The first German theater company in the USSR was founded on February 6, 1975, by order of the Ministry of Culture of the Kazakh SSR. In the same year, a special acting course was started at the Shchepkin Higher Theatre School of the Maly Theater of the USSR, and in five years after time, 29 degreed actors came to the city of Temirtau, where they would become a part of the country's first professional German theater. The official opening date of the Republican German Drama Theatre is December 26, 1980. It is the date of the theater’s very first premiere. "The Firsts" is a play based on the text by the Russian-German writer Alexander Reimgen.
During the first decade of its existence, the theater was focused on traveling to places with large populations of ethnic Germans and it paved the way to the “Renaissance” movement, raising national, political and social issues. The very titles of the plays and performances spoke volumes about what Germans wanted to say and hear. Here are just some of the titles of plays of that time: "The Firsts" by A. Reimgen, "Echoes of Those Years" by K. Ehrlich, "We Are Not Dust in The Wind" by G. Arngold, "People and Destiny" by W. Heinz.
52 German-speaking actors comprised the ensemble of the German theater in the first ten years of its existence. The repertoire consisted of more than 40 performances in German and Russian languages.
The theater moved to Alma-Ata in 1989. And here the young German theater was faced with an unparalleled challenge. Along with all the difficulties of the final years of the previous century that the Soviet Union citizens had to face, the 1990s were marked by the large migration of ethnic diasporas to their historic homelands. Almost two million Germans left Kazakhstan for Germany during this period.
The government of newly independent Kazakhstan and the Federal Republic of Germany supported Kazakhstan's German diaspora in its desire to preserve its national identity, language and culture.
The development of cultural cooperation between the two nations lead to the joint agreement on creating a German theatrical academy at the Institute of Theater and Cinema named after Temirbek Zhurgenov (now known as the Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts). The course accepted students of different nationalities and they were taught by specialists from the FRG.
In 1992, the first year of the German academy took in 20 young Germans selected from 50 applicants living in Kazakhstan and in neighboring regions. The second enrollment was announced in the following year, 1993. The students of these two courses immediately became the actors of the theater.
The Academy was headed by Mr. Werner Viera-Bringel (under the stage name Freitag), a specialist from the Federal Republic of Germany and a professor of acting, who set up an intensive training process. The students of the academy had the opportunity to study, while also performing on a theater stage.
The Academy graduates of the years 1996 and 1998 became the core of the newly created and now existing Nemetski Theatre.
A graduate of the latter of the two was Natasha Dubs, who now serves as the principal director and the artistic director of the theater.
This was a new and completely different generation of actors who had received European theater education, which inevitably influenced the acting technique and aesthetics of the theater in general.
The Almaty German theater was introduced to the larger world with a play called “Field of Miracles” by I. Lauzund, which was a final year project of the second intake of the Academy. The success of the play during its 1998 tour around Germany brought unexpected good news for the theater. It was invited to the festival of German-speaking student groups in Munich as an out-of-competition performance, where the delighted jury awarded it with a special prize.
Subsequently, the play “Field of Miracles" took part in the "Theaterformen Expo 2000" festival in Hannover, as well as the festival of German theater in Gera, the festival of young actors in Bensheim, and the Auawirleben festival in Bern. The play also became a part of the out-of-competition program at the Theater der Welt festival in Berlin, and was shown in Amsterdam and Basel.
The German theater gained recognition throughout Europe and was given the European name “DTA” (Deutsches Theater Almaty). It became known as a free platform for joint projects with directors from Europe, Russia and Asia, and a place for lively discussions and creative experiments. The new style, although chaotic, was vivid and provocative. The theater followed its own path and was the only experimental theater in the country, which performed in German and with a repertoire comprising such authors as H. Bell, B. Brecht, F. Schiller, M. Auezov, Moliere, S. Mrozek, E. Schwartz, A. Chekhov, J. Goethe, A. Jarry, T. Williams, D. Joyce, W. Shakespeare, H. Buchner, and R. Schimmelpfennig.
In 2000, for the first time in its history, the Solitude Castle Academy in Stuttgart awarded a group stipend to six people from the DTA. Directors and actors of the DTA had the opportunity to live and work in Germany for six months and brought back two new productions based on M. Baliani and O. Irvanets.
In the early 2000s, DTA visited major festivals and toured to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Russia, where it successfully showcased Kazakhstani theatrical art. The theater has established working relations with various cultural institutes both in Kazakhstan and in Europe, and the influence of the European culture has helped to expand creative boundaries with innovative ideas and daring directorial visions.
Today, the theater’s ensemble consists of 28 bright and talented individuals. Most of them are graduates from different years of the German course of the Zhurgenov Academy. Natasha Dubs herself was the professor and master of the 2013 and 2019 graduations. In 2020, a new group of students from the ninth enrollment into the German course joined the ensemble, and they also have the opportunity to study acting while performing on a theater stage. This algorithm of continuity is the main proof of the theater's preservation of the traditions established in the 1990s.
The constant addition of "fresh blood" helps the Nemetski Theater retain its youthfulness.
Today, the theater’s repertoire includes the best examples of world classics: Chekhov's "Three Sisters", Gogol's "The Government Inspector", and Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream". They can be seen on stage in the director’s original vision.
There are also productions based on plays by contemporary European authors: Kerstin Specht's "Zero Feet Flights" (Germany); plays in German: "The Final Chorus" by Boto Strauss, and "Andorra" by Max Frisch.
The repertoire also contains works by Kazakh authors. For instance, one of the theater's most striking works – "Karagoz" is based on a play by Mukhtar Auezov. According to experts, this is a very modern play, which uses the traditions of contemporary European physical theater. The production is a collaborative effort with the Goethe-Institut, through which the play was translated into German for the first time in the world. The production uses three languages: German and Kazakh with simultaneous interpretation into Russian. This remarkable theatrical project was directed jointly by Natasha Dubs and a renowned choreographer from Germany, Florian Bilbao.
Alongside with three other creative teams, the Nemetski Theater took this play on a European tour, which included five European capitals. The play "Karagoz" was seen by audiences in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Vienna, and Moscow.
Currently the German Republican Drama Theatre is experiencing another interesting period in its life – adjusting to its new location on 70/1 Papanin Street.
The Republican German Drama Theatre still remains as the only professional German theater in the CIS territory, and serves as one of the institutions preserving and popularizing the German language and German culture. As part of this mission, it often cooperates with the German cultural center "Wiedergeburt" and with the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan; it is in close partnership with the Goethe-Institut of Kazachstan, the Consulate General and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Kazakhstan.
First and foremost, the Nemetski Theater is a professional theater, striving to be highly artistic and modern – a singular island of European culture in Central Asia.