TheaterTotal – Moving People to the Core

  • Youths in white clothing performing on a stage
    Photo Galery: TheaterTotal, Photos: project owner
  • Youths in white costumes walking in circles, each with his or her hands on the sholders of the person in front
    "You can change the world, if you really want to!"

What's really needed in our society, and what can one individual contribute? 18 years ago, actress Barbara Wollrath-Kramer asked herself these very questions - and found a very unique answer when she founded the project TheaterTotal in Bochum.

The workshop is a place where young people can develop new perspectives on their lives and career choices. The workshop focuses on learning through experience and becoming familiar with full range of creative professions related to the theatre. “Young people should be able to experience how art can be used to move people to their cores, and at the same time how the artist is able to express herself in a unique way,” the founder explained. In addition to practical experience and new professional orientation, the social entrepreneur is above all focused on encouraging young people to assume responsibility: “My biggest goal is for young people learn to take responsibility for themselves, for others and for the environment”.

Each year 30 young people from all over Germany, between the ages of 17 and 25, receive an opportunity to work together with professional artists, craftsmen, technicians, scientists and educators. For ten months, participants develop independent cultural projects with courage, perseverance and team spirit. In doing so they cooperate with various schools, institutions and companies. The path towards discovery and strengthening their own talents and abilities winds its way through the arts, craftsmanship, economics and social action. The participants' daily schedules for the first seven months include dance, acting, singing, fencing, drawing, painting, drama, media design, scenery and costume design and production, lighting and sound technology, marketing and much more. As a part of the project, a play or performance is developed and performed publicly. In the last three months of the project, the group members take their self-selected and rehearsed play on tour throughout Germany. Organisation, marketing, and public relations work for the tour are also left in the hands of the participants. During this time, the young people also host workshops to share the knowledge and experience they've gained in TheaterTotal.

The success of the theatre-focused educational efforts are reflected in the many prizes and accolades that the project and its graduates have received. TheaterTotal has also garnered considerable attention from politics and society. Far more important to the initiators, however, is the long-term impact that TheaterTotal has had on the more than 500 young people who have graduated from the training program to date. “We've followed the development of young people after their time in TheaterTotal and are proud of the consistency with which our graduates master their studies and their careers,” says Barbara Wollrath-Kramer.

One of the theatre's mottos is 'You can change the world, if you really want to!' This means that those who recognize their creative abilities, train them, and then share them with others will succeed in the future. “For us the best confirmation of our work is to experience how young people are empowered by their experiences in the theatre to break existing patterns in their lives and to change”, says the founder.

“As a foundation, we primarily fund projects where we see people committed to other people. I find this spirit present at TheaterTotal in way that I've experienced in few places elsewhere,” says Helmut Habermehl, managing director of the Software AG Foundation. According to Habermehl, TheaterTotal has experienced remarkable development and is today seen as an exemplary model for successful projects with teenagers and young adults. “The founder herself serves as a model for the participants, in a unique and authentic way, of how one can implement a vision with tenacity and conviction in order to create something important from almost nothing. That is civil and social engagement in the best sense of the term.”