The Sophiensæle is one of Berlin’s most important centers for the independent performing arts. Located in a historically protected building complex that was formerly home to the Berlin Craftsmen’s Association (Handwerkervereinshaus), Sophiensæle presents a broad, ever-changing spectrum of performing arts. Founded in 1996 as a theater by artists for artists, we consider it our core task to promote artistic growth and development. As such, our programming features a mixture of both established and emerging talents, as well as local and international perspectives. Our stages feature artists who work outside the boundaries of genre, exploring new possibilities within and beyond their disciplines and developing innovative forms that bridge the worlds of dance, performance, theater, visual arts, discourse, text, hospitality, and immersive gatherings.
Today, the Sophiensæle consists of two historic halls, the Festival Hall and the Wedding Hall, as well as the former canteen. From a historical perspective, the building represents a significant chapter in the history of workers’ emancipation: in 1905, the Berlin Craftsmen’s Association founded a workers’ educational association here, offering its members a new type of space for training, further education, and assemblies.
In 2011, parts of the complex were painstakingly renovated. This partial renovation preserved much of the space’s original character, allowing the rich history of the building complex to remain palpable throughout. Our open spaces, with their flexible configuration, are an ideal place for the needs of the independent performing arts. Here, artists find a platform to reflect on social developments from multiple perspectives and to question them artistically. A crucial factor in establishing a dialogue is the exchange of ideas—not only with the urban society, our audience, but also among the participants themselves. The Sophiensæle offers Berlin artists, with their diverse international ties, an artistic laboratory in which they can test and present new ideas. We set thematic priorities, which then take shape through annually changing curated festivals, series, and programming focused on bringing international perspectives into exchange with local ones. The center also cooperates with a large and diverse list of local, national, and international partners.
As a forward-thinking institution whose doors are open to all, we are in a constant state of change and evolution. A central concern of ours is to allow audiences and artists multiple points of access to our work. We work hard to cater to a range of communities and their needs, striving to remove barriers in all areas. As part of this, we ensure that many of our regular offerings are fully accessible. We also offer audiences self-critical reflection in relation to our production structures and programming, including in the Berlin network Making a Difference.
Additionally, we have a number of measures in place to promote young aesthetics. For example, Sophiensæle is the organizer of Tanztage Berlin and a founding member of the international production platform Freischwimmen.