Quality over quantity: this is the unwritten law that determines which artists are invited to perform at Jena's annual Cultural Arena festival. Performers will be participating in a programme of contrasts, ushered in by a four-day theatre spectacular. This is then followed by a string of films, concerts, Sunday bills for children and various specials, in a line-up that is as unconventional as it is entertaining.
The origins of the Cultural Arena stem from a huge misunderstanding: in 1987, when Jena was still part of East Germany, the town council decided to demolish the theatre's auditorium in the hope of a newer, better building. But nothing happened – meaning that Jena was left with a semi-ruin with an open space in front of it, instead of a theatre. In 1991, however, a theatre team blessed with equal amounts of idealism and optimism began working in the ruins once more. They planted the seed of what subsequently grew into Jena's new theatre and the Cultural Arena. For more than 20 years now, enthusiastic audiences and exceptional artists have come together in the Cultural Arena to celebrate a special festival of the arts. The event, now a seven-week-long open air festival in the centre of Thuringia's second biggest city, is no longer an insider's tip, and the Arena has long been a fixture in Jena and far beyond. Headliners such as Patti Smith, Götz Alsmann, Ute Lemper, Lou Reed, John Cale, Nigel Kennedy, Einstürzende Neubauten, Element of Crime, Nina Hagen and Wir sind Helden draw crowds of up to 70,000 people each year. When you look at it like this, tearing down the theatre all those years ago was not such a bad decision after all.
2014-07-10 - 2014-08-24
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