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Ernst Dronke on Popular Theater, Bourgeois Theater, and Court Theater in Berlin (1846)

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The proletarians and the lower classes have their own artistic institutions in some corners of the capital. One of these is very close to the Tiergarten district. The theater consists of a small, dark hut which is characteristically nicknamed "The Shaky Wall." The troupe is a family – husband, wife, a few children – who took on this business merely to lure customers to their bar. Here, the poorest come to socialize: propertyless workers, ship's boys, day laborers, and unemployed craftsmen. Prostitution, too, is found here in its deepest degradation. The spectators sit on wooden benches or on the floor and see, for an entry fee of 1 1/2 Groschen, the most marvelous burlesques and the most senseless, disconnected presentations. Schnapps and a light beer-like drink are passed around and the spectators often participate in the actors' sad comedy. The end is usually of the sort that one expects from the drunkenness and moral laxity of these people from the "lower depths." We shouldn't be surprised to note that the police, who are always nearby, are powerless to change or improve the situation. Other "orderly" theaters of this sort, scattered throughout other neighborhoods, are not fundamentally different. The audience is comprised of maids and craftsmen, looking for entertainment after work. Sometimes it ends in a brawl, and the anger of both sides is often re-directed towards the police. These are the only places where the "folk" seeks spiritual enjoyment, intellectual rejuvenation, and even if the circumstances here are most pathetic, one should remember that the propertyless classes have nothing else.

The Königliche Bühne is, as I have already suggested, a pleasure palace for the wealthy. The new opera house is surely one of the most grand on the whole continent, while the theater and concert hall for French comedies offer a small segment of the population their entertainment. One would believe that, in a city like Berlin, extraordinary efforts would be made for the main entertainment center of the propertied classes. Yet under the present government or, more accurately, since the installation of Munich's Herr von Küstner as artistic director in Berlin, so many voices have protested the lack of a cultural life worthy of a capital city that it is worth looking at the state of affairs at the court theater under the helm of Chevalier Küstner.

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