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City feeling

Curtains up!

… on the legendary Salzburg Street Theater. Since 1970, this colorful folk theater has been touring the city and province, inviting the public to join them in July and August for their free performances!

Oscar Fritz Schuh had a dream: culture for all. The creative visionary didn’t dillydally around for long, going ahead and founding the Salzburg Street Theater. That was back in 1970, since when the mobile ensemble has been touring the length and breadth of Salzburg. Always in tow, their own makeshift open-air stage, known as a Pawlatschenbühne here in Austria. It is drawn by draft horses from the Stiegl brewery, which also provides the coachman, while the costumes are supplied by the wardrobe department of the Landestheater. As you can see, for this unique cultural highlight, it’s as if all of Salzburg’s cultural institutions are joining forces – to treat audiences to a unique show during the months of July and August in parks and squares throughout the City of Mozart.

Theater for everyone

To this day, the Salzburg Street Theater has continued to be a free, readily accessible alternative to the Salzburg Festival. And in fact, this always-humorous event has long since achieved a kind of cult status in the community. Not surprisingly, it isn’t only the locals who are drawn to this event: Visitors to Salzburg also come in droves, the moment they catch sight of the cheerful theater wagon trundling around the corner. Performance dates are clearly posted throughout the city. And when the time finally arrives, eager audiences squeeze in shoulder to shoulder. Small children scuttle between the rows of seats, the performers build their own stage, pausing only to chat with any newcomers who happen to be sauntering in at the time. “I want my actors to have a hands-on attitude. Setting up and pulling down the set together, welcoming guests. The entire process has its own unique charm”, says Georg Clementi, explaining the idea behind his do-it-yourself concept. He took over artistic direction of the Street Theater in 2016. “Also”, grins Clementi, “it has a humbling effect when, as an actor, you have to build your own stage.” And he adds, with a laugh, “After two performances, we’re completely worn to a frazzle.”

Street theater or Christmas gift?

After every performance, the audience is always in great spirits: from grandkid to grandma, from factory worker to academic – they are all there. The Salzburg Street Theater is the absolute definition of a classless society, with everyone enjoying a humorous, high-spirited time together. With the very first words uttered by the actors, and expectant silence comes over the audience. The public realize what a special gift this is, a gift unwrapped to the accompaniment of heartfelt laughter. “Theater is a gift”, is also the maxim of Georg Clementi: “and our choice of repertoire provokes the brain and heart as well as the diaphragm. For me, it’s really important that the entire ensemble, too, regards this as a gift they are sharing with the public”, the artistic director maintains, adding, with a sly grin on his face: “In our first year, the wagon did actually look quite like a gigantic Christmas package”.

Pearls from the Street Theater

Georg Clementi learned Street Theater from the ground up – he has also trodden the boards of this mobile stage as an actor himself. Which means, he understands the appeal of street performances from all perspectives. The euphoria of the public and that certain passion that infects everybody; be they culture fans, or someone who merely makes the pilgrimage to the theater but once a year – to the Street Theater, of course. And amidst all the goings-on, the two Noriker horses from Stiegl bask in the sunshine as it warms their flecked coats. For logistical reasons, these amiable quadrupeds are only able to draw the Street Theater wagon on certain days. That said, they are definitely secret stars of the show in their own right. If you would like to come out and see them, be sure to check out the Street Theater schedule, which clearly indicates the days these celebrities will be trotting along the red carpet through the streets of Salzburg.