A Prestigious German Theater Comes Apart at the Seams
At 10 o’clock on the morning of July 7, 2020, five uniformed police officers rang the doorbell of an apartment in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe. Erik Maurer (not his real name) answered the door. The police showed him their warrant and began seizing computers, cell phones, and storage drives.
“At the beginning I was shaking,” said Maurer (who asked not to be identified by his real name due to the ongoing legal proceedings). “But then I calmed down, because I knew I did the right thing.” At the end of June, Maurer had set up an Instagram account and posted negative quotes about the prestigious Badisches Staatstheater which had been published in the local press shortly before. Followers sent Maurer additional accusations, including one of sexual harassment against a senior staff member. Maurer shared these as well. In response, the staff member pressed charges against Maurer for defamation, slander, and attempted blackmail. “I thought that them sending the police against me was an unlikely scenario,” Maurer said, “because they were aware of their own misconduct.” Maurer got a lawyer, and connected some of his own sources with the police.
Talk to current and former staff at the Badisches Staatstheater these days, and they repeatedly cite a common metaphor: Pandora’s Box has been opened. In the last three weeks, I spoke with over 20 employees. In these interviews, a picture emerged of the theater coming apart at the seams; a toxic work environment, characterized by burnout, fear, and an autocratic leadership style that pervades the house and hinders its artistic potential. The senior staff member in question was recently fired from the theater, and the authorities are investigating whether they can establish probable cause for an investigation into his alleged sexual harassment. A member of the choir is currently under investigation by Karlsruhe’s public prosecutors for two counts of alleged rape at a premiere party of Strauss’s “Elektra.” And Michael Obermeier, a former administrative director, is pressing charges against Badisches Staatstheater general artistic director Peter Spuhler for embezzlement. Investigations in that case are ongoing.
Over the last few years, employees in leadership positions have practically fled the house, often after only a few months working there. Within the theater, employees have separated into camps, for and against Spuhler. The camps are highly polarized; the public debate surrounding the theater in the last several weeks has been characterized by profound mistrust. Various employee groups within the theater and individual staff members have publicly criticized Spuhler’s leadership. (Spuhler declined an interview request by VAN.)
But, on July 17, 2020, the governing board of the Badisches Staatstheater, the political oversight body for the institution, voted unanimously in favor of keeping Spuhler in his position (his contract stipulates that he lead the organization until 2026). An all-hands staff meeting was held immediately after, but by then any remaining hope of resolving the conflict appeared to have evaporated. The two heads of the governing board of the theater, Karlsruhe mayor Frank Mentrup (of the center-left Social Democratic Party) and Minister of Arts Theresia Bauer (of the Greens), were booed by the assembled staff for their decision. Instead of compromising, the two camps have each hardened in their respective positions.
At stake is more than just the leadership style of Spuhler at the Badisches Staatstheater. Are politicians responsible for the well-being of the staff of a publicly-funded arts organization? Do German theaters concentrate too much power in the hands of only a few leadership roles? Why do these institutions so rarely have effective mechanisms to hold their leaders accountable? The case of the Badisches Staatstheater is neither a provincial farce nor a case of a few bad apples. In some ways its contours are typical of the German theater world writ large.
In March 2018, Marc Auer (not his real name) joined a Badisches Staatstheater production of the musical “Hair” as an extra. He was 18 years old. Around the same time, the senior staff member whom Maurer posted about started messaging Auer on Grindr. (German privacy regulations restrict our use of the name or exact position of the accused.)
“I can’t say if he contacted me specifically because he knew me from the theater,” Auer said. “But if not, it would be a major coincidence.” After a brief conversation, Auer and the staff member revealed their real identities. “That was apparently reason enough for him to send me a picture of his penis,” Auer went on. “I didn’t want to see that. I deleted it and told him, ‘Please leave me alone.’” Afterwards, the staff member shot Auer hurt looks whenever they encountered each other in the theater cantine. Auer subsequently avoided contact with him. “A person who sends unsolicited penis photos has a problem in any case,” Auer told me, “but when a person does that knowing the receiver works in the same company…that’s a whole other level.”
Christian Kaus (also not his real name) met the same staff member in early 2018 while participating in a production at the Badisches Staatstheater. Kaus was 21 years old and working as an actor; the staff member was assigned to the same project. “They were looking for an extra to play a nude role. [The staff member] wrote to us boys and asked if we were interested,” Kaus recalled. Kaus wasn’t interested in the role, but continued to chat with the senior staff member on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (records of which I obtained). At first, Kaus didn’t realize that this staff member was crossing boundaries with him, until the unanswered messages piled up.
