New Leadership Team for the Berliner Festspiele’s Theatertreffen

Theatertreffen

Press release from 6 July 2022

Four theatre practitioners stemming from Poland, Ukraine and Germany will take up the mantle of joint leadership of the Berliner Festspiele’s Theatertreffen in 2023. In early September, Olena Apchel, Marta Hewelt, Carolin Hochleichter and Joanna Nuckowska will begin planning and shaping the festival, which is scheduled to be held in May 2023. The new leadership team was appointed by incoming director of the Berliner Festspiele, Matthias Pees, and will succeed the festivals long-standing director Yvonne Büdenhölzer.

“The Berliner Theatertreffen has experienced remarkable and successful growth in the last ten years: it has opened itself up to the independent scene, advocated for greater gender equality, taken up pressing debates over power politics and given momentum to questions of sustainability in theatre productions. I am delighted that, with Olena Apchel, Marta Hewelt, Carolin Hochleichter and Joanna Nuckowska, we have now found a leadership team who will not only share equal responsibility for all the individual festival formats in future, thereby strengthening the links between them, but will jointly coordinate cooperation with the critics' jury as well. Moreover, the four new directors will bring vital international perspectives to the German-language theatre landscape, broadening its horizons as well as our perceptions, and thus can aid in bridging cultural differences and political divides. Under their leadership, Theatertreffen will be brought into closer contact with Central and Eastern Europe, as we not only share a municipal and state theatre structure with its permanent ensembles, repertory productions and independent scenes, but have comparable labour and production conditions as well. They stand for a new generation of theatre practitioners who are looking across borders, collectively and creatively, for ways to produce sustainable and inclusive art, culture and festivals.”
‒ Matthias Pees, appointed director of the Berliner Festspiele

Olena Apchel is an artivist, theatre director, playwright and curator of art projects. She holds a doctorate in Cultural History and Theory, lectures on contemporary theatre and teaches master classes in directing, acting and onstage movement. From 2010 to 2015, she taught at the  Kharkiv State Academy of Culture. She has worked as a co-author and trainer at the TESTO Author’s School of Acting in Kharkiv since 2014. In her research practice, her interest lies in processes of alternative systems of existence and management of cultural institutions. As a director, she engages mainly with themes of personal and historical traumas and social violence. She also works with themes of alternate reality. She is author of the socio-theatrical project “Opositorium”, which explores zones of tolerance of interreligious dialogue in contemporary societies.

From 2017 to 2019, she was artistic director of the  Lesya Ukrainka Lviv Academic Drama Theater, where, among other things, she created the award-winning post-documentary play “Horyzont 200”. From 2019 to 2020, she was involved in the conceptual development of the main exhibition at the  Territory of Terror, the Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes in Lviv. In 2019, she directed the autobiographical play “Wiezi” at the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk, earning her the award for Best Directorial Debut from the Festival of Previews in Bydgoszcz. In 2021, she directed “Kreszany”, which premiered at the Divine Comedy International Theatre Festival in Kraków. Olena Apchel currently has projects in the Social Projects department of the Nowy Teatr International Centre of Culture in Warsaw. In addition, she is co-author (with Yulia Krivich) of “Słownik/Словник/Vocabulary”, an open roundtable discussion on migration, as well as “New Neighbors” (co-author Helena Szwiegocka), a social project for people who have experienced migration.

Marta Hewelt is a managing director and production manager. She was born in Gdynia in Poland and grew up in Berlin. From 2004 to 2007, she trained as an events manager at HAU Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin, and subsequently worked as a production manager for more than ten years, both in Berlin’s independent scene and nationwide. In addition to artist management, her expertise lay mainly in organising (international) festivals and site-specific productions. The projects she has led include the format “X Wohnungen” (“X Apartments”) at the Capital of Culture Košice (Slovakia) in 2013, “X Choreographers” at the international festival Tanz im August in 2012 and  HOTEL shabbyshabby at the Theater der Welt festival in Mannheim in 2014. Together with Matthias Pees, she hosted the Latin America festivals “Libertad y Desorden” and “La Vida despues” at HAU Hebbel am Ufer in 2010 and 2012, respectively, in her capacity as production manager.

In 2014, she assumed the role of deputy managing director at the  Neuköllner Oper in Berlin for one year. In 2015, she took over the executive management of the  schwankhalle in Bremen and initiated its reopening. She opened and managed the reconceptualized theatre until June 2022, at first together with Pirkko Husemann and later with Florian Ackermann. In her work as managing director of the schwankhalle, she also strove to improve the labour and funding conditions of Bremen’s independent scene. As such, she is actively involved in the international network FREISCHWIMMEN as well as the NFT (Network of Free Theatres), two platforms that amplify exchange between theatres and strengthen artists’ production conditions.

Carolin Hochleichter is a dramaturg, curator, lecturer, mother to three children and founding member of the  Keep It Real collective. She studied cultural science and aesthetic practice in Hildesheim as well as Utrecht, and completed the Cultures of the Curatorial graduate programme in Leipzig. During her studies in Hildesheim, she oversaw the artistic direction of the 2003 edition of transeuropa, an international performing arts festival.

From 2004 to 2007, she collaborated with Hannah Hurtzig on the project  Mobile Academy and worked with Joanna Nuckowska in Warsaw in this context as well. Following her role as dramaturg at the Theater Freiburg from 2008 to 2011, she moved on to the international performing arts festival Foreign Affairs at the Berliner Festspiele, where she was dramaturg from 2012 to 2016. She was then curator for the Ruhrtriennale from 2017 to 2020, and co-curator for the international programme of the Athens Epidaurus Festival in 2019. In 2020 she was artistic director of  Hildesheim’s bid to become European Capital of Culture 2025. Carolin Hochleichter regularly works as a production dramaturg, teaches dramaturgy at various academies, and has been a directing mentor at the Academy of Performing Arts Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg since 2021.

Joanna Nuckowska is a programme director, curator, cultural manager and founding member of the  Culture for Climate collective. She was a two-time fellow of the US-American ISPA’s Fellowship Program and a guest lecturer at the Theatre Academy and University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw. Joanna Nuckowska is interested in social and environmental issues and an active advocate for eco-sustainability in the context of the global performing arts community. She is also developing “green recommendations” for the various cultural sectors.

She worked at the Nowy Teatr International Cultural Centre in Warsaw for 13 years, where she held the positions of vice-director and head of production and international relations. She was also curator of various transdisciplinary projects, such as  Summer Camp Art Academy, the showcase  Generation After, and International Festival New Europe. She worked on the “Mobile Academy Warsaw 2006” together with Carolin Hochleichter for two years. Joanna Nuckowska and Olena Apchel have also collaborated at the Nowy Teatr International Cultural Centre in 2021.

Further information regarding programming will be announced at a press conference to mark the start of Matthias Peesʼ directorial appointment in October.

Press photos of the New Leadership Team are available for download.

Press release in Polish language
Press release (, 243 KB) in Ukrainian language

Theatertreffen is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. Funded by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media. Media partner: 3sat.

The festival would like to thank all its funders, partners and supporters as well as all participants for their co-operation.