For almost a week, the theater was occupied by an art collective called "Staub zu Glitter" (From Dust to Glitter). The group aimed to put on three months of free public performances.
Unfurling a banner emblazoned with the words "Doch Kunst," which translates roughly to "art after all" in English, the group hoped to keep the theater from moving in what they see as an increasingly corporate and exclusionary direction.
The activity came nearly a month after new director, Chris Dercon, former director of the Tate Modern in London, took his post. The criticism was not aimed squarely at the director himself, but "against the current culture and city development politics," said the artists.
His appointment prompted many in the German art scene to express concern that the Volksbühne, which translates to the "people's theater," would be drawn down the path of commercialization. During the occupation, scheduled rehearsals in the theater were canceled.
Alternative spaces were rejected
During the period it was occupied, the collective put on a program ranging from dance performances, children's face painting and debates on Marxism and gentrification.
On Tuesday evening, activists rejected a request from Berlin's culture senator, Klaus Lederer, and Dercon to move to two smaller areas in the theater in order to allow scheduled rehearsals to go ahead.
On Thursday, around 200 police officers were posted at the theater and the nearby streets were closed to traffic. The occupiers were given the option to leave the theater voluntarily without any legal repercussion.
tla/sh/eg (with dpa)