The first Zürcher Theater Spektakel lasts eight days and takes place from 26 June to 2 July 1980, that is between the former Junifestwochen and the summer holidays. The founding team comprises theatre expert Jürg Woodtli, Wolfgang Wörnhard from Tages-Anzeiger and Nicolas Baerlocher of the Mayor's Department Zurich. Venues are three circus tents set up on the Landiwiese and the theatre of the Rote Fabrik. The eight-day programme, put together by Jürg Woodtli, Nicolas Baerlocher and Rolf Derrer, features 17 companies from Europe, the US and from Switzerland, such as Jango Edwards (USA), Farid Chopel (Algeria), Le Grand Cirque Magique (France) and Varieté Zirkus Aladin (Switzerland).
The Zurich audience is electrified by this new form of theatre and dance productions and flocks to the Landiwiese in great numbers: 12 500 tickets are sold during the first year. The following year, the festival duration is increased to 10 days and ranges between 12 to 18 days until the end of the eighties.
Jürg Woodtli's excellent knowledge of the international independent theatre and dance scene characterize the programmes of this decade. Artistic personalities and newly discovered talents from the off-theatre scene cause sensations with their idiosyncratic works. The programmes display a wide range of artistic expressions and handwritings: They include politically involved companies such as the Market Theatre (1987) from South Africa, the Catalan madmen of La Fura dels Baus (1985, 1988), the video-theatre pioneers of the Wooster Group (1983) from New York as well pioneering theatre authorities such as Peter Brook («Mahabarata, 1987) or Forced Entertainment (1987). Companies such as Spatz & Co., Sgaramusch or theatre artist Peter Rinderknecht demonstrate that theatre for young people can me much more than just reenacted fairytales.
The festival develops rapidly. The budget triples, the number of venues has raised from three to seven by 1988; five instead of two restaurants and bars serve the numerous visitors on the Landiwiese. The festival direction proves great inventiveness in creating new spaces for theatre. In 1985, the shipyard (Werft) of the Lake Zurich Navigation Company is used as a venue for the first time. In 1987, the vacant riding hall at the Gessnerallee is added. Various mobile constructions brought by the performing companies add further variety to the Landiwiese.
1982 Cornelia Howald leaves the Tages-Anzeiger to join the Theater Spektakel and takes over the administration of the festival.
1885 The festival lasts 21 days. A one-off event.
1987 The restaurant «Tao Yuan» with its Asian cuisine participates for the fist time.
1988 Res Bosshart and Werner Hegglin join the executive team. Werner Hegglin replaces Rolf Derrer as technical director.
1989 Jürg Woodtli leaves the executive team to join the newly opened Theaterhaus Gessnerallee. Res Bosshart becomes artistic director.
The Zürcher Theater Spektakel has become an established event in the cultural agenda of the City of Zurich. Members of the executive team are Res Bosshart, Werner Hegglin and Cornelia Howald. The programme committee, acting as an advisory body, consists of the executive team, the founding members Jürg Woodtli and Nicolas Bärlocher as well as Sandro Lunin (1993-1998), Esther Schmid (1990-2001) and Barbara Weber (1990-2001). In 1990, Markus Luchsinger, co-director of the Schauspielhaus Keller from 1985 to 1989, joins the executive team. Until 1994, he shares the artistic direction of the festival with Res Bosshart. He characterizes the programming of this decade and opens up new artistic dimensions for the festival. Performances by the Acco Theatre Centre from Israel («Arbeit macht frei vom Toitland», 1996) and the Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara (1996) shake up the audiences. The Theater Spektakel is one of the first festivals to present the bewildering works of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio from Italy («Amleto» 1992), the choreographies of the dance revolutionary Alain Platel & Les ballets C. de la B. («La Tristeza Complice», 1996) or the creations of great talents from Eastern Europe such as Eimuntas Nekrosius or Alvis Hermanis. In 1991, Al Warcha from Egypt is the first company from the Arabic world to perform at the festival.
The venues undergo big changes during this decade. The small circus tent was already replaced by the Pavillon in the 80s. In 1995, the time is up for the big circus tent. With around 900 seats, the Halle Blau takes over the role of the big venue. The same year, the Danspaleis becomes one of the permanent venues on the Landiwiese. In 1994, the Saffa Island is used as a performing space for the first time. Besides the Rote Fabrik, Gessnerallee and Werft, other locations fitting specific productions are used: The train station of Wiedikon (Compagnia Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, 1994), the synagog in Lengnau and the tunnel under Zurich's main station (Akko Theater, 1996) or the arsenals of the barracks (Enrique Vargas, 1998). In 1997 and 1999, the SEV-Halle Tiefenbrunnen, today home of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, is used as a festival venue. For the 20th edition of the festival in 1999, the Schaubühnchen opens as venue for children's theatre.
