Historic Municipal Theatre Grein

Historic Municipal Theatre Grein


The oldest surviving
municipal theatre in Austria is the charming historical
theatre in Grein on the Danube. The theatre is located
in the former town hall, which was built in the year 1563. In the 16th century, the rear of the
building was converted into a granary. In fact, Grein grew rich from
shipping along the Danube. This shipping included grain, and the granary served
as a transfer site. In the late 18th century, an
amateur theatre company was formed, which donated the proceeds
from its performances to the poor. Soon, however, the company found that the venues were it performed –
desanctified churches or inns – were not suited to theatre. And so, in the autumn of 1790, town councillor Franz Xaver Dörr
requested the conversion of the granary, which was no longer
being used, into a theatre. The theatre was built in 1791. The town soon earned back the money that it had put into construction. The theatre usually hosted the
local amateur theatre company, whose actors received no pay, and so the earnings were divided between the poor and the city coffers. Also, when travelling theatre
troupes used the theatre, they paid a large part of
their earnings to the city. The theatre was thus a money-making
enterprise for the town. The stage has been
renovated numerous times. It was repaired after World War II, and saw several further
waves of modernization, so today it possesses modern equipment. The auditorium has been
preserved in its original form, including several interesting
and unique features. The seats in the first
three rows can be locked. Local burghers would prepay for
a week, month or the whole year. Their subscription included
a key for their own seat, which they unlocked only when
they came to a performance. Another interesting
feature is the toilet located in the
auditorium’s side wall. The theatre is located in
what used to be the town hall, which also included the local jail. When the theatre was built, the jail was connected to
the theatre by a small window, so the prisoners who were there could watch the performances. The audience gave them
food, drinks, and tobacco so they wouldn’t disturb the performance. Today, the old jail is used to store the costumes and props. The only historical items to have survived
are several costume items: Some shoes, hats, and so on. The local amateur troupe
used the municipal theatre until the 1950s. In 1956, the company was dissolved, and so the theatre went
dark for some time. In 1964, it was discovered
by Viennese actress Hilde Günther, who held the first summer
festival in town that year. Today, the theatre is again used
by a local amateur theatre troupe, meaning that during the theatre season, from May to October or November, the theatre hosts amateur
as well as professional actors. In addition to theatre performances, the theatre is open to
the public during the day as part of the municipal museum
inside the old town hall. Visitors can admire the
painted curtain from 1928, with a view of Grein as it looked in the late 18th century. The town of Grein is a popular
tourist destination in summer. It is located along a bicycle
route leading along the Danube. Also worth visiting besides the
theatre and the charming city centre is Greinburg Castle
on a hill above town, where you will find
a shipping museum.

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