“He tried to make it about body shaming: What bothered me so much about being naked?” Kaus said. “Telling me that I didn’t need to be embarrassed, that I was good-looking.” The messages continued. The staff member asked him about his sexuality and suggested that they meet in person. He proposed playing drinking games which involved stripping. “That was the common thread,” Kaus said.
When Kaus didn’t answer, the staff member continued to check in on him: “How are you, what are you up to, why don’t you write to me?” Kaus told me, “Eventually he sent me an unsolicited dick pic. That happened two or three times. It shocked and upset me.” He explained to Kaus that the dick pics were part of a supposed regimen of surmounting body shame: “Look, I don’t look that great, but it doesn’t matter, I’m happy.” Kaus decided to keep their contact to a minimum, but the staff member used every opportunity as an excuse to write to him.
In the theater, where he was working on multiple productions, Kaus was consistent about avoiding him. “I didn’t know how to handle it, and didn’t want to be alone with him,” he said. In hindsight, he wonders if he should have been more explicit about setting boundaries. “I never wanted to meet up with him. But I made excuses, because I had the feeling that if I rejected him, I wouldn’t be cast anymore,” he said.
After Maurer created his Instagram account about the Badisches Staatstheater, Kaus told him about his experiences. Then the senior staff member wrote to Kaus on WhatsApp. “You probably saw the Instagram account,” he texted. “I’m really confused right now. Did I behave inappropriately toward you? If so, please tell me and we’ll talk about it! My impression was that we were acting as equals.” Kaus asked what the staff member was referring to. He answered, “that little bit of dirty talk.”
Kaus described the staff member as “buddy-buddy”: warm, friendly, open-minded, and approachable. “It was hard for him to create boundaries,” Kaus said. “He sees it as his private life when he talks to people, and doesn’t realize that he’s acting from a position of power.”
Auer and Kaus gave VAN sworn statements guaranteeing the accuracy of their stories. The senior staff member didn’t respond to a request for comment. Tobias Wagner, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe, confirmed to me that his office is seeking to establish probable cause for an investigation into the alleged sexual harassment. After the allegations became public, the Badisches Staatstheater placed the staff member on leave and began its own investigation. He was fired on July 24.
Marc Auer and Kaus were contacted by the theater’s head of human resources, Bettina Meier, and its managing director, Johannes Graf-Huber. Auer described the conversation, in which he was asked about his experiences with the matter, as “very respectful and decent.” Spuhler’s office declined to comment on the staff member’s firing, and at what point management was made aware of the accusations, citing internal personnel issues.
The firing of this senior staff member is the latest development in a series of escalations. The endpoint is unclear. On May 28, 2020, the opera dramaturg Boris Kehrmann asked to be released from his contract. A private blog with a reputation for criticizing the Staatstheater got wind of this, which led to inquiries from the local press in late June. Kehrmann and two of his colleagues, Deborah Maier and Patric Seibert, both of whom left the house of their own accord in the fall of 2019, told the Badische Neue Nachrichten about a “climate of fear” at the theater and Peter Spuhler’s intensive micromanagement. In a July 8 statement, Spuhler apologized to “those who have felt hurt by my behavior.” But the accusations haven’t let up.
On July 3, the Badisches Staatstheater personnel board, which advocates for employees, sent an open letter to leadership. I obtained a copy. The letter cited micromanagement, pervasive mistrust, and angry outbursts as “the hallmarks of a toxic work environment, which flows from the artistic director down to the heads of individual departments and their employees.” The letter went on to say that employees had been complaining to the personnel advisory board since 2011, when Spuhler’s tenure began. “They often went to their limits while describing the severity of the misconduct,” it continued.
Interviews with former and current employees confirmed this description. One actor told me that Spuhler functioned as the needle through which every strand of an idea needed to be threaded. Raimund Schmitz, a timpanist who serves on the Badisches Staatstheater orchestra board, described programs for orchestral concerts that weren’t finished on time because Spuhler insisted on reading them himself. “When you already have a concert dramaturg and a head of concerts, I don’t understand why the artistic director needs to look it over,” Schmitz said.
Two days before weekly meetings with Spuhler, the entire house would spring into action. According to Jonas Schlund, who volunteered in the theater dramaturgy department from 2018 to 2019, it was obvious the pressure each employee was under. They were all afraid of being screamed at by Spuhler. “He wanted everything to be printed out and was extremely fastidious about it being precisely to his specifications,” Schlund said. “A typo was a good enough reason for him to drop a bomb.”
