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The Schauspielhaus Zürich ( ) is one of the most prominent and important theatres in the German-speaking world. It is also known as "Pfauenbühne" (Pfauen Stage) after its location on the Pfauen Square in Zürichmarker, Switzerlandmarker. The large theatre has 750 seats. The Schauspielhaus also operates three stages in the Schiffbau in the western part of Zurich, the Schiffbau/Halle (400 seats), the Schiffbau/Box (up to 200 seats) and the Schiffbau/Matchbox (80 seats).


The building was constructed in 1892 as the Volkstheater am Pfauen (People's Theater on the Pfauen Square) with a Bavarianmarker beer garden and a bowling alley. It served initially as a music hall or vaudeville stage. In 1901 the building was rented by the director of the Zurich Opera Housemarker and opened as a play house with Goethe's comedy Die Mitschuldigen (The Accomplices). From 1903 until 1926 the play house was run by a private cooperative.

In 1926 Zürich wine wholesaler and play house director Ferdinand Rieser acquired the house and had it renovated. Then in 1938 it was leased to the Neue Schauspiel AG, a company founded by the city of Zürich in order to save the theater from its financial difficulties. When the lease ran out in 1952, the citizens of Zürick refused to purchase the house for the proposed price of 3 million Swiss francs. Upon their refusal, UBS AG, a Swiss banking group, stepped in to purchase the building and arranged a new lease arrangement with the Neue Schauspiel AG.

However, the effort to establish an ambitious theater in Zürich was met with little success at first, and until 1933 the theater was rarely thought of outside of Switzerland.

After 1933, however, many important actors and directors immigrated to Switzerland from Germanymarker and Austriamarker. With the help of these artists, the theater achieved great success, staging many anti-fascist works, importantly the world-premiers of several plays by Bertolt Brecht. During this time the Schauspielhaus Zürich was the largest free stage in the German-speaking world, as stages in Germany and Austria were strictly regulated.

After the war, the theater retained its important place in world and German-language theater. During this time it saw world premiers of such important playwrights as Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt

In 2002 and 2003 the theater experienced a new artistic blooming and was chosen as theater of the year twice by Theater heute (Theater Today), the most important and widely-read German theater publication.


  • 1929 – 1938 Ferdinand Rieser
  • 1938 – 1961 Oskar Wälterlin
  • 1961 – 1964 Kurt Hirschfeld
  • 1965 – 1968 Leopold Lindtberg
  • 1968 – 1969 Teo Otto, Erwin Parker, Otto Weissert
  • 1969 – 1970 Peter Löffler
  • 1970 – 1977 Harry Buckwitz
  • 1978 – 1982 Gerhard Klingenberg
  • 1982 – 1989 Gerd Heinz
  • 1989 – 1992 Achim Benning
  • 1992 – 1999 Gerd Leo Kuck
  • 1999 – 2000 Reinhard Palm
  • 2000 – 2004 Christoph Marthaler
  • 2004 – 2005 Andreas Spillmann
  • 2005 – 2009 Matthias Hartmann
  • since 2009 Barbara Frey

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