Budapest’s Golem Theater – the only professional Jewish theater in Hungary – was originally founded in 2005 by András Borgula who has been the artistic director since then. Working on a project-based model with renowned actors and leading theater professionals from the Hungarian contemporary art scene, Golem has no permanent ensemble. Additionally, having no own playhouse, the company was forced to perform at various venues.
”We have always planned to move to a permanent base, which is an obvious advantage when you run a theater. For that very reason, I was delighted when, in 2019, Budapest’s District VII municipality agreed to lease us one of their derelict premises, an old bakery in the very heart of the city’s Old Jewish Quarter," says Borgula. "Given an ever-increasing appetite for arts and culture in Budapest, we decided to widen our scope and transform our operation from purely running a theater to opening a contemporary Jewish cultural center with complex programming.”
Besides housing Golem Theater’s repertoire and its performing art school, Golem Center will host contemporary music, dance, and circus productions, and will also serve as an educational and information hub for the local Jewish community. Additionally, guests have the chance to relax in a café that offers traditional Jewish specialties in a reinvented way.
Realigning during the pandemic
The project is based on a public service contract where the municipality provides the venue, while Golem Theater operates the hub along with its own artistic programming and business plan. The renovation of the old building has been underway since 2019, financed by Golem's resources, and with the help of private benefactors, corporate partners, and crowdfunding.
"In 2021, of course, the pandemic created a whole new situation. We were forced to stop playing live and adapt to the restrictions. We streamed our shows and, as a forerunner of our café, we started our home delivery service," notes Borgula, adding, "In the end, we managed to open in the fall of 2021, and we are happy to house our shows in this historic building and welcome our guests in our brand new café and community space.”
After the launch in October, work is still underway.
As Borgula puts it, "It’s a neverending story for us, we still love every single moment of it. As cheesy as it sounds, it is a dream come true".