The «Tao Yuan», the «Bayou» (later «Bohemia» by Daniel Kehl and Two Spice Company), the restaurant by Christine Muser and gmt-Party-Team (today «L’Andis») and the wine bar by Jürg Stacher (today «Le cochon vert») are the cornerstones of the gastronomic establishments during the 90s.
1990 Due to a historic exhibition, the Theater Spektakel does not take place on the Landiwiese.
1991 The Patrons Association of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel is founded thanks to the driving force of the advertiser Hermann Strittmatter.
1994 Res Bosshart, co-director of the festival with Markus Luchsinger since 1990, leaves the executive team. Markus Luchsinger takes over the artistic direction.
1995 As of this year, the festival's duration is set to 18 days.
1996 Zürcher Kantonalbank and Schweizer Rück, today Swiss Re, become partners of the festival. // Der ZKB Patronage Prize of 20 000 Swiss Francs is awarded for the first time. // The «Röhrlibar» complements the gastronomic offer for kids and families.
1997 The festival boat, sponsored by the ZKB, is put into operation.
1999 20th edition of the festival. On the occasion of the jubilee, a new venue for children's theatre, the Schaubühnchen, opens. // The Theater Spektakel goes online: For the time being, there is only information, no tickets.
The first festival of the new millennium is dedicated to Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries. 16 theatre, dance and music productions from Bulgaria, Poland, Rumania, Hungary, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia and Yugoslavia present young stage works that have emerged from these countries after the political turmoils.
In 2001, Markus Luchsinger follows a call to the Berliner Festspiele. In 2002, Maria Magdalena Schwaegermann from Berlin succeeds him as artistic director. The programme committee is dissolved and replaced by dramaturgic collaborators.
In the following years, productions on the cutting edge of various artistic expressions set the tone: New forms of music theatre by artists such as Guy Cassiers from the Netherlands or Ong Ken Seng from Singapore, or the visually artistic stage works by Marina Abramovic, Richard Forman or Michael Laub. The Living Dance Studio of Wu Wenguang is the first independent dance company from China to perform in Zurich.
Werner Hegglin designs a new venue on the Saffa Island: the Seebühne, an open-air lakeside stage. It debuts in 2002 and soon becomes one of the festival's landmarks. In the same year, another venue opens on the Landiwiese: The Club with an integrated bar primarily hosts concerts and music performances. In 2005, the entire festival site is revamped: Besides the Seebühne with 800 seats, there is an new big venue, the Nord with 330 seats, and a smaller one, the Süd with 215 seats. The former Club is relocated to the centre of the Landiwiese and is now called «Zentral» (not to be confused with today's open air stage of the same name). In addition, the Werft as well as the various stages and spaces of the Rote Fabrik belong to the permanent venues of the festival and are complemented by various temporary structures for specific productions.
2001 The legendary ticket container in front of the Stadthaus is closed down. The box office is transferred to the BiZZ. // For the first time, tickets can be ordered and paid online. // «Mama Put» adds to the gastronomic offerings with African specialities.
2002 The ZKB raises the Patronage Prize to 30 000 Swiss Francs and launches the ZKB Acknowledgment Prize of 5000 Swiss Francs.
2002 Opening of the Seebühne
2003 Finally: The main entrance is equipped with a bicycle parking.
2004 The 25th edition of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel: The festival opens with a boat concert, an unforgettable event created by the Swiss artist Peter Regli. // A large exhibition in the town hall shows pictures by Christian Altorfer and Hans X. Hagen. Christian Altorfer has been the festival photographer since 1980.
2007 Sandro Lunin, director of the Schlachthaus Theater in Bern, becomes the new artistic director of the festival. // The BiZZ closes down. A new box office opens at Bellevue. For the first time, print@home tickets are available.
The new artistic director, Sandro Lunin, reintroduces the programme committee. It consists of the three members of the executive team, the cultural journalist Dagmar Walser and – until 2012 – the theatre scholar Rahel Leupin, succeeded by Catja Loepfe (until 2015). The programme committee increasingly focuses on young, urban artists from Africa, Asia and Latin America who reflect their living and working conditions in artistically interesting and formally innovative ways. To be mentioned in this context are the choreographies of Boyzie Cekwana from South Africa, Faustin Linyekula from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lemi Ponifasio from Samoa, Pichet Klunchun from Thailand or Bruno Beltrão from Brazil, as well as the theatrical works of Lola Arias from Argentina, Christiane Jatahy from Brazil, the picture theatre of Kuro Tanino from Japan or the productions of the Chinese multi-media artist Wang Jianwei. The Middle and Far East are represented by contemporary productions by Amir Reza Koohestani, Omar Abusaada, Laila Soliman and Ofira Henig.