One director who has worked with Spuhler saw things differently, believing that micromanagement is an essential part of an artistic director’s job. “You have to accept that he’s an excellent dramaturg. He sees and knows everything that a theater needs,” the director said. “He expects the best from everyone. It would be a miracle if there wasn’t tension.” Spuhler’s former assistant, Achim Sieben, agreed. “Of course he’s a tough person to talk to, because he knows exactly what he wants. If you have a different view, you have to work hard to convince him.” But the dramaturgs Kehrmann and Seibert see Spuhler’s behavior as less about maintaining high artistic standards and more about flexing power. “He needs to tell us what to do,” Kehrmann said.
“There are so many people here who want to make art,” Seibert added, “but they get torn up by the machinery.”
Artistic ideas that don’t come from Spuhler himself are systematically rejected. In the fall of 2018, Staatstheater dramaturgs put together a comprehensive plan for the coming seasons. Spuhler tore the entire thing up. “A job that took five people two days was rejected within ten minutes,” said Deborah Maier, another dramaturg. “Spuhler wasn’t interested in our ideas.” Another former employee told me that complex event plans were scrapped at the last minute, causing stress and overwhelming the entire company: “Peter always said, ‘You have to give 200 percent to arrive at 100 percent.’” Employees who accurately noted the hours they worked were summoned for meetings with leadership; their real working times would have run afoul of German labor laws. “My predecessor warned me to fake my hours, because otherwise I’d have a big problem,” the employee added. Seibert recalled a folder with a list of theater and opera directors for the Staatstheater to consider working with. “It was in a public folder, everyone had access. But besides the official list, there was another that deleted all the suggestions that didn’t come from Peter Spuhler. And that’s the one we actually worked with.”
Three employees of the Badisches Staatstheater told me that the aggressive style of communication at the house tipped them off immediately that something was off. The fear of making a mistake, then being called out for it, means that the atmosphere is panicked, according to Anna Zanke, who started out as a volunteer and now works in the communications department. “Even the hanging of a poster is treated as a matter of life and death,” she told me. “If it’s not hanging correctly, you get a call and it sounds like the worst thing in the world has happened.”
Former chief dramaturg Jan Linders, who joined Spuhler in Karlsruhe in 2011, was able to get along with the artistic director, but described him as a Jekyll and Hyde personality: “I knew when I was talking with Jekyll, who could be extremely winning and charming,” Linders said. “And half an hour later I’d have another appointment, and when I [met with Spuhler again] I’d be talking to Mr. Hyde.”
Seibert’s experience of Spuhler’s behavior corresponded more precisely with the psychological principle of reward and punish. “You’ll be in his good graces for a week, and then back at the bottom,” he said. Kehrmann concurred, “Whatever you did, it was wrong, and he wanted the exact opposite.” Spuhler paid lip service to the idea of encouraging his staff’s ideas, but always ended up rejecting them, another senior staff member told me: “It led to a perverse situation in which you were always trying to figure out what Peter wanted, in order to present the idea as your own.”
Nicole Braunger is the third head of opera to work at the Badisches Staatstheater during Spuhler’s tenure; the position of orchestra director has also been vacated and filled three times in this nine-year period. “In the communications and marketing department, I can’t even follow how many personnel changes have happened,” said Schmitz, the timpanist. The people hired were competent, but left due to lack of trust. “If my kid is drawing me a picture, do I sit next to her and say, ‘The house has to look like this?’” Schmitz explained. “Or do I let her draw the way she sees the world?” A former employee told me that, when he started with the theater, staff had placed bets on whether he would last longer than his predecessor. “Their bet was six months,” he said. “Why? I figured that out quickly.”
Spuhler’s explanation for the high fluctuation rate at the Badisches Staatstheater was that the institution was a “springboard” for career development. When the former head of opera left in 2019, he noted that “each year people leave the theater and move on.” But for many employees, the constant coming and going was the collateral damage of Spuhler’s leadership style. “I experienced people coming to us crying,” said Kehrmann.
Deborah Maier said, “Peter Spuhler has a temper. It’s not unusual for him to scream at people: in sensitive situations, in front of others, after important rehearsals or on questionable days or at questionable times.” Zanke said, “I try to stay under Spuhler’s radar. I was advised that I’d get through life better that way.”
