The history of Schauspielhaus Bochum

The history of Schauspielhaus Bochum begins in 1908 when the Apollo Theater, a variety theatre belonging to the property developer Clemens Erlemann, opens in the Königsallee. From 1910 a city “theatre commission” supports the theatre’s management and subsidises it with civic funds. After Erlemann goes bankrupt the city buys the theatre building in January 1914. However, during the First World War only visiting productions are performed there. The Bochum City Theatre opens on 30 December 1915 with Friedrich Schiller’s Don Carlos, a visiting production from the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus.

1919 – 1949

The moment when Schauspielhaus Bochum was founded is considered to be the appointment of Saladin Schmitt as Artistic Director. Schmitt hires the first Bochumer Ensemble in November 1918 and opens the city-owned company with Franz Grillparzer’s Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen on 15 April 1919.


The date of this premiere has since been regarded as the day Schauspielhaus Bochum was founded. Under Saladin Schmitt Bochum’s theatre soon makes a name for itself as a stage for Shakespeare and subsequently undertakes an intense exploration of the German classics. Stars of the Bochumer Ensemble in this period include Gisela Uhlen and Horst Caspar. Following the seizure of power, the building run by Saladin Schmitt is turned into a theatre that represents National Socialism. Its programming is influenced from Berlin.  German authors and to a certain extent anti-Semitic plays are demanded and performed.
In an air raid on 4 November 1944 the theatre is almost completely destroyed. In the eight years from 1945 until its reconstruction performances are held in the restaurant of Bochum’s City Park.  While the theatre is able to sustain performances in this way, the present Schauspielhaus Bochum is constructed in the Königsallee, partly using the foundations of the previous building, and is completed in autumn 1953. It is designed by the architect Gerhard Graubner, who is commissioned in 1950. In keeping with Graubner’s plans the Kammerspiele will subsequently be built directly adjacent to the Schauspielhauses on the site of Haus Rechen. This opens in October 1966.

1949 – 1972

Saladin Schmitt is succeeded as Artistic Director by Hans Schalla in the 1949/1950 season. Schmitt ran the Schauspielhaus throughout the Weimar Republic, the era of National Socialism, the period of occupation and into the first year of the Federal Republic.


In the 1950s and 1960s the second Artistic Director Hans Schalla establishes the plays of modern authors such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Samuel Beckett. Schalla and his stage and costume designer, head of design, director and Deputy Artistic Director Max Fritsche who worked at the Schauspielhaus for over twenty years jointly create “the Bochum style”, for which the Schauspielhaus becomes famous and which leads to numerous touring engagements. It is characterised by a concise, post-expressionist acting style in clear and analytical spaces.

1972 – 1979

With the appointment of Peter Zadek as Artistic Director from 1972, director’s theatre arrives in Bochum. Zadek brings young directors who have trained in Britain to the theatre. Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his actors from the Munich “anti-theater” is also a guest in Bochum.


Radical changes to the subscription system, the launch of the BO-Kino and open rehearsals are among other notable features of these years.  Contemporary observers summarised this change as: “with Zadek the suits went out and jeans came into the theatre.”  In 1972 Zadek opens a third, smaller venue underneath the auditorium for studio productions, the Theater Unten. Also in the Königsallee Peter Zadek’s fruitful collaboration begins with the protagonist of his most spectacular productions: Ulrich Wildgruber, who until his death will be seen in all Shakespeare’s major roles under Zadek’s direction. Zadek’s legendary productions in Bochum include his opening production Kleiner Mann, was nun?, an adapatation of Hans Fallada, and Hamlet in the BO-Fabrik.

1979 – 1986

The Schauspielhaus flourishes once again from the beginning of the 1980s under the Artistic Directorship of Claus Peymann. The Bochumer Ensemble, with stars such as Gert Voss, Kirsten Dene and Traugott Buhre is regarded as the most innovative theatre in the Federal Republic at this time.


Peymann focuses on world premieres by contemporary playwrights such as Thomas Bernhard, Heiner Müller, Franz Xaver Kroetz, Gerlind Reinshagen and Peter Turrini together with acutely political readings of classic plays. Landmark productions during this years include Die Hermannsschlacht by Heinrich von Kleist and Der Weltverbesserer by Thomas Bernhard with Bernhard Minetti.

1986 – 1995

After Peymann left for the Vienna Burgtheater in 1986, Frank-Patrick Steckel takes over as Director in the Königsallee. He creates a more thoughtful theatre with fewer effects and brings directors such as Andrea Breth and Jürgen Gosch to Bochum for the first time.


Frank-Patrick Steckel is also joined by the choreographer Reinhild Hoffmann and her dance theatre, which become part of the Bochumer Ensemble. Reinhild Hoffmann opens a new venue, Zeche Eins, in Prinz-Regent-Straße.

1995 – 2000

In 1995 Leander Haußmann arrives at the theatre as Germany’s youngest Artistic Director. In deliberate contrast to his predecessors Haussmann, together with his fellow directors Jürgen Kruse and Dimiter Gotscheff, announces a modern theatre influenced by pop culture that successfully appeals to a younger audience.


Significant productions from this time include Die Vaterlosen by  Anton Chekhov performed over two evenings and Haussmann’s world premiere of Germania 3 by Heiner Müller.

