History of the Theatre House

HELIOS Theater moved from Cologne to Hamm in 1997. The ensemble followed the invitation of the City of Hamm, to set up the first professional theatre in the city of 180.000 inhabitants. An interesting challenge for an independent theatre company which had worked primarily as a touring theatre from Cologne. The desire for and interest in conceptional work and setting up structures for a theatre was big, and so HELIOS Theater moved from the "metropole" to the "countryside" in 1997. In the beginning, the performances took place in a shared space in the "Bürgersaal", but soon the ensemble started looking for a long term solution, a possible future theatre house.

 

After the first visit of the buildings of the former express mail station, it was obvious that this was the perfect place for the theatre, connected to and interesting developable outside terrain. Now the research for financial support for the reconstruction began. The old post-hovel was nice and well situated but old, wet and without any heating as well. An almost rotten building ensemble directly connected to the world by the central station.

The members of the theatre searched for possible reconstruction programmes by themselves and explored one of the last promoting programmes of the International Building Exhibition Emscherpark (IBA). The IBA worked for North Rhine-Westphalia and was instructed to reorganise disused industrial facilities. There was the possibility to support the reconstruction with 1.8 million DM (about 1 million €) if certain conceptual conditions were fulfilled. The City of Hamm and the “Deutsche Bahn AG” were supposed to add another 100,000 DM (about 50,000 €) each.

Then time stood still. The decision makers of the central station were hard to convince to support a project which included the rent-free use of a building for cultural use. Only a few individual supporters at the central station, the City of Hamm Barbara Kölling and Michael Lurse from HELIOS Theater as the moving spirit pushed the decision and took care that the raised funds would not expire until the restauration could start.

Together with the participating architects a concept of reconstruction was followed that should preserve the old structure of the building with a cautious emphasis on the old architectural features. At the same time it was important to keep in mind the necessary functions of the house, being a theatre especially for children. It was not an easy task regarding the fixed amount of money of 1 million DM (about 500.000 €) for the entire reconstruction. Intensive investigations and a symposium about “Children Theatre Houses” in January 2004 supported the conceptual work and the plans for the interior design. 

The result was a variable theatre hall with an area of more than 280 square meter and a height of 5 meter. Because of the telescopic tribune the stage can be seen from the front or as in an arena, so that the audience sits on two or three sides. All in all the room offers space for 200 people who have a perfect view of the stage from all seats.

 

After an enduring period of waiting, of defiant planning and stubborn convincing the reconstruction has been given the green light form all the participating parties. In September 2003 the reconstruction began with a ground-breaking ceremony. Due to the precise preorganisation and no big “surprises” throughout the period of reconstruction the interior work didn’t take longer than 12 months.

It can be indicated from many subtleties that the theatre house focuses on children and teenagers: There is the children’s foyer on the ground floor. Up to 150 children can take a seat on wooden furniture suitable for children before and after the performances, e.g. to have their breakfast together. It is also a perfect place to prepare the children for a play or to talk more extensively about performances afterwards. The furnishings have been made by a group of retired manual workers, created and built specially for the theatre. The complete furniture (even the cloak hooks and the counter) have been built in three different heights so that even three year old children are able to move independently, to hang up their jackets and to buy a ticket on their own. On the first floor there is another atmospherical room for workshops, rehearsals and also discussions.

With a three day theatre ceremony from September 10th to 12th 2004 the house was officially opened.