The Deutscher Bühnenverein is a founding member of Pearle* and is one of the oldest and largest theatre associations in the world. With more than 600 members, it brings together city and state theatres including opera houses, numerous private theatres, and orchestras.
For almost 60 years, the DBV has been collecting statistics that provide valuable insights into the landscape of German theatres. Claudia Schmitz talked to us a bit more in-depth about this work and the results it has provided.
The Deutscher Bühnenverein has great experience in collecting data and developing statistics. Can you summarise the key findings from your years of collecting statistics on private and publicly funded theatres?
At Deutscher Bühnenverein, we edit two different types of statistics. The first one, the theatre play statistics (Werkstatistik), shows the season schedule of the theatres: it names the authors as well as the theatre plays or operas and the number of performances.
This allows Deutscher Bühnenverein and the theatres themselves to follow the changes in programming over the years and to deduct which topics are leading at the moment. This is also important for drawing conclusions on the most popular topics and thereby on social interests.
The other statistic is the so-called "theatre statistics" (Theaterstatistik) which collects facts and data, the classic key figures to define a business. This means we collect information on the overall budget of theatres, the amount of public funding they receive, the number of staff (artistic and non-artistic) - which also shows the relation of the different collective agreements - the number of performances or concerts and audience numbers
Based on your data, what trends or shifts did you notice?
We noticed that the theatres put on more and more productions while their budgets are shrinking.
This is no new observation because the development has been noted throughout the last decades. This leads to the question which has been discussed intensively: how do we change the framework conditions to get out of this loop?
Another trend that has been observed during the last decades is that the so-called "framing program" is gaining more importance. This means having introductions to theatre plays before the performance, follow-up discussions, behind-the-scenes tours, as well as participative projects.
Looking ahead, how do you envision the role of data collection and analysis evolving in the performing arts sector, and how can it help shape future decisions and policies?
I think we need new key figures to focus more on theatres' sustainability and resilience: data to evaluate the CO2 balance, data to be able to judge issues around fair pay, and data to capture the gender pay gap.
In the future, it will become more important to demonstrate that the theatres work on the aspect of diversity in relation to the staff and to the audiences. How can the theatres invite more people to choose them as their workplace and audiences who do not feel welcome at the moment? Data on these aspects will deepen the significance of theatres and orchestras and the role of culture in general for our society.
The challenge will be to define these new key figures and to figure out how to evaluate them.