What happens in an adult theater

Nuremberg - The fact that Germany's stronghold for children's theater is Nuremberg of all places is surprising. The seriousness with which the makers stage plays for the next generation is even more surprising. The standard is high and the topics are demanding: even death is not a taboo.

Instead of a cheerful, colorful frenzy, the stage is kept exclusively in black and white. Instead of a playful backdrop, the actors get by with a single prop. Instead of lively music, the experimental sounds of a live orchestra play. “Duck, Death and Tulip” does not fulfill any of the clichés of children's theater, not only because of the video installations. The staging of the Nuremberg Theater Pfütze is in no way inferior to the usual stages with its puristic aesthetics that have been reduced to the bare essentials.

The “puddle” is just one of four Nuremberg children's theaters with their own venues. There are also four other companies and individual projects - the Franconians thus represent a nationwide stronghold of contemporary children's theater.

The claim is the same as in adult theater

And that is not only intended for the next generation, as the makers unanimously emphasize. The productions are aimed at children and young people of different age groups, but the standard is the same as for adult theater. The pieces are therefore not only attractive to parents and grandparents - which is also evident in the well-attended evening performances.

“Anyone who thinks they have to play gaga for children is not taking the theater seriously,” says Fritzz Lechner from the Rootzlöffel Theater. Of course there are differences to performances for older people. The pieces are shorter, the language simpler, and emotions play a major role. But the issues are just as serious: friendship, responsibility, self-confidence are reflected in the current schedule as well as love, tolerance and even death.

So there is no shortage of fabrics. Works written especially for children often help with the selection, while the ensembles develop other topics on their own until they are ready for the stage. Many take a middle path: “We are often looking for pieces from children's books that can then be implemented,” explains Ralph Zitzelsberger from the Salz + Pfeffer puppet theater.

A difficult task for the actors: they often play children

Very important for the dramaturgy: “The point of view is different, the protagonists are often children,” reports Andrea Erl from the Mummpitz Theater. This makes the children feel addressed and taken seriously. This means a difficult task for the actors: they have to play a child or young person without falling into clichés. Knock-knees, squeaky voices, a baseball cap put on upside down - even the little ones can see right through clumsy flinging.

The youngest of the visitors are just four years old - the age of each piece makes it easier for parents and teachers to choose. “Of course we are also there to introduce the children to the theater as early as possible. Only then will they become good viewers, ”explains Erl. Viewing habits, the ability to translate symbols, but also supposedly simple rules of behavior have to be learned first - for example, that one becomes quiet when the light goes out and not eats or drinks during the performance and talk.

Despite the high level of recognition, the houses are financially in a tight spot

Despite their educational achievement and high recognition - the puddle has just been nominated for the theater prize of the German stage association - the houses and ensembles are financially in a tight spot. Funding has not been increased for ten years, while costs have risen massively, it is said in unison. “If something doesn't happen soon, it will get really bitter,” emphasizes the artistic director of the Pfütze Theater, Jürgeneiling. It is now a matter of preserving children's culture in Nuremberg, and politics will soon have to set an example.

This year would be a good opportunity for this - the Mummpitz Theater is celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Pfütze its 25th anniversary. The free theaters with their emancipatory approaches were consciously promoted in the district and cultural centers of Nuremberg at that time - the reason for the diversity that continues to this day. The Franconians are still innovative: Together with the Stadttheater Fürth, for example, Pfütze has just founded the “young MET”. The goal: to develop new forms of contemporary music theater for children.