The Deutscher Bühnenverein is a politico-cultural organisation that represents the interests of its members, namely theatres and orchestras. Its aim is to preserve, promote and develop the diversity of the German theatre and orchestra landscape and its contribution to cultural life. Taking a hands-on and results-oriented approach, the Bühnenverein concerns itself with artistic, legal, organisational and political questions relevant to its interests. Within its sphere of responsibility, it also shapes the working conditions of the cultural scene affiliated to it. In this respect, the organisation sees itself as a mediator between theatres and orchestras and the institutions that fund them, as well as promoting interaction between its members with a view to pooling their experience.
Rather than pursuing its own unilateral interests, the Bühnenverein perceives art and culture as an indispensable part of human life and it is this that is the focal point of its work. Key issues for the organisation include the future design of ensemble and repertory theatre, the social relevance of theatre, music and dance, the development of a modern pay policy, but also the implementation of measures aimed at the target groups of theatres and orchestras.
The Bühnenverein is involved in all artistic, legal, organisational and political issues that are of relevance for theatres and orchestras. It serves as the point of contact for its members and for the general public, as well as for the federal government, federal states and municipalities. Strategies are developed by specialist bodies with a view to changing the working conditions in theatres and orchestras - taking into account the state of the public purse - and to shaping the future of this cultural scene. The Bühnenverein groups together the various interests of its members and communicates these at both a national and international level.
As the employers' association, the Bühnenverein concludes collective agreements with different trade unions for the artistic personnel of theatres and orchestras, thereby having a significant influence on pay policy in cultural circles. By acting in an advisory capacity for legislative procedures at national and federal state level, the Bühnenverein voices the wishes of theatres and orchestras. The Bühnenverein is constantly involved in optimising legal forms and organisational structures and in improving the underlying legal conditions. In addition, it provides expert opinions on cultural policy, legal issues and commercial matters.
The Bühnenverein is also involved with the courts of arbitration which it operates together with the artists' unions. It conducts negotiations regarding the protection of and royalties from copyrights and neighbouring rights with major collecting societies such as GEMA (German Society for Musical Performing Rights and Mechanical Reproduction Rights) and GVL (Collecting Society for Neighbouring Rights) as well as the Verband Deutscher Bühnen- und Medienverlage (League of German Stage and Media Publishers).
Even at an international level, the Bühnenverein looks after the interests of German theatres and orchestras. European Union legislation is already having an impact on everyday work in cultural institutions. European legal requirements are set to increase in significance over the next few years. The Bühnenverein is a member of PEARLE*(Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe), which includes European theatre and orchestra associations. PEARLE* is involved in EU legislative procedures and has observer status with the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation), which is concerned with the protection of intellectual property worldwide.
The Bühnenverein played a decisive role in the founding of the Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Bühnen in 1925, an organisation which, together with the Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Kulturorchester, provided all theatre workers and orchestra musicians with disability pensions, old age pensions as well as financial support for their dependents.
Every year, the Bühnenverein publishes a set of theatre statistics and performance statistics with all relevant information regarding theatre activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Since 1909, it has published Die Deutsche Bühne (The German Stage), a review that focuses primarily on theatre and musical theatre work. The publication Theater und Orchester in Deutschland - Theatres and Orchestras in Germany - gives a compact overview of the German theatre and orchestra landscape in three languages. Specialist literature is also available on a number of specific topics, as is documentation and a brochure entitled Berufe am Theater (A Career in the Theatre). The Bühnenverein regularly contributes to general discussions in the form of up-to-date specialist articles, position papers and press releases.
The Bühnenverein organises symposia, conferences and panel discussions on a variety of individual themes. In addition to this, it offers regular training events and seminars for its members.
Since 2006, the Bühnenverein also organises the German Theatre Prize DER FAUST, together with the Federal States, the Kulturstiftung der Länder, and the Deutsche Akademie der Darstellenden Künste.
In 2020, the members elected Dr. Carsten Brosda, Minister of Culture and Media of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, as President of the Deutscher Bühnenverein. Since 2017, the office of Director and CEO has been held by company lawyer Marc Grandmontagne. The other members of the presidium are also the chairpersons of the individual subgroups of the Bühnenverein.
The Bühnenverein has some 470 members under its umbrella. Almost all state and city theatres are members, including opera houses, regional theatre companies, and a large number of private theatres and “culture orchestras”. The state institutions that fund theatres and orchestras are also members. In addition to these, there are extraordinary members such as public law broadcasting companies and other institutions as well as personal members such as directors.
The Bühnenverein advises and informs its members on all issues that are of importance to running theatres and orchestras. Specialists from the fields of law, business administration and public relations are at hand to provide members with advice.
Circulars, information services, newsletters, surveys and an online service area ensure constant communication with members. The Bühnenverein regularly organises further training for its members in the fields of law, business administration, economics, public relations, marketing and human resource management.
All central functions of the association are overseen by the Board and a number of specialist departments at the head office in Cologne. Additional support is given by a total of eight federal state associations, particularly with regard to providing legal advice for members.
In order to meet the various interests of the individual members, questions relating to specific areas are dealt with by panels and committees.
Founded in Oldenburg in 1846, the Bühnenverein is one of the oldest and largest theatre associations in the world. Its first president was Karl Theodor von Küstner, Artistic Director of the Königliches Schauspiel in Berlin. In 1935, the Bühnenverein was disbanded on the orders of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry and later re-established in Cologne in 1947.
Initially, the highest office in the association was generally held by the mayor of a major theatre city, a notable exception being actor and director Gustaf Gründgens between 1948 and 1950. It was not until 1989 that another theatre director - Prof. August Everding - was elected president of the Bühnenverein. His successors, Prof. Jürgen Flimm and Prof. Klaus Zehelein, also came from the ranks of theatre directors.
In October 1990, the Deutscher Bühnenbund, a theatre association founded in the former East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, joined the Bühnenverein, thereby paving the way for the integration of theatres and orchestras from the new federal states.