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The ancient theater of Epidaurus from the 4th century BC Chr.

Theater (from ancient Greek τὸ θέατρον théatron , 'show place', 'theater'; from θεᾶσθαι theasthai 'to see ') is the name for a scenic representation of an internal and external event as artistic communication between actors (performers) and the audience . The word theater can refer to the building in which the theater is performed (see theater architecture ), or the process of performing theater or, in general, a group of people who do theater, i.e. a theater group .

Gustaf Gründgens in Hamlet 1936
Theater scene, painting by Honoré Daumier

Divisions of the theater

There are four classic branches of theater:

  1. Spoken theater or drama ( tragedy , comedy )
  2. Music theater ( opera , operetta , musical )
  3. Dance theater or ballet
  4. Puppet theater

Puppet theater (for example, marionette theater ) and related forms such as shadow theater were still considered to be part of the handicraft of traveling stages and showmen in the 19th century and were seldom found in municipal theaters.

The divisions took place since around 1830. In the respective divisions differently trained and qualified artists are active.

Theaters in which several branches are at home are called multi- branch theater . A wide variety of artists work on them. More and more city theaters, which are often multi-branch houses, are forced to abolish individual branches for cost reasons. Often the dance branches and youth theater fall victim first.

Art form theater

The minimum formula for theater can be: A plays (B) and C watches (and both are aware of their roles as players and spectators). Above all, this means: an audience belongs to the theater. The audience can partially influence this in a performance (approval and disapproval).

Theater can be religious , socially critical , politically or even just aesthetically ambitious. Above all, it is a branch of art and therefore free. Due to the collective reception and the live character of performances (because of the transitory element), theater is particularly close to (real) society: it tells about people and life. The audience can recognize some things and discover new things, depending on the content and performance. An event on the stage can confirm or counteