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The Scala Variety Theater (1920–1944)

Into a World of Pleasure Big City Life

Erich Heckel, Spanische Clowns (Spanische Clown), 1928 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

“… and in the evenings we’re off to the Scala.” In the 1920s, this advertising slogan drew attention to a Berlin variety theater, which soon became one of the most famous theatres in Germany. The premises of the former Berliner Eispalast in Schöneberg were converted to house the Scala, which was founded in 1920. The auditorium had 3,000 seats – enough to welcome not only hedonistic Berliners but also visitors from all over the world. The Brücke artists were right in the thick of it, enthusiastically following the illustrious happenings on stage. You could get a seat in the stalls for as little as 12.50 Reichsmark, while the more expensive box seats cost 40 Reichsmark. (The average monthly wage in 1922 was 830 Reichsmark.)

Scala Varieté Theater, ca. 1930s, picture postcard, Brücke-Museum

The Scala programme was all about artistic excellence, with one performance following the next. The famous “Scala Girls” – the house’s revue dancers – shared the stage with comedians, acrobats and actors who displayed their talents in elaborately staged sets. International stars were jumping at the chance to be part of the show. The Spanish star clown group The Rivels also performed at the Scala in 1927. Erich Heckel was likely among the evening’s thrilled audience members. Not long after, he immortalised the three clowns – Charlie, Polo and René Rivel – in a woodcut.

Like many popular entertainment venues of the 1910s and 1920s, the Scala no longer exists today. In the Berlin cityscape, it is only a commemorative plaque on Martin-Luther-Straße 16 that still reminds us of this once dazzling place.

Antonia Moldenhauer

The Three Rivels on the occasion of a performance at the Scala, Berlin, 1932, Photo: Hans Robertson, ullstein bild - Armstrong Roberts

Explore Berlin through the Eyes of the Brücke Artists
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