2000 – 2005

Leander Haußmann is followed in 2000 by Matthias Hartmann, who also succeeds in generating publicity with coups such as hiring Harald Schmidt and a series of acclaimed productions.


Professional journals repeatedly praise Schauspielhaus Bochum as one of the leading German-speaking theatres. In 2005 Hartmann leaves Bochum to take over as Artistic Director of the Zürcher Schauspielhaus and subsequently moves to the Vienna Burgtheater.

2005 – 2010

From 2005 to 2010 Elmar Goerden takes over as Artistic Director. He arrives with the slogan Von hier aus (“From This Point”) and promises a serious repertoire concentrating on classics old and new from   Shakespeare to Botho Strauss.


The directors working in Bochum in this period include Dieter Giesing, Jorinde Dröse, Tina Lanik, Lisa Nielebock, Frank Abt, Jan Bosse and Markus Dietz. After the theatre’s storerooms burn down in the summer of 2006, Goerden initiates the new play festival Ohne alles (“Without Everything”) which is so successful it is extended across three seasons.

2010 – 2017

Anselm Weber is Artistic Director in the Königsallee from 2010 to 2017. In addition to artists from the Ruhr region and all over Germany he also invites international guests to work at the theatre. They present their perspectives on the future, on Europe and what they find in the region.


Leading directors include the Dutch artists Eric de Vroedt and Paul Koek, the Polish director Jan Klata, resident director Roger Vontobel and Hermann Schmidt-Rahmer.

2017 / 2018

Olaf Kröck’s season as Artistic Director in 2017/2018 is characterised by theatre productions that have not previously been seen in Bochum, such as the world premiere of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and two commissioned works by Laura Naumann and Nesrin Şamdereli.


By redesigning the square in front of the theatre, re-opening the Eve Bar and hosting the “3rd National Assembly of Theatre Ensembles” the theatre opens itself to a broad range of audience groups.

The Present

The Dutch theatremaker and director Johan Simons has been the Artistic Director of Schauspielhaus Bochum since 2018/2019. He regards the Schauspielhaus as a repertoire and ensemble theatre in its most modern form: a place where the visual arts, theatre and dance meet – as do politics, pop music and artists from many different nations. The new acting ensemble shows cultural influences from numerous countries in Europe and around the world. Alongside contemporary interpretations of classical texts the repertoire consists of world premieres and devised works. A new centre for media arts, the Oval Office, opens in the theatre’s basement which audiences may visit free of charge. For the first time since the era of Reinhild Hoffmann Zeche Eins is again regularly used as a venue for performances. The series  Konzerte im Schauspielhaus powered by Brost-Stiftung presents a wide range of musicians working outside the mainstream. 

The history of Junges Schauspielhaus Bochum

2000 – 2005

The Junge Schauspielhaus Bochum was officially founded in 2000. Under the artistic direction of Anette Raffalt, various productions of theatre plays for children and young people are created, while youth clubs and workshops for young people are offered.

2005 – 2018

From 2005-2018, Martina van Boxen establishes the Junges Schauspielhaus Bochum as a place of encounter, communication and creativity - with educational trainings, workshops, youth clubs and director's workshops in the fields of theatre, dance, music, media and literature. Professional in-house productions for children from the age of three, artistic works with young people and adults, diverse cooperation projects flow into the extensive repertoire.

The Present

With the 2018/2019 season, Cathrin Rose takes over as artistic director of the Junges Schauspielhaus, whose programme is characterised by new narrative forms for a modern and diverse urban society. In addition to plays for the whole family, artistic productions are developed with children, young people and adults. The theatre education programme is also aimed at people with disabilities and includes dance, puppet theatre and research projects.

From the 2020 season onwards, a separate venue for children's and youth theatre is established – the Theaterrevier. With the support of the Ministry of Culture and Science in North Rhine-Westphalia as part of the Neue Wege programme, a new, vibrant theatre and meeting space for all generations is opened on the former site of the Prinz Regent collierywhich stands for creativity and dialogue between art and pedagogy. The Drama Control, a children's and youth supervisory board consisting of 15 people between the ages of 4 and 21, manages the Theaterrevier together with the team of the Junges Schauspielhaus.

Artistic Directors

  • Saladin Schmitt (1919 – 1949) 
  • Hans Schalla (1949 – 1972) 
  • Peter Zadek and directorate (1972 – 1979) 
  • Claus Peymann (1979 – 1986) 
  • Frank-Patrick Steckel (1986 – 1995) 
  • Leander Haußmann (1995 – 2000) 
  • Matthias Hartmann (2000 – 2005) 
  • Elmar Goerden (2005 – 2010) 
  • Anselm Weber (2010 – 2017) 
  • Olaf Kröck (2017/2018)
  • Johan Simons (since 2018)

Further information

Further and more detailed information about Schauspielhaus Bochum and its previous Artistic Directors can be researched in the Bochum City Archives. This also applies to requests for production photos and audio-visual recordings of productions that predate Johan Simons’ arrival as Artistic Director in2018/2019. Schauspielhaus Bochum does not possess its own archive.

T +49 (0)234 / 910 95 00
E Stadtarchiv-BoZ [​at​]

Stadtarchiv – Bochumer Zentrum für Stadtgeschichte
Wittener Straße 47
44789 Bochum

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