“You could set your clock to it: It’s Thursday today, my boss has a 45-minute meeting with Spuhler, and he’ll be done for the day after that,” she added.
The same pressure flows downward, too, infiltrating the institution at all levels. “The only thing that matters is who made the mistake and who can be blamed for it,” said Jonas Schlund.
In June 2019, Finnish dramaturg Laura Åkerlund joined the Staatstheater, replacing Jan Linders. She left the house just months later. She declined to comment on the reasons for her departure, noting that her contract contained a non-disclosure agreement, but Seibert, who shared an office with Åkerlund, said, “She didn’t have a good time here. Every idea she had was destroyed. She never had the opportunity to use her skills.” Another colleague (who also left the theater after just months) pointed to the difference between the leadership cultures of Scandinavia and Germany. In the Badisches Staatstheater, it was only possible to fight the system or adapt to it, “but [either way] it starts to affect your health.” In the open letter written by the personnel board, they noted that the employees who endure the “toxic work environment” are those who choose to “put up with it, which in most cases automatically leads to acute illnesses [or] burnout.”
Despite these accusations, the administrative board signaled its unanimous support for Spuhler in a July 17 meeting. In the subsequent press conference, mayor Frank Mentrup and regional Minister of Arts Theresia Bauer announced a “package of measures” intended to rebuild trust between Spuhler and the theater staff: more intensive communication between the administrative and personnel boards; regular employee surveys; a lawyer to offer confidential advice; and a strengthening of heads of the individual departments, such as opera, theater, and orchestra. In addition, Spuhler committed to working with a leadership coach. In an official statement, Spuhler thanked the administrative board “for its unanimous trust,” and added that “I recognize the need to implement these measures and changes quickly and sustainably. Rebuilding trust within the house has the utmost priority.”
In the open letter from early July, the personnel board expressed doubt that “general artistic director Spuhler can really change his leadership style.” If it hadn’t happened in the last nine years, it likely wouldn’t now. “My impression is that over the last years, the team’s trust in the artistic director has sunk to nothing,” the dramaturg Maier said.
Critics of Spuhler see the recent public discussion of his leadership as a long-awaited breach of the defenses; his supporters describe it as a vindictive personal campaign. The motivations of individuals are complex, with competing interests and goals leading to an ever more explosive atmosphere. “Now everybody has a punching bag,” said Sieben, Spuhler’s former assistant, who has known Spuhler since his days in Heidelberg, where he served as artistic director from 2005 to 2011. Contrast that with social media, where complaints against Spuhler are stylized as a David-and-Goliath–style battle against a powerful evil. “I would love to help unseat him from the throne,” one former employee told me.
This debate goes beyond the Staatstheater’s work environment; aesthetic questions are also at stake. Linders, the former chief dramaturg, said that he sees a culture war at the heart of the matter. “In 2011, Karlsruhe needed to be reformed on so many levels,” he said, “and Peter Spuhler is an artistic director who expects a certain pace.”
Spuhler’s predecessor, Achim Thorwald, was perceived as conservative and provincial. Spuhler brought international co-productions to Karlsruhe, helmed by internationally renowned directors such as Yuval Sharon and David Hermann. This attracted the attention of the media beyond the confines of a city with just 300,000 people. One musician who used to play in the house’s orchestra said of Spuhler and his team: “They landed like a spaceship and said, ‘We’ll show you provincial buffoons how to make art.’”
In an opinion piece for the Badische Neueste Nachrichten, outgoing music director Justin Brown wrote that Spuhler hadn’t shown interest in combining audience-friendly productions with more innovative ones: “He was only interested in the latter.” A director who knows Spuhler well said, “If Karlsruhe wants a different sort of theater, they need to find someone who stands for that artistically.”
In the Badisches Staatstheater, rumors have begun circling about the identity of Erik Maurer, the person behind the Instagram account that helped spur the public reckoning. The debate has spread to the city’s larger cultural scene as well. Peter Weibel, the head of the Karlsruhe Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, organized a show of solidarity for the theater staff. Others in the industry denounced the employee’s rhetoric. It’s even become fodder for local politics: The city’s mayoral election will take place on December 6, with Mentrup running as incumbent. Ingo Wellenreuther, who represents Karlsruhe in the Bundestag for the center-right Christian Democratic Union, has accused Mentrup and arts minister Bauer of ignoring theater employee’s cries for help, an “unspeakable, almost inhuman” behavior. On the other hand, as Spuhler’s former assistant Achim Sieben pointed out, Wellenreuther never seemed to be interested in the theater until it became a potential wedge issue.
