The Maxim Gorki Theatre is the smallest and most beautiful of Berlin's municipal theatres, housed in the former Choral Academy on the central avenue Unter den Linden. The theatre was built in 1827 from Karl Friedrich Schinkel's designs as the first public concert hall in Berlin. After its total destruction in the Second World War, the reconstructed theatre reopened in 1952 as the Maxim Gorki Theatre and became the most important venue for contemporary theatre in the GDR. Unnoticed by the state censors at the time, Thomas Langhoff staged Volker Braun's Die Übergangsgesellschaft (A Changing Society) here in 1988 as a prophetic swan song to the GDR.
Shermin Langhoff and Jens Hillje have taken over the artistic directorship of the Maxim Gorki Theatre from the 2013/14 season, and are committed to maintaining the house's history as site for political critique. The Gorki presents a program reflecting the diversified society in these times of continuous economic and political crises and heightened social and cultural conflicts. Its mission is to open up to people, regardless of their origins and regardless of whether seeking asylum, being exiled or emigrating finds them living in Berlin.
Alongside productions of classics the artistic formats reflect the aesthetic diversity of contemporary theatre and include premieres of new writing, contemporary pieces and research projects which the 17 person ensemble produces with the resident directors Nurkan Erpulat, Sebastian Nübling, Yael Ronen and other renowned directors. The studio stage Studio Я, has afforded the Gorki a platform for discussions and the presentation of working processes conceived to reach beyond national boundaries. The outreach program Gorki X series also invites amateurs and professionals alike to get involved in the Gorki and experiment.
The renowned magazine Theater Heute voted the Gorki the critics' Theatre of the Year for its first season in 2013/14. The 'Play of the Year' was Es sagt mir nichts, das sogenannte Draußen (The So-called Outside Doesn't Say Anything to Me) by Sybille Berg and Dimitrij Schaad was awarded 'Young Actor of the Year'. In 2015, the Gorki ensemble has been invited to the Theatertreffen festival with its production of Common Ground by Yael Ronen and in 2016 with Denial, again by Yael Ronen. For season 2015/16 Gorki was again voted for the critics' Theatre of the Year.