Martin Gruber and his family began in 1985 with the restoration of a farm ruin near Mühldorf in Upper Bavaria. Today the 19th century farm is a listed building Denkmalschutz, but then, after more than ten years of vacancy, the buildings were destroyed and the surrounding meadows deserted. The reconstruction took much more time and money than originally thought. His enthusiasm helped Martin Gruber to overcome some of the lean periods and infected others as well: Friends helped out, craftsmen showed their skills, neighbours helped out again and again. At the end of 1989 the external construction could be completed and at a big “plant festival” friends and relatives donated trees and bushes. At this point a big thank you to all the helpers who stood by us during the first years!
As soon as the first apartment in the main building was ready for occupancy in 1987, the ZeltEnsembleTheater came to Birach. Otto Kukla, Crescentia Dünßer and Irene Hartmann had founded it shortly before. The ZeltEnsemble worked and rehearsed in Birach until 1993, performing their plays in their own theatrical tent on a roundel set up for this purpose, before continuing on tour or at international festivals. Since the reconstruction of the historic Stadl, plays have been performed here. Domestic and international theatre productions are planned and rehearsed in Birach before they reach the big and small stages worldwide: Bettina Mittendorfer and Raffael Mayer showed their solo pieces in Birach, the KULA-Compagnie rehearses their latest plays here as well as the PaperTigerTheatre from Beijing, PR China. The individual performances and artists can be found under Art & Theatre Kunst & Theater. For more than 30 years, workshops in the fields of martial arts, healing arts and performing arts have been held in the Seminar House, while internationally renowned artists and teachers have taught in Birach.
Birach is a Bavarian architectural monument bayerisches Baudenkmal. The former four-sided courtyard dates back to the 19th century, the main house is a first-turned storey house. The upper floor in block construction is plastered, on both sides you can see outside fretwork parts. Only biological building materials were used for the construction.
The former grain box is today the guesthouse, which was completely rebuilt inside according to designs by Martin Gruber. Seminars and workshops have been held in the building since 1989. Less than ten years later the space is not sufficient anymore and in 1997 the topping-out ceremony for the new kitchen house is celebrated, in which kitchen and common room are united under one roof.
The original barn was a simple wooden building and so badly destroyed that it could no longer be rebuilt. From Hausmoning in the district of Traunstein a beautiful, original Bundwerkstadl from the 19th century was dismantled, transferred piece by piece to Birach and rebuilt there in 1985 in its original form. The gable side is bricked up. In the former workshop a studio is furnished, in the front large room a swinging floor is inserted, so that martial art, dance and trainings can take place there. The interior fittings make it possible for theatre plays to be performed in the Stadl. In 1998 the outdoor area was completely redesigned and fitted into the landscape and architecture.
1993 Bayerischer (Bavarian) Heimatpreis
for the conservation of value and renewal of rural regions, in the field of culture and community in the district of Mühldorf; patronage: the Bavarian Prime Minister
2007 Architecture in the District
District office Mühldorf am Inn; commendation in category C: listed buildings; judgement of the jury: “The successful overall design and its integration into the surroundings is to be emphasized”.
The “Bulle (cop)” solves case in Birach. What are the actors Matthieu Carrière and Ottfried Fischer doing in the kitchen of the Seminarhaus Birach? The answer is simple: learn texts. Ruth Drexel and Ottfried Fischer were there to slip into their roles.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 24.2.2005 to Der Bulle von Tölz
The ZeltEnsemble Theater (ZET) in Birach presents Horváth’s Zur schönen Aussicht im Volkstheater in Munich. News from ZET: The troupe, which has existed for five years and is known to insiders as an original alternative theatre with high standards, will, tired of travelling, settle in Tübingen from 1 August 1998. The troupe takes over the renowned Zimmertheater.
Abendzeitung from 3.4.1992
The framhouse Birach offered for the Aikido friends an ideal training possibility without any distraction. The participants owed the above-average success to the 60 year old Aikido master and sword teacher Dr. Watanabe from Tokyo.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 18.9.1991
Folk theatre with a hidden meaning in the best sense of the word: cultural organisers rarely have the opportunity to present local artists who are on tour throughout the Federal Republic of Germany on the theatre stage. With the Zeltensemble Birach near Niederbergkirchen it has been possible to engage a troupe that is exceptional in its kind.
Blickpunkt Mühldorf from 19.9.1990
As part of the 1200th anniversary celebration of Niederbergkirchen, the Theater Zeltensemble will perform its successful Norwegian mountain farmer drama Poverty, Wealth, Man and Animal twice more in the circus tent in Birach. In the barn in Birach, Raphael Mayer plays his Karl Valentin solo evening “Die Zukunft war früher auch besser” (The future used to be better, too). This piece had already been performed with great success in May.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 20.9.1990 to the 1200-year-celebration
The journey goes into the unknown. Almost 100 km away, somewhere in Lower Bavaria, a red and blue striped tent with light bulbs suddenly appears between lush green on a hill. In Birach, Lower Bavaria, they have found a manor house for winter quarters and rehearsal stages. Poverty, wealth, people and animals, the long-forgotten story of people who destroy themselves through their passions, experience a miraculous rebirth in the Birach theatre tent. One is astonished to witness how a largely unspoiled, unconsumed audience full of enthusiasm discovers one of the most inaccessible, unrecognised, barely received playwrights of the German language. Theatre can still be as surprising as it is exciting – a great moment, far away from the perfectly led, cleverly producing, reverently admired places of consecration of the art of acting.
