The Sophiensæle are located in the former building of the craftsman's association, whose turbulent history begins with its construction in 1904/1905. It was built in one of the oldest streets of the Berlin-Mitte: the over 300-year-old Sophienstraße.
Founded in 1844, the craftsman’s association was a special type of educational society for blue-collar workers. Its purpose was to offer specialized jobtraining for craftsmen and prepare them for their master craftsman’s diploma examination and to host friendly get-togethers.
The building complex, whose ground plot resembles an “H”, consisted of over 90 rooms, instruction rooms, a restaurant with a beer garden, a library, a skittle alley, and more. The Festsaal (banquet hall) and the restaurant on the ground floor were rented out to an independent leaseholder under the name Sophien-Säle (Sophien-halls). Already at the time, the Festsaal was a popular location for theatre shows.
The building’s most meaningful time politically began with its use by the working class movement in the early 20th century. In the 1910s and ‘20s, the building was frequently used as an assembly space by the revolutionary left in Berlin, who were based on the nearby Rosenthaler Straße. Famous revolutionaries Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg spoke here. During the Third Reich, forced labourers from Holland produced propaganda-leaflets for the Nazis in the Festsaal. In the German Democratic Republic, the rooms were used by the Maxim Gorki Theatre as workshops: While the Hochzeitssaal (wedding hall) functioned as a dining hall and the Festsaal held a large carpenter’s workshop.
In the fall of 1996, the Sophiensæle was opened as a space for independent theatre production with the premiere of Sasha Waltz‘ successful play Allee der Kosmonauten (Boulevard of the Cosmonauts). The production was invited to the festival Theatertreffen in 1997 and quickly generated public interest in the new theatre. From 2000 to 2007 Amelie Deuflhard took over as artistic director of the theatre, followed (until 2010) by Heike Albrecht. Since 2011 the artistic director of Sophiensæle is Franziska Werner. Today, Sophiensæle is one of the most important locations for German-speaking independent art-production.
A guided historical tour through the building takes place twice per quarter and on request for groups of 5 or more. You can reach us by phone at (030) 2789 00 34 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.