A theatre on a farm? That’s possible in the Odenwald. Jürgen Flügge assembles artists from Germany and around the world on Tromm mountain once a year.

When Jürgen Flügge steps out of the red wooden door of his home, the tall, bald-headed man with the short-shaven beard stands right in the middle of his theatre. However, you hardly notice this at first sight, unless the Trommer Sommer festival is taking place. Today, the old farmstead, which is nestled in a hollow in the small Tromm district of Grasellenbach municipality, looks almost like a normal farmhouse: with massive roofs, small windows, geraniums, half-timbering and a tractor parked in a corner. But the mural depicting theatre masks as well as the sculptures scattered all over the grounds and the full-windowed extension to the old barn give you an idea that something special takes place here.

The sculptures give you an idea that something else than just tractors and hay bales are placed behind the walls of this farmstead.

There is no denying it by the first weekend in August at the latest: This is not a farm, but a theatre. That’s when the Trommer Sommer, a theatre festival for young and old people, is staged on Jürgen’s farm and all around it. He initiated the event in 1996 after a long-standing friend had come to visit and thought that the “theatrical courtyard” between the buildings should be used for something special. Since then, artists, actors and musicians from all over the world have come every summer. And so do thousands of guests who don’t want to miss the event. “We had 2,500 spectators in the first year,” Jürgen recalls with pride.

Jürgen Flügge in the courtyard of his farmstead.

More than 25 years later, the dramaturge and theatre director, who has worked in Zagreb, London and Vienna, is sitting in the shade that the overhanging roof of the barn of his farmstead provides. He is wearing a white shirt and sandals and he is taking off the straw hat that protected him against the sun during the rehearsal for his current play just a moment ago. When he was a boy, Jürgen used to play Punch and Judy in the hayloft upstairs in the barn. Today there are “real” actors on stage. Jürgen founded the Hof-Theater-Tromm permanent theatre in the highest village of the Odenwald five years after the first edition of the Trommer Sommer festival. It is a “Theater auf hohem Niveau”, a high-class theatre on a high plain, as a banner on the front of the old barn promises. The windowed extension beneath is “the most beautiful theatre foyer in Germany,” as Jürgen says with a smile. Five steps lead up to the old hayloft that offers space for 99 spectators. Performances take place from March through December: stage performances, cabaret, music and readings—for children and for adults. The former cowshed has become a place for the performing arts. And graphic art works by artists from all over the world are on display, accompanied by old cattle drinking troughs.

The heart of the Hof-Theater-Tromm permanent institution, however, has been and remains the Trommer Sommer festival. It features a large folk theatre play premiered on the farmstead and staged by Jürgen and his colleague Danilo Fioriti, who grew up just around the corner in Hartenrod. The two theatre men launched the first Sommerspiele Überwald performances in 2008. This is where they present their play after the premiere on Tromm mountain. The ensemble consists of 30 amateur actors—from schoolchildren to bank clerks and farmers—familiar to Jürgen and Danilo from the theatre workshops they offer.

I am a detective, sort of like a truffle pig!

Jürgen Flügge

Some of the actors have recently held rehearsals on the open-air stage between the churches in Wald-Michelbach. The play Das Partisanenhaus (literally: the partisan’s house) is rooted in the region itself and is based on a true story, like all plays Jürgen and Danilo develop for the Sommerspiele Überwald performances. In this case, the story behind it is the following: Der Spiegel news magazine had uncovered in 1952 that the Americans were training former Nazis in Wald-Michelbach to become assassins. They were to carry out attacks on social democrats and communists if Russia advanced as far as the Rhine. This left Konrad Adenauer at a loss for an explanation. A murder took place that was never solved. In his research, Jürgen even read the public prosecution files. “I am a detective, sort of like a truffle pig!”

The Trommer Sommer features a folk theatre play premiered at the festival every year. This rehearsal is for this year’s play: Das Partisanenhaus.

A scene at the police station is on today’s agenda. The village youths have found casings close to a supposed convalescent home and demand that the police look into it. But the police don’t want to know anything about the suspicions the young locals have. Jürgen and Danilo evaluate every step, every sentence of their ensemble. “Too early, Lukas! You can get up, Silka! ‘Convalescent home’ is your cue. You can take a look at each other there.” Jürgen loves working with amateurs. They implement the instructions straight away. “You can work with them almost in the same way as with professional actors.”

Jürgen loves to pass on his passion for theatre to children.

Jürgen was born in Darmstadt in 1944. He lived in the lush countryside on the Kühkopf until the age of ten. “I am a typical country kid.” Then his parents bought the farmstead on Tromm mountain where Jürgen and his wife live today. But before turning the farmhouse into a theatre, he moved out into the world. He studied theatre studies, German studies and linguistics in Munich and assisted at the city’s youth theatre, where he later worked as a dramaturge. “It is there that I saw for the first time what it’s like when children are enthusiastic about theatre.”

Jürgen has always been passionate about children’s and youth theatre. Not about the variety he describes as “funny, colourful and stupid,” though. He takes a more experimental approach in his productions, paying attention to the children and taking them very seriously. And he does not shy away from taboos. Jürgen’s play Was heißt hier Liebe? about adolescent sexuality, which he staged in Berlin, created a stir. However, Jürgen doesn’t need much ado. In the little storytelling theatre that he has set up in the old potato warehouse on his farm and that can take up to 40 children, he manages to bring a little bear named Benjamin to life using just a portable story box and a few drawings.

A portable story box and a few drawings are enough to tell a great story in a small place.

The permanent ensemble of the Hof-Theater currently includes five actresses. Jürgen stages plays with them not only at the Tromm location, but also in schools. They give theatre workshops and guest performances. And in this manner Jürgen can finally be an artist again, as he had wished when he moved back to Tromm mountain in 1996. Before that, he had worked as a theatre manager for 15 years in theatres all over Germany and celebrated “great successes,” as he recounts. But there was a point when he just wanted to leave his last position, the state theatre in Brunswick. The fact that he had inherited his parents’ house shortly before came in handy. He then moved to the country without having a plan or a job. He couldn’t know that the farm would soon become “his” theatre, but today, he is the happy “grand manager” of a little gem.


Hier geht es zu den weiteren Texten unserer kleinen Sommerserie über kleine Theater in der Region, die große Bühnenkunst bieten: https://wosonst.eu/entdecken/wir-machen-theater/


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