Süddeutsche Zeitung from 22.5.1990
The rehearsal room of the theatre professionals of the Zeltensemble is located in a Bavarian barn, on the pretty artist’s courtyard Birach. When the sun illuminates the blue sky between Munich and Altötting to create a picture-book backdrop, the actor’s existence there seems full of paradisiacal harmony. Neighbouring farmers pilgrimage to the performance, the Dorfwirt closes on the premiere evening and hangs the note “Auf geht’s ins Theater”. As if man and mime were good to each other from the heart, as if the world was still in order. But the reality is different when free theatre groups have to make a living from their art.
Prinz Mai 1990
Gripping drama in the theatre tent. Armut, Reichtum, Mensch und Tier (Poverty, wealth, people and animals) was the title of the premiere of the Zeltensemble in Birach. Exciting like a crime thriller, soulful like a stirring piece and sophisticated like a classic. The audience is right in the middle of the action, suffers and laughs too, because the tent ensemble, which is showing a production in Birach for the third time, has once again taken humour very seriously.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 18.5.1990
After a successful tour: Zeltensemble brings big theatre world to small Birach. The theatre tent in Birach is set up, the tent ensemble is back home. In 1987 they found ideal conditions for the realisation of their plans in Birach in a beautiful former farm. In the past two years the group has produced one extremely successful production each.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger vom 15.5.1990
The members of the Zeltensemble live in the deepest Bavarian country, Birach near Niederbergkirchen, and will be guest performers in Salzburg from 23 May. On Monday they presented their Ulenspiegel programme at home. The local people expressed their enthusiasm with a strong run.
Salzburger Nachrichten from 18.5.1988
A little whiff from the big theater world. The Biracher Zeltensemble performs the Ulenspiegel as a thank you to the population for the friendly and accommodating reception in Niederbergkirchen.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 13.5.1988
Since the premiere of Ulenspiegel in mid-May, a total of twelve people have been on their way to an Upper Bavarian Einödhof with a circus tent and caravan. This Ulenspiegel is a successful attempt to showcase the small psychology of a dreamer embittered by pain.
Falter from Juni 1988
Professionals make alternative theater. The Biracher Zeltensemble: folk theatre with fun at your own game. In Birach of all places, one hour’s drive from Munich by car, a community of artists consisting of several non-Bavarians has taken up residence: the “Zeltensemble”. The first glance, what else, it deceives: it looks as if the Birachers are a typical relic of the 70s. The most important maxim of the Birachers was from the very beginning: Professionalism. “Kukla said, “Only people from the field should undertake the Biracher experiment.
Süddeutsche Zeitung from 23.8.1988
The raging applause and the Bravo calls in their own circus tent in Birach after the presentation of their first own production moved the troupe, Count Almavia alias Otto Kukla thanked the Niederbergkircheners and all who came for the great support “I don’t have the words”. The group has been living for several months in Birach, in the farm that has been renovated with a lot of effort. For quite some time they had been looking for a place to make theatre according to their own ideas. Through the owner of the farm, Martin Gruber, the artists finally came to the district of Mühldorf. The group feels at home in Niderbergkirchen. “The people are incredibly open to our idea, they keep coming by to see how we’re doing.”
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 1988
Do you remember the rainy evening at the beginning of last June, when half of Niederbergkirchen was on its feet to witness the premiere of the tent theatre comedy Figaro in Birach? The 350 folding chairs at our disposal had not been enough by far, additional seats had to be towed along.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 1988
Home of the group became a small farm in Upper Bavaria, where until recently people were busy rehearsing and working. With their first production Figaro & Co. the “Zeltensemble” succeeds in proving that first-class and excitingly made acting does not necessarily require enormous sums of subsidies and a bloated apparatus to guarantee best entertainment. The audience was rightly absolutely thrilled, because with Figaro & Co. the Zeltensemble has succeeded in creating a piece that deserves to be seen like hardly any other this summer.
Die Welt from 25.7.1987
Like all people looking for freedom, they turned to Bavaria, and under the leadership of the actor Otto Kukla they found a farm in Niederbergkirchen, a colourful circus tent and a name: The “Zeltensemble” was born.
Süddeutsche Zeitung vom 22.8.1987
Since November the actors and make-up artists live in the farm Birach. The local landlord is helping to ensure that there will be enough spectators from and around Niederbergkirchen to the 350-seat circus tent for the presentation of the first production of the “Zeltensemble” tomorrow at 8 pm. He closes his restaurant and hangs a sign on the door: “Come to Figaro & Co.”
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 9.6.1987
A place of art and artists. In the small town of Birach, an unusual project is being created. For many years the property was uninhabited and lonely until the new owner began renovating it three years ago. What can already be seen today is that the complex promises to be an architectural masterpiece. Martin Gruber wants to give artists in Birach the opportunity to become productive, to rehearse or to exchange ideas in the silence and tranquillity of rural areas.
Mühldorfer Anzeiger from 4.6.1987