| What we do

The University Players (UP) are the English-language theater group at Universität Hamburg and form a central component of student culture on campus and far beyond. Traditionally, the UP produce one English-language play per semester with the participation of mainly German and international students: contemporary drama, Shakespearean classics, musicals or improv theater – we produce what we like. Activities have expanded significantly since 2023: There are additional projects and a distinct UP Improv section with regular performances of the long-running hit AS YOU WANT IT in the Motte and a continuous, open workshop program, the highlights of which are the bi-annual student shows.

Participating in a UP production is an opportunity designed for students at the University of Hamburg. However, as a non-profit organization („eingetragener Verein“) we are open to anyone interested in English-language theater. There are usually open auditions for productions, but productions of a smaller scale can also be realized through individual initiative. Whoever leaves the auditions without a role in a play will still find a place with us: in one of the many creative backstage departments, as a writer for UP News, in production management – or as a participant in the improv workshops.

| Work Experience

Working with the UP is nothing short of working in a professional theater. There are well-equipped workshop spaces for set-building, a large pool of costumes, a professional PR department, a properly edited production magazine UP and much more. Accompanied and/or guided by long-standing members of the UP, newcomers quickly find their feet and can develop their own areas of interest and expertise.

As we also perform our shows at venues in Hamburg’s independent theater scene, for many students, being involved with the UP is their first guided step into the cultural scene beyond campus. Valuable experience can be gained and contacts made for possible professional orientation.

| UP News

UP News is a comprehensive program magazine that accompanies every production and is distributed to the audience on a donation basis. The magazine illuminates the production from aesthetic, theater-historical and staging-practical perspectives. This gives students the opportunity to gain essayistic and editorial experience and to launch their first veritable publication.

| UP Improv

The winter semester 2022/23 saw the UP produce a huge success with AS YOU WANT IT – THE IMPROVISED MOVIE NIGHT. Due to high demand and after two sold-out test runs, the show is now presented regularly at MOTTE (Hamburg-Ottensen). The UP meet the great interest in improv among students with a regular workshop on Tuesday evenings, the highlights of which are the student shows twice a year.

| Outreach to schools

For pupils, attending a University Players performance is often their first step into an (English-language) theater as well as their first intentional encounter with the university campus, which is why good cooperation with teachers and schools means a lot to us. We are gradually rebuilding our traditionally close cooperation with Hamburg’s schools and expanding it in the process.

One area of cooperation consists of workshops that we offer in the classroom. These range from author- or topic-related lessons to practical theater workshops, which we offer to schools free of charge.

Secondly, we offer 45-minute introductory events for all productions, taking place directly before the performance. Although these are designed for a non-academic audience, they give students a first impression of what a university can be like. If a prior arrangement has been made, the pupils can talk directly to the artists and ask their questions in a post-performance discussion.

The third area of cooperation is currently being mapped out. In cooperation with the Fachverband Theater in Schulen Hamburg, we are working on the development of a didactic approach involving improv theater as a method for second-language acquisition and introducing it into teaching practice through teacher training.

| Integration into university teaching

The uniqueness of the UP nationwide results from the tightest possible integration of practical theater with university teaching. This is achieved primarily through a regular seminar at the Institute of English and American Studies. The seminar utilizes a UP production as a starting point for extended explorations into aesthetics, drama analysis, and cultural/social science. It regularly includes renowned guest speakers from academia, cultural, or artistic practice such as director Jan Bosse and journalist Falk Schreiber (both 2023) or scholar-artist Jaye Austin Williams and playwright Sarah Ruhl (both 2024).

UP activities are closely coordinated within the faculty ensuring that they are considered continuously and in many different ways in the curricula offered by the faculty.

| Production management

The UP are managed by Michel Büch. He looks back on many years of cultural management and artistic work on and off the stage, including as an improv theater performer and trainer. His previous positions include LURUM – Community School Lurup (management), LICHTHOF Theater (PR, 2014-17), Jahrmarkttheater (PR, 2016-21), BIK CITY Impro (co-director, Bremen, 2017-19). In addition to the productions, he also provides members of the UP with academic support – such as finding topics for theses – or assists with the transition from studying to working in the cultural sector.

On a professorial level, the University Players receive support from Prof. Dr. Ute Berns, former chair of the German Society for Contemporary Theatre and Drama in English.

| Founded in 1980

The University Players were founded by Dietrich Schwanitz, Shakespeare expert, author the controversial novel Der Campus (1995, made into a film by Sönke Wortmann in 1998) and the no less controversial attempt at a canon of knowledge Bildung. Alles, was man wissen muss (1999). This means they can look back on a history of over 40 years, making them one of the longest-lasting English-speaking university theater groups in Germany.