Great dramatic art does not need a large theatre. A few square metres are enough to stage the world. Where Else set out in search of gems in the region that also offer a programme over the summer and found off-off-theatres that are run with a lot of commitment, idealism and heart and soul. The Theater in der Kurve, the theatre in the bend, in Neustadt-Hambach is the first place in our small series about them. Set up by Hedda Brockmeyer and Heinz Kindler in a room where wine was once pressed, milk sold and oil stored the theatre can now accommodate up to 50 spectators and offer them a great experience with a carefully curatedselection of plays.

The large barn door leads the way right into the action. Barely inside, barely a step over the threshold, you find yourself next to the stage. A battered canister comes flying in and a man after it. There is a clatter and a rumble, an engine explodes, smoke billows out. The man rolls over and remains motionless. The smoke gradually clears and a woman appears wearing aviator glasses and a leather jacket. Chewing gum, she pushes a vintage car in front of her.

It happens that a man falls directly at you feet in the Theater in der Kurve—immediate theatre.

Time to take a breath, look around and get your bearings: a glance back to the entrance door and another ahead to the stage. You are actually standing directly in front of the playing area when you enter the Theater in der Kurve in Neustadt-Hambach. However, it doesn’t always happen that a man falls directly at your feet there. Unless, of course, Christian Birko-Flemming and Leni Bohrmann happen to be rehearsing the opening scene of their play Copper, Flint und der Fabulotor described in the programme as follows: “With a bang, Copper and Flint are thrown out of their vehicle.” This scene makes clear right from the start that a big bang doesn’t need a big stage or elaborate effects. On the contrary. In such a small place, Flint almost literally falls into the audience, making it impossible not to react! A simple ladder truck turns into a great vintage car for this purpose and does a great job.

Hedda Brockmeyer, producer of the play, sitting in the auditorium on old pews, which offer seating for another 49 spectators.

“You have to be a bit inventive,” says Hedda Brockmeyer and laughs. She runs the little theatre with the sixteen-square-metre stage. There is no room for lavish scenery here. “The stage is small and not rectangular. Everything is a bit crooked and slanted.” But with a painted canvas, atmospheric lighting and many lovingly selected and well thought-out props, the producer and the actors and actresses create an entire world even in sixteen square metres. A world that is much more intimate and much closer to its audience than in larger playhouses. “The atmosphere is completely different for us as well,” says actress Leni. “The spectators sit right in front of you. You don’t play to a dark room, but rather see their faces and reactions. Quite intimate. I find this magical.” Even if it requires a lot of concentration. “You’ve got to be authentic. You just can’t cover up mistakes. The audience would notice it.”

Hedda is an actress herself. She studied at the Michael Tschechow Studio in Berlin and worked in a theatre in Kreuzberg. Then she took a temporary detour into a wine retail venture, which took her to the Palatinate, to eventually return to the theatre. She met Heinz Kindler at the open-air theatre in Haßloch and they moved together into the building full of nooks and crannies in Neustadt-Hambach in 1997. It is a former winery that nestles in a triangular shape into the sharpest bend of the village. It was actually much too big for the couple. “We knew from the beginning that, if we moved in here, we would use the space for cultural events.” Their dream was to have their own theatre, small and free, but with professional aspirations.

It’s one thing to open a theatre, but it’s something completely different to then fill it with life.

Hedda Brockmeyer

However, first they celebrated their wedding in the room where the stage is today and where the grapes used to be pressed into wine, milk sold and oil stored in the past. Then they began rebuilding. Change of utilization, emergency exits, fire protection—Hedda knew the bureaucratic effort involved from her former job in Berlin. “Cooperation with the authorities went surprisingly smoothly though,” she says. A carpenter friend brought pews from an old church in Mainz. They offer seating for about 50 spectators. A Canadian woodburning stove in the back right-hand corner provides cosy warmth in the winter. If you want to get to the box office, you first have to walk around the stage and through a tiny inner courtyard to the foyer, a cosy room with old wooden benches and sandstone walls, among whose rocks you find one or the other chunk from Hambach Castle, as Hedda tells us.

Small but nice and very cosy: the foyer. Photo by THUK

They celebrated the opening of the theatre with the play Sindbad oder Der Quälgeist in 2009. At that time, Heinz was still on stage himself. Today he tends to stay in the background and is responsible for the technology, scenery and equipment. They have mainly staged modern theatre literature, but also plays based on their own texts and concepts. It is a theatre that doesn’t rely on comedy or knee-slappers—situated right in the middle of the Palatinate province. “During the initial renovation, people kept coming by and telling us how brave we were to open a theatre like this here,” Hedda says. But the pair never had any doubts back then. “These only came afterwards. It’s one thing to open a theatre, but it’s something completely different to then fill it with life.” 

Hedda Brockmeyer and Leni Bohrmann love the intimacy of the small theatre.

In the first few years, they sometimes performed for only six or ten people. But perform they did. Little by little, the theatre began to fill with life and spectators, also thanks to a growing network and support from an association for independent professional theatres in Rhineland-Palatinate. Leni joined the team in 2011, when she was looking for venues for her acting troupe. “We thought: Of course, there is this little theatre in Neustadt-Hambach.” She went there and met Hedda and Heinz. And from the first meeting it was clear to everyone: “It’s a fit!” Today Leni heads the THUK Hambach association for the promotion of theatres and culture whose primary place of activity is the very theatre in the bend. Nevertheless, they initiate and carry out projects even beyond that.

“Mit Rilke im Ring” is an in-house production with drama, poetry and live music, written by Hedda Brockmeyer. Photo by THUK

The theatre stages two to three new plays a year. Plays that get under your skin, like Der Tod und das Mädchen (death and the girl). But there are also humorous stories, like the one rehearsed today—Copper, Flint und der Fabulotor—by Leni, suitable for children aged six and older. In addition, there are guest performances and the “SommernachtTräume” events. In the warmer months, the theatre moves to the pretty, little garden next to the house with its arch of roses framing Hambach Castle in the background as if painted.

Idyllic SommernachtTräume nights: In the summer, the stage is in the theatre‘s garden. Photo by THUK

The THUK ensemble meets in the theatre every Thursday. Children and adolescents enjoy their first experiences on the stage here. Leni leads the Dauerstrom youth group, who, to her amazement, want to play even during school holidays. “These young people have found a place where they are allowed to be. They don’t just play theatre here—they celebrate, laugh, tell stories and scold the school.” And they even start to stage their own plays.

Committed young talents: The Dauerstrom youth group stage their own plays. Photo by THUK

This is what makes Hedda, Heinz and Leni most happy. They have created a place where they can pass on their love of theatre. The fact that they couldn’t do so during the coronavirus pandemic hit them hard. The immediacy that the little theatre thrives on was not possible for a long time. “Covid-19 set us back a lot,” Hedda admits. “It seems that everyone has to learn again to experience culture together and to allow this intimacy again.” There is hardly any better place to do that than in the Theater in der Kurve.


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