In early July, Mentrup and Minister of Arts Bauer complained that the discussion surrounding the Staatstheater resembled a “campaign.” Several employees I spoke to expressed discomfort at the temperature of the debate; others described it as a form of self defense. “We tried for a long time to handle things internally,” said Schmitz. “But it didn’t work.” Indeed, the unanimous vote of confidence in Spuhler by the administrative board seemed to have heightened the tension, rather than easing it, as staff said that politicians were aware of the accusations against Spuhler for years.
Interviews bear this out: According to sources who spoke to VAN, there have been at least a dozen meetings between the personnel board, the orchestra board, and individual members of the administrative board, in which Spuhler’s leadership style was criticized. “They usually said, ‘We’ve heard that before, it’s not new, but we’d hoped that it would have gotten better,’” said Schmitz. He recalled a meeting on November 15, 2018, which included Staatstheater staff and a politician named Christoph Peichl, of the Ministry for Science, Research and Art in Baden-Württemberg. The theater employees made a presentation on personnel fluctuation, burnout, and decreasing ticket sales. As Schmitz remembered it, “The core statement Mr. Peichl was making… was ‘Politics isn’t here to find a solution.’”
In 2015, the Staatstheater hired a consulting firm called Fuhrmann Leadership to mediate yet another conflict that threatened to split the theater apart. The catalyst was the dispute between Spuhler and former administrative director Michael Obermeier. Obermeier had accused the artistic director of hiring a staff member without posting an advertisement and getting Ministry approval; he then pressed charges for embezzlement, which prosecutors are currently investigating. Schmitz told me that the report produced by Fuhrmann Leadership was watered down until it offered no new strategies for improvement at the house. Even the word “mediation” was replaced with “moderation.”
On March 19, 2018, the personnel board presented the results of its employee survey to the administrative board. 80 percent of respondents described the work environment at the Staatstheater as “bad.” The report was rejected due to clerical errors. “We never even talked about the main point,” Schmitz told me. Anna Zanke of the communications department wrote a letter regarding unpaid overtime to the administrative board in June 2020. She described being told to doctor her timesheet, or doing so on her own, but because she felt she had to. “I have seen how employees—some faster or slower, some more intensively than others—break down psychologically. They suffer under the pressure, even after they leave the house,” she wrote.
This history explains the skepticism of Staatstheater employees toward the politicians who oversee the institution. Did they neglect their responsibility toward these workers in an institution financed by the taxpayer? This question is especially relevant in the case of the dramaturg Åkerlund. Source said that she contacted Susanne Asche, a cultural official in Karlsruhe, in late 2019 to file a complaint about specific members of the house’s leadership. In turn, these sources said, Asche called Spuhler immediately and informed him of Åkerlund’s complaint. In a subsequent meeting, Spuhler told his staff about Åkerlund’s “betrayal,” and that they would have to choose: Where they with him or against him?
“It was psychological violence, toward Laura and all of us,” said a person who was there. Later on, Uta-Christine Deppermann, head of artistic affairs, put Åkerlund “in front of a tribunal,” as Patric Seibert described it. “She had to explain why she did it [and was told t]hat it was damaging to the theater.”
Reached by phone, Asche confirmed that she had a confidential conversation with Åkerlund, but declined to say whether she had passed details of that discussion on to Spuhler. When pressed, she responded: “Everything is internal. This is inappropriate.” Asked to comment on the accusations about the work environment at the Badisches Staatstheater, she declined. “Let’s talk about the cultural value of the theater for the city instead,” she said.
In 2019, Spuhler’s contract was extended to 2026. This decision means that politicians have limited room to maneuver. If Spuhler is fired, his contract will likely need to be paid out until it ends; if that doesn’t happen he could sue. “The risk of embarrassment [for politicians] is too great,” Schmitz said. The ongoing renovation of the Staatstheater itself (for which costs have ballooned to €500 million) and the coronavirus crisis have meant that the house is in need of consistent leadership in some form.
For other employees, the extension of Spuhler’s contract had another meaning entirely: The artistic director is untouchable. They wonder why action wasn’t taken earlier to prevent the escalation that is happening now, which has hurt Spuhler but also the reputation of the theater. “He’s great at wrapping politicians around his little finger,” said a musician. “But they’re not the ones who have to work with him.” Other employees confirmed this: Spuhler is an outstanding communicator, a charismatic puppet master, and excellent networker. He’s an influential figure in the German Association of Theaters.
