independent scene, which has so far lacked sufficient venues in Frankfurt." For this reason, independent theatre-makers for children and young people were involved in the creation of the concept from the very beginning.
The submission of annual data for artistic budget, personnel, finances as well as individual cost centres by six comparative theatres - two of them from other European countries - contributed to the creation of a realistic economic plan. Based on approximately 500 performances per season and around 60,000 visitors, the operating costs for the new Frankfurt theatre are calculated at around 3.9 million euros per year, provided that the concept is fully implemented in this best possible variant. The city wants to approach the state of Hesse and the region with the goal of joint sponsorship, as the theater will be there for children and young people from the entire Rhine-Main region.
The large theater hall is to become the heart of the house, for up to 450 visitors. It can be divided into two smaller halls. To allow for two staggered performances per morning, this division will be the normal state of affairs when the theatre is in operation. In the immediate vicinity there will be an understage, lifting platforms and connections to warehouses and workshops. Control rooms for lighting, sound and video will allow direct contact with the action in the auditorium. The halls become multifunctional, there are no fixed stages and stands. Flexible podiums allow for stage design according to artistic requirements.
Two workshop rooms for at least 30 people are also available for play clubs and interactive theatre-pedagogical offers, one of the rooms is suitable for dance workshops.
The Balkonsaal is shared with the Frankfurt Zoo and Zoological Society. The Children's and Youth Theatre uses the hall as a warm-up and rehearsal space, for participatory formats and for discourse events. Two further rehearsal stages are also planned, one of which can also be used as a studio stage for dance, for example.
The basis of the almost 60-page concept was a survey of so-called stakeholders. This dialogical process included discussions with stakeholders from the theatre for children and young people, cultural policy, the zoo and the Zoological Society, and working sessions with the project team. Focus groups were held with young people and the independent theatre scene to record their needs. Educult was commissioned, an institute in Vienna that has been working for many years throughout Europe at the interface of culture, cultural policy and science and has expertise in children's and youth theatre. Educult was supported by the independent children's and youth theatre scene in Frankfurt as well as the management of Junges Ensemble Stuttgart and the staff of the project group.
In the renovated Zoogesellschaftshaus, the zoo administration and zoo school will also move into new premises; in several workshops, the space requirements, spatial relationships and special requirements were determined and coordinated.
"Despite all the details, the present ‚document is only' a concept. Several years before the opening, the developments that will take place between now and then cannot be entirely anticipated. The ultimate implementation is the responsibility of the architects, the user representatives and, above all, the future team of the Children's and Young People's Theatre. It is not us who will make the theatre. But perhaps it will be the young people from the interviewed focus group. It is already clear that this house will shape whole generations," says Aron Weigl, author of the use and operation concept and managing director of Educult.
The report will be submitted to the city council and subsequently presented to the public.