- (German: People's Theatre) A subscriptionorganization founded in 1890 in Berlin (as the Freie Volksbühne)to bring quality drama to a working-class audience. In 1914 it openedits own 2000-seat theater on the Bülowplatz. The Volksbühneproduced much socially committed work in the new naturalistic style, introducingShaw to German theatregoers and fostering the early careersof the directors Max Reinhardt, Jürgen Fehling, andErwin Piscator. By 1930 the Volksbühne boasted morethan 300 branches and some 500,000 members throughout Germany.
Although the Nazis closed the Volksbühne in 1937, itexperienced a postwar renaissance in 1948 in both West and East Germany.In East Berlin, the rebuilt Volksbühne Theatre opened in 1954and went on to stage impressive work under the management of the Swissdirector Benno Besson (1969 - 79). The playwright Heiner Müllerdirected his popular version of Macbeth there in 1982. In WestBerlin, the Volksbühne company returned to its original ideals,moving into a new theater in 1963 under Piscator. In the former WestGermany, there were about 65 towns with resident companies. Reunificationof the country in 1990 led to a merger of the divided Volksbühne.