Over 250 students, who hail from Austria, Switzerland, the U.S., South Africa, Korea and Germany, attend Stage School Hamburg. A 70-strong, international team of instructors teaches them dance, singing and acting during the three-year course. The curriculum has 16 different subjects including singing techniques, interpreting songs, acting methods, ensemble staging, ballet and jazz.
Vital live performances
The feeling for live performances is vital and cannot be learnt in classrooms. Dealing with stage fright, timing and improvisation has to be experienced live. Thomas Gehle, Managing Director of Stage School, said: “Performances in front of an audience – like our monthly Monday Night Performances are part of the school’s concept.” Until now, they were performed on stages leased in the Altonaer Theater or in the Kammerspiele. “But this era is over,” said a delighted Gehle, adding, “First Stage is our own school stage and that means a long-held dream has come true.”
Eight months of renovation at a cost of EUR 1 million
This new dream has taken shape in Thedestraße 15 in Altona at a cost of around EUR 1 million in eight month-renovations and without state subsidies. The refurbished building can seat 279 guests. “The theatre was gutted and the roof alone cost us a whopping EUR 200,000 as it had to renewed owing to statics and fire protection regulations,” said Gehle.
The renovations were nerve-wracking, but worthwhile. Stage School students now have a theatrical venue with many opportunities for performances. “Our stage is also open to external artists,” Gehle explained. Some highlights of the programme are: “On March 20, we will present ‘ Zeig, was in dir tanzt 3.0’ which is a colourful mix of free dance, hip hop, traditional dance and breakdance performed by around 50 refugee children and youths. In June, the musical “42 Second Street” will conjure up Broadway vibes and glamour and later “Buddy Holly Reloaded” will be staged before summer holidays.
Off Broadway in the world’s third largest musical city
The theatre is being financed through 20 annual rentals to third parties. Gehle also expressed hope that First Stage could enhance the theatrical offer in Hamburg along the lines of “an off Broadway, away from the mainstream where small, fine works have a stage. That has been lacking so far even though Hamburg is the world’s third largest musical city after New York and London!”
Coping with stage fright
Students at Stage School hope their training will lead to performances in Hamburg, New York and London and stage experience is a must. “Absolutely and even to cope with stage fright,” says Anja Launhardt, head of department at Stage School and with responsibilitly for entrance exams and workshops in Germany for would-be students. “Hardly any artist has not thought before a performance: ‘that’s it. I’ve forgotten every step. I can’t sing a note. I don’t know what play this is.” A recipe for stage fright does not exist, “only experience on stage can help”.