Great dramatic art does not need a large venue. 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. In the second part of our small series, we visit what is probably the smallest theatre in Germany. In an old tower of the Freinsheim city wall, Anja Kleinhans and her Theader offer stage art in an atmosphere of immediacy and intimacy.
A steep, stone staircase winds up to the second floor. It leads to a room with creaking wooden floorboards, about twelve square metres in size. To the right, there are two oversize steps that serve as a seating area: ten seats in the first row, nine in the second; and two spectators can sit in the small niche in the wall. To the left is the stage, six square metres in size. A ship is about to set sail for a voyage on the Amazon on these six square metres that have already staged an ice-cold snowstorm and an artificial silk girl who wandered through Berlin. It is a place where people kill and love, argue and make music—six square metres on which life takes place.
The Theader in Freinsheim is probably the smallest theatre in Germany. What’s more, it is located in a very unusual place: in the Casinoturm, a medieval defence tower that is part of the well-preserved Freinsheim town wall. The tower has become a place where theatre has been performed since 2007 thanks to Anja Kleinhans. Anja was born in Weisenheim, only a few kilometres from Freinsheim, in the Palatinate. She used to perform in the theatre club back when she attended primary school and later at the grammar school in Frankenthal. “Performing theatre was a mainstay of my time in school,” she says, “but I never considered it a realistic career opportunity for me.” That is, until she went to the US as an au pair and had to enrol in a degree course there. She chose acting at Harvard University. The lecturer encouraged her to turn her passion into a profession. Anja took the plunge, decided against studying law or business administration and trained as an actress at the educational department of the Europäisches Theaterinstitut in Berlin. After that, she has performed on large and small stages all over Germany.
Anja learned on one of her visits to the Palatinate that a tower of the Freinsheim city wall, the Diebesturm, was being rented out. She applied on a lark, was accepted straight away and moved back to the Palatinate. “Living in a medieval tower—that was the only thing that could lure me away from Berlin at that time,” Anja laughs. The place comprised 37 square metres spread over three floors. She just loved it. Then she also noticed that the neighbouring Casinoturm, somewhat larger than her abode in the tower, was hardly ever used for events. “Setting up a small, free theatre in it—that would be it,” she dreamt. But just dreaming about it was not enough for her. So she devised a concept, applied to the town and was handed the keys for the tower a few months later.