One former employee felt like he was in the TV show “The West Wing.” “We’re always thinking about how we’re perceived,” he said. “Peter gave us talking points to use with members of the administrative board.” He and Bauer have known each other since their Heidelberg days, where Bauer has her electoral district and Spuhler was artistic director. On July 16, the day before Spuhler received the unanimous vote of confidence from the administrative board, the politician Renate Rastätter, another member of the body, wrote Spuhler an encouraging Facebook wall post with butterflies and a quote from Theodor Fontane: “A new day will come.”
The next weeks will show whether Spuhler and his staff can smooth things over. They will also show whether the Badisches Staatstheater leadership was aware of the accusations of sexual harassment against the senior employee, and whether they were active in investigating them. The same goes for the separate case of alleged rape that happened after the premiere of Richard Strauss’s “Elektra” on the night of January 26, 2019. Prosecutors in Karlsruhe confirmed to VAN that two victims are pressing charges of sexual misconduct and rape against an employee of the Staatstheater. They also confirmed that both of these victims participated in the performance of “Elektra.”
Karlsruhe is an extreme case, but its dynamics reproduce themselves throughout the German theater scene. “Conversations with colleagues from other theaters demonstrate that the Badisches Staatstheater isn’t unique,” said dramaturg Deborah Maier. The system by which power is concentrated in the hands of a single artistic director has come under scrutiny, even compared to feudalism.
According to one in-demand director, “the German theater system is set up so that you hang a sign on the door reading ‘You Are Leaving the Democratic Sector.’” On the one side, there’s an all-powerful authority figure whose need to dominate is enabled by very real political power. On the other, there are the staff members whose contracts are often up for renewal every single year. Add to the mix politicians who are reluctant to criticize any aspect of the cultural sector, citing freedom of the arts, or who are personally bedazzled by charismatic authoritarian figures, and you have a system which encourages the boundary-crossing of the brilliant tyrant. “I have the feeling that politicians believe in the cliché that the person who screams the loudest is the best artist,” Maier said.
These discussions resurface periodically. That the Badisches Staatstheater is currently in the spotlight has to do with a constellation of coincidences: a conservative city on the verge of an election; a reactionary blog and an Instagram activist; a newspaper that started asking questions and employees who were willing to go on the record. “When a theater is more authoritarian, none of this stuff would even get out,” a director told me. Jan Linders, the former chief dramaturg, said that the focus on Spuhler’s personality is unfair. “He has been working on reforming things, but still has some elements of the old school in his approach,” he said. “Karlsruhe was on the right path. [Spuhler] was making changes that the entire German theater scene needs: structural feminist programming, an all-female leadership in the theater department, innovative opera projects, cooperations with the city… If all this [investigating] means ruining these improvements, then the price is too high.”
Some critics are focusing on the structural issues at the theater and how they can be improved, particularly concerning a more equitable sharing of power. But that’s only one part of the problem. Another issue is the lack of the most basic management competence among organizational leadership: teamwork, reliability, empathy, predictability, respect for the rules. In Germany, publicly-financed theaters are dismissive of the notion that they should be run like a “business.” In reality, their managers often act like the owners of 1950s-era advertising firms, including the attitude that temper tantrums are business as usual and that fear, not enthusiasm, is the only effective motivator.
The false dichotomy between the manager and the artist is another canard in the Karlsruhe debate. “I think some people work at the theater for the wrong reasons,” Maier said. “Namely, they want to have power; not because they are interested in people and their ideas.” Even though most employees are interested in making art together, it’s hard to avoid the pressure of the institution.
In June 2018, the German Association of Theaters published a set of behavioral guidelines for its members which forbade “any form of mental, verbal and physical attack.” The Badisches Staatstheater signed the agreement. In December 2018, the theater’s leadership signed a further agreement with staff, committing to “clear, trusting communication at all levels of our theater, to make sure that the environment in our theater is free of discrimination and fear.”
In the program book for the Badisches Staatstheater’s upcoming season, the company wrote, “Theater allows us to experiment with positions and modes of behavior.” Marc Auer, the extra, learned early on that these modes of behavior were different depending on whether you stood inside or outside the house. “I was 18. I thought you were just supposed to tolerate these things,” he said. “I would have appreciated a conversation, rather than explicit pictures.” His colleague, the young actor Christian Kaus, put it this way: “All of this hurt everything I loved about the theater.” ¶