It is primarily thanks to the theatre enthusiasts of the city – who campaigned for such a venue to be built – that a building competition was organised to establish a theatre in Hagen in 1909. To this day, the theatre still considers itself a "citizens' theatre".
As a citizens' theatre, it is only natural that the Theater Hagen should stand in the middle of the city centre. It would no longer be possible to imagine Hagen without this historic building, designed by Ernst Vetterlein. Even if the bare-breasted statues of women, created by sculptor Milly Steger and displayed on the façade of the building above the entrance, were highly controversial in their day.
The importance of the theatre to the residents of Hagen has been demonstrated time and time again, particularly when the going gets tough. When the building was affected by air raids in 1945, citizens' initiatives campaigned for its reconstruction, meaning that performances were able to be continued as early as in 1949. Whenever the theatre is threatened with budget cuts, the citizens of Hagen collect signatures. Most recently, they called for a demonstration to take place to save the theatre. The venue attracts theatre enthusiasts from outside the city itself. It records approximately 180,000 visitors a year, around 30 percent of which come from outside the city.
In the Metropolis Ruhr, where the next sweet shop is never too far away, "pick 'n' mix" is a firm favourite among locals. Liquorice, sweet, sour ... There's something for every taste. In this sense, the popularity of the Theater Hagen can probably – at least in part – be traced back to the diversity of what it has on offer. It offers musical theatre (opera, operetta, musicals), ballet, plays, children's and young people's theatre, and concerts by the Philharmonische Orchester Hagen.
Of course, its close relation with the audience is another aspect which adds to its popularity. For example, the theatre employees and the people of Hagen celebrate the Bühnenball event together every year on Mardi Gras. This is an event during which, wearing a costume to match the annual theme, partygoers dance, celebrate and eat until the small hours. What's more, rehearsal visits and backstage tours allow people to experience the theatre "up close and personal", or to get a taste for performing themselves in various theatre clubs. The theatre's café also offers a "Stunde der Kritik" (hour of criticism) to allow for discussion on individual new performances. Here, an expert on the subject poses a quick, controversial opinion in order to stimulate the audience to discuss their theatre experience, to express praise or criticism, discuss their impressions and to ask questions.
Artistic director Francis Hüsers has been assuming responsibility for the programme since the 2018/2019 season. The motto here is: "Start something new, repeat the tried-and-tested methods but keep them varied, dare to experiment, but ensure that old traditions can be recognised". This means that the Theater Hagen is keeping things interesting.
Among other things, the theatre has once again focussed on staging high-quality pieces within its children's and young people's division. The Lutz Hagen – named for renowned dramatist – puts on performances for children aged two years and above.
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