Outstanding exponents of the European theatre scene continue to have their established place in the festival: Kornel Mudruszo from Hungary and She She Pop from Germany, for example, or Jetse Batelaan, KVS, Hotel Modern, Berlin and Jakob Ahlbom from Belgium and the Netherlands – still two of Europe's theatrically most creative countries. The Swiss independent theatre and dance scene enjoys increased attention: It is regularly represented at the festival with chosen premieres such as the Europe trilogy by Milo Rau and works of various newcomers. Further accents to the programme are set by innovative forms of circus influenced by the French Nouveau Cirque. Companies such as Cie 111, Le Boustrophédon, Zimmermann & de Perrot or Cirque Inextremiste enthuse the audiences. The circus productions are part of the programme section aimed at families and have been a special focus of the festival since its early days.
In 2012, Sandro Lunin launches «Short Pieces», a showcase of short solos and duets by promising young artists from all over the world presented on one weekend. The programme and pricing structure allow for three shows to be seen in one evening. «Short Pieces» has quickly become a platform for the young international dance and performance scene. All pieces shown within the programme are nominated for the ZKB Acknowledgment Prize.
Street art has always been a distinctive element of the Theater Spektakel and contributes greatly to the festival atmosphere. Since the launch of the Zentral Stage at the centre of the festival site in 2012, street art has its own venue. A team appointed by the festival management curates the programme. The Zentral Stage with its own bar has quickly become the festival's central meeting point.
The Landiwiese undergoes a series of structural and gastronomic innovations: Inspired by the residential tower featured during the SAFFA exhibition in 1958, Werner Hegglin designs a four-storey tower in 2008 to serve as venue on the main square. The tower is replaced by the Haus am See in 2010, which combines two elements under one roof: It offers space for installations, performances and talks and also hosts a wine bar. The Club, a venue with a stage, bar and bistro, opens as a new festival meeting point and music venue. As of 2012, the Minimum-Bar (today Henri-Lacht) opens at the South entrance to the festival side. Veit Kälin, Werner Hegglin's successor, creates a new highlight on the festival site with the Pavillon designed by the architect Ralph A. Müller. The new venue replaces the Haus am See and is funded by Swiss Re, Lotteriefonds and the Patrons of the Festival.
With sustainability and inclusion the festival management pursues two ambitious goals. Thanks to the support of the festival partners Swiss Re and Zürcher Kantonalbank as well as the great efforts of the gastronomic services, the festival has become a sustainable event with a high ecologic standard. 2013 sees the launch of «Theater Spektakel – an inclusive event», a project supported by Swiss Re, Zürcher Kantonalbank and the disability organisation Procap. The mission is to implement various measures on the festival site, the infrastructure and the programme in order to make the festival accessible for disabled people.
The Theater Spektakel, meanwhile over 30 years old, sees a generation change on various levels: With Cornelia Howald, co-director since 1982, and Werner Hegglin, co-director since 1988, two members of the first generation leave the festival in 2013, respectively 2015. Cultural manager Delphine Lyner becomes the new executive director and light designer and event technician Veit Kälin succeeds Werner Hegglin as technical director. A rejuvenation also takes place in the programme committee and the gastronomic services: In 2015, Catja Loepfe takes over the management of the Tanzhaus. She is replaced by the young cultural scholar and dramaturge Hannah Pfurtscheller. In lieu of the «Bohemia» the restaurant «Patata», managed by Florian Bachofner and Best-Catering, takes care of hungry festival visitors. Finally, the Patrons of the Festival, celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2015, experience new growth... – To be continued....
2008 The bookstore sec52 & Howeg participates at the festival for the 25th time.
2010 Introduction of the residency project «watch & talk», in collaboration with the Migros- Kulturprozent.
2012 The nomination criteria for the ZKB Acknowledgement Prize are changed: All Short Pieces are nominated. // Rahel Leupin leaves the programme committee. Her successor is dance specialist Catja Loepfe. // Opening of the Zentral Stage for street art: Programme managers are Cornelius Danneberg and Irene Müller. The associated bar is run by Sabina Wegmann.
2013 Cornelia Howald retires. Delphine Lyner becomes the new executive director. // Start of the project «Theater Spektakel – an inclusive event» with the support of Swiss Re, Zürcher Kantonalbank and Procap.
2014 The Restaurant «Bohemia» participates for the last time.
2015 Werner Hegglin leaves the festival. Veit Kälin becomes the new technical director. // Catja Loepfe takes over the management of the Tanzhaus. She is replaced by cultural scholar and dramaturge Hannah Pfurtscheller in the programme board. // Musician Ronja Rinderknecht and theatre professional Miriam Walter-Kohn take over the artistic management of the Zentral Stage. // Opening of the restaurant «Patata».
2016 Opening of the new venue Pavillon, realized with the support of Swiss Re, Lotteriefonds and the Patrons of the Festival. // The ZKB Audience Prize of 10 000 Swiss Francs is awarded for the first time. The Patrons of the Festival celebrate their 25th anniversary and sponsor various jubilee projects for the festival.