A Cultural Landmark: The English Theatre in Frankfurt
One of the things we love most about Frankfurt am Main is that although the city is relatively small, you can find all the rich cultural offerings that you would expect from a million plus person city. Diverse music, food to die for, a thriving art scene, performance and theatre, FFM has it all. And one of the gems in her cultural crown, at least in our opinion, is the English Theatre (ETF).
Gallusanlage 7 | Frankfurt Bahnhofsviertel | @theenglishtheatrefrankfurt
Yes, that’s right. The largest English-speaking theatre in continental Europe is not situated in Berlin or Stockholm or even Amsterdam but in our very own fabulous city of Frankfurt am Main.
Located within the Gallileo skyscraper, this 300-seat theatre is also one of the oldest of its kind as it has been entertaining audiences for over 40 years. With more than 70,000 patrons visiting each season, the theatre offers a wide range of classics, comedies, thrillers, and musicals.
Founded in Sachsenhausen in 1979, the ensemble was called cardboard clowns. After undergoing several iterations and organisational changes in 1981, the theatre moved to a larger space in the Hamburger Allee and became known as “English Theatre Frankfurt, Café Theatre.”
The ETF is an international operation which employs many creative talents and a huge collaborative process. Castings and rehearsals take place in London and the casting directors make sure to select only those with native level English fluency.
This ensures that the productions are not just German “Regietheater” in English, but are created entirely according to Anglo-American theatrical standards. There is more than a dash of British humour and a pinch of American show-biz flair peppered throughout all the productions.
Once the show is cast, it comes together through a four-week rehearsal process in London. Then, the production is transferred to Frankfurt. In the final weeks before the curtains open, both British (or American) and Frankfurt based teams come together in an intense collaborative process which culminates in a spectacular red-carpet opening night.
An Impressive Track Record
Every season, the ETF produces a range of classics, comedies, thrillers, and musicals. They have performed over 190 productions, including the German premiere of musicals “Spring Awakening”, “The Full Monty”, and “Kat and the Kings”. Plays which have had their German premieres at the English Theatre include “Fences” by August Wilson, “Killer Joe” by Tracy Letts, and “Someone Who'll Watch Over Me” by Frank McGuinness.
The theatre also hosts an array of workshops for students, coaching for teachers and offers support to schools own theatre productions. The ETF has been showing matinees for school classes since 2006 and makes an important contribution to the promotion of language and theatre education. Once a season, the theatre also puts on a production specifically aimed at students learning English.
The ETF has overcome many challenges throughout its history. In 2001, thanks to the initiative of one of the group’s earlier members, Judith Rosenbauer, and Dr. von Harbou's far-sighted vision, the Dresdner Bank agreed to include a playhouse in its new Gallileo skyscraper. However, as a result of economic difficulties, the “English Theater e.V.” had to close its doors and in 2002, “The English Theatre”, a limited charity, was founded to keep the tradition of English-language theatre in Frankfurt alive. In 2003, the “English Theatre GmbH” finally settled in its current 300-seat home, sponsored by the Dresdner Bank (now Commerzbank) in the Gallileo Tower.
What would a theatre be without a signature bar? Well, we don’t know because the ETF is home to one of the best. “James Bar” is an integral part of the overall experience. Spread over two levels, with a gallery upstairs and a performance space downstairs, a relaxed drink at the bar is the perfect way to start an evening of wonderful entertainment at the theatre. The bar has hosted many events and can even be booked for private functions. In fact, it is worth a visit in and of itself.
Your Help is Needed
Unfortunately, the ETF’s future is uncertain. The Commerzbank is consolidating its office space and moving out of the Gallileo skyscraper creating a leasing dilemma which remains unresolved. They are continuing to appeal to the City of Frankfurt, Commerzbank AG and CapitaLand to secure the continued use of the venue inside the Gallileo Tower.
Last October, they launched the #TheETFMustStay campaign: More than 24,000 supporters have signed the petition so far but the future of the theatre is still uncertain.
We believe the English Theatre is of great cultural value and has already found a perfect home in its current location.
If you would like to help support the ETF and make the future just a little more certain, you can sign the petition here. Check out their website for upcoming shows and more ways you can support them. Let’s keep the theatre alive together.
British born European. Loves exercise and the outdoors. After stints in China, South East Asia and Australia now calls Frankfurt his home. Has a soft spot for champagne and can never get enough schnitzel. Avid traveller and keen photographer.