Youth theatre productions by the independent scene and municipal theatres represent an important, but often unappreciated fixture of the theatre landscape – a gateway through which young audiences often come in contact with theatre for the first time. Unlike other forms of art, youth theatre accompanies young people through various phases of their aesthetic and intellectual development. In close cooperation with schools, youth theatre reaches young people from a diverse range of social backgrounds and presents socially relevant, age-appropriate issues on stage and in the classroom. And as these young theatre goers grow up, they often become invested members of a culturally interested public sphere.
Youth theatre enjoys widespread public acceptance in such countries as Belgium and Sweden and is afforded corresponding funding. Moreover, artists from other artistic fields regularly collaborate with youth theatre. In Germany, however, theatre structures and financial and personnel resources hardly do justice to the cultural-political significance of youth theatre. These theatre groups operate with considerably smaller budgets and have far fewer personnel and material resources at their disposal. Whether it is youth dance, youth theatre or youth opera – artists and performers generally earn much less than professionals of “adult theatre”. This asymmetry is evident in educational institutions, at directing and acting schools, where there are seldom professional opportunities to work with young audiences and where youth theatre is often discouraged as a dead-end to one’s acting career. This attitude is reflected by the fact that established theatre critics often disregard or only superficially draw attention to the artistic productions and quality of youth theatre; one can find few, if any, reviews of youth theatre premieres in the culture pages and trade media.
In response to the present situation, the Federal Cultural Foundation has launched a national funding programme called “Jupiter – Performing Arts for Young Audiences” which aims to strengthen youth theatre in three essential areas: artists in the area of production, instructors and students in the area of education, and journalists in the area of reporting.
With the introduction of the “Jupiter” fund, the Federal Cultural Foundation once again underscores its commitment to the sustainability of the German theatre scene, a goal it has continuously pursued since 2005 when it established the Home Game funding programme. “Home Game” aimed to encourage theatres to actively address the social realities in their cities and regions. In 2008, the Wanderlust fund was created to enable theatres to establish international partnerships. This was followed by the Doppelpass fund in 2011 which promoted innovative collaborations between standing theatres and the independent theatre scene. With the “Jupiter” fund, the Federal Cultural Foundation now aims to throw its support behind the performing arts for young audiences.
Production funding comprises the core of the programme. Its purpose is to encourage youth theatres, youth opera divisions and youth dance programmes to explore new dimensions of future-oriented cooperation. The aim is to initiate and experiment with new formats and promote national/international constellations of artistic exchange. Funding is granted to innovative, cross-genre projects, productions carried out in cooperation with independent groups, with performance venues and/or festivals, or with artists who have never or only rarely been involved in youth theatre before.
The funding aims to help youth theatre groups to develop and carry out attractive projects with model-like character and increase public awareness and appreciation of the qualities of youth theatre.
To be eligible for production funding, applicants must be theatres whose programmes include regular productions targeted at young audiences. These include youth theatres with their own venues, standing theatres, opera houses and dance companies with a “youth division”.
Education – symposiums, workshops
This programme line promotes professional exchange and critical discourse at multiple levels with a focus on current and innovative international approaches to and perspectives on youth theatre. A public symposium will bring representatives of directing and acting schools together with artists and organisers of youth theatre and so-called “adult theatre”. Its goal is to initiate professional contacts with theatres, acting schools and organisations, strengthen networks, stage excellent productions, and facilitate international exchange with performers and producers of youth theatre from other countries, e.g. Sweden and Belgium. Based on practical examples, the experiences and results of the funded youth theatre pieces will be evaluated and presented to theatre professionals to encourage others to adopt similar approaches.
Theatres receiving production funding should also collaborate with educational institutions – e.g. acting or directing schools. The goal is to initiate dialogue between theatres and instructors and introduce students to the performing arts for young audiences at an early stage of their education.
In addition, representatives of the funded youth theatres will be invited to regular working meetings to discuss formats and share ideas, as well as explore possibilities for further projects, guest performance venues, future coproductions etc.
Reporting – academy programme for theatre journalists
To increase awareness among theatre professionals about excellent youth theatre productions, journalists will have the opportunity to become better acquainted with youth theatre and expand their own viewing habits. To this end, a continuing education programme will be developed, consisting of three academies which include visits to theatre performances. By coming in contact with various theatres and selected productions and by engaging in dialogue with artists and producers, the theatre journalists will become familiar with the heterogenous landscape of youth theatre, its operations, organisational structures, protagonists and aesthetic methods. The programme invites young and experienced journalists nationwide from the areas of radio, television, print and online media to apply to participate in the academy.
The Federal Cultural Foundation has allocated a total of 3.7 million euros to finance Jupiter until 2026.