These tips will help you to channel your inner Anna Netrebko, Elfriede Jelinek, Christoph Waltz or Fred Astaire.
Taking in a Zauberflöte at the Staatsoper or King Lear at the Burgtheater is the easy part. The real challenge for creative expats is finding a like-minded community in their adopted city and immersing themselves within it. Fortunately, Vienna is rich with opportunities. What follows is Metropole’s selection of places and platforms, along with artists who have benefited from them. As one put it, with an applause-winning flourish: “What are you waiting for?!”
Hitting the right note
Open-mic nights are a time-honored way of making your stage debut in any city’s -performance scene. Emilia Dayson, a harpist from Liverpool, recalls lugging her instrument one summer evening down to a then-venue in the 6th district: “Part of me did wonder whether I’d fit the thing through the door, never mind get it on stage,” she said. “But the barmaid just took one look at me, scribbled my name down on a scrap of paper and said, ‘You’re on at 20:30’ – and just like that, I had a gig.” When pressed, Dayson couldn’t confirm how soon afterward the venue closed, but she surely wasn’t to blame.
Today, Floorspot nights at Cafe Tachles on Karmeliterplatz in the 2nd district or Open Mic 2.0 at Loft Vienna on Lerchenfelder Gürtel are ready to host you, whatever your instrument. For composers, the Vienna Songwriting Association is a folk-centric group that promotes initiatives like Vienna’s first Pop-Up Studio, where artists can register for a 30-minute recording session at Cafe Siebenstern on July 16.
Raise the Curtain
Budding thespians in Vienna should find no trouble getting back on the boards. Showtime, an English-language theater school, teaches young people to act, dance and sing, and has courses for adults ranging from improvisation to Shakespeare and physical theater. It’s also a fine place to develop a thick skin, as amateur Brian Lewis found out when he and his daughter enrolled in courses there: “I thought she was fabulous,” he said, “but when I asked for her opinion, I received a detailed critique of all the things I might improve on next time!”
For those seeking a little more edge, the Amerlinghaus on Stiftgasse is an Aladdin’s cave of cultural opportunities, from Persian dance courses, to improv sessions and theatrical workshops. Most of the Amerlinghaus programs are affordable, or even free, and take place within an inclusive, community-based environment.
Writing is indeed a solitary pursuit, but the Association of English-Language Writers, Write Now, ensures that Vienna’s English-language scribes needn’t be locked away in the garret. This network of novelists, poets and playwrights arranges monthly meetups, workshops and writing retreats, as well as appealingly off-beat events throughout the year. The Whiskey and Poetry Salon at Palais Palffy on St. Patrick’s Day brought verse lovers together in celebration of muse and booze – a timeless combination.
Itinerant poet Leon Flanagan, who first read his work aloud at such a well-lubricated, informal soiree, describes the advantages as twofold: “The first is that, if required, you can quiet your nerves with a slug of something bracing. Secondly, I could swear my work starts to sound better as these evenings progress. I can’t imagine why.”
For a more sober occasion, this year’s Wir sind Wien Festival, hosted by Write Now, gave recent migrants a platform to showcase material describing their experiences as recent arrivals in Vienna.
For an invitation to the dance, try the Performing Center Austria, a stone’s throw from Mariahilferstraße with classes and performance opportunities in Jazz, Tap, Modern, Ballet, and Hip-Hop, from beginners to advanced, offered by the Center’s respected teachers and choreographers. After moving to Vienna from Edinburgh, Rachel Galbraith and her flatmate took advantage of the PCA’s offerings: “He liked jazz, and I’m a big hip-hop fan, so we signed up for a beginner’s course in each,” she said. “And while neither of us set the dance floors of Vienna alight, I was thrilled to discover that jazz doesn’t have to mean that impenetrable mess Walter was always playing in the apartment.”
And now that you’re in Vienna, you’d be foolish not to learn how to waltz. There are dozens of opportunities, so it’s worth shopping around. The Elmayer Dance School, next to the Spanish Riding School, has prepared generations of elite Viennese for their debutante balls, but also accommodates newcomers of all ages in private or group sessions. Who knows? Perhaps by next ball season, you’ll be deliriously whirling with the natives in Dreivierteltakt instead of just looking on sheepishly from the sidelines!
The Places Performers Go
Is your artistic self yearning to shine?
These nurturing hubs will help you get there.
They’re all over the city, so shop around for what suits you. Floorspot at Cafe Tachles is a good, bi-monthly way to start.
Wanna Play Vienna
If you’re in an indie band, sign up on WPV’s website to get a chance to play a slot at B72.
Vienna Songwriting Association
A non-profit organization supporting the city’s folk scene, check their schedule for festivals, workshops, symposia and open stages.
The regular open stage events at Tunnel are a fine way to sample Vienna’s vibrant and welcoming jazz scene.
The English language theater school that caters for young and old alike.
A cultural center of extraordinary variety and history, try the Amerlinghaus for a diverse range of performance opportunities.
An association that helps writers network and participate in various literary and social events.
Aiming to increase the popularity of the English language literature in Austria, Viennalit has a particular focus on the spoken word. They organize readings, performances and poetry slams.
Vienna Poetry School
Centered around practical exercises and writers learning from one another, the VPS is an excellent and engaging resource for poets in Vienna.
The Literaturhaus is a hub for contemporary Austrian literature and a home for authors and translators, as well as an extensive documentation center (German only).
Performing Center Austria
The largest private training school for dance, song and theatre in Austria, the PCA has a suitably ample catalog of courses for all ages.
Elmayer Dance School
“Vienna’s most prestigious dance school” – one of many places in the city offering waltz (and etiquette) lessons in English.
Arriola Dance Studio
Free trials and courses for parents and children together make Arriola a popular venue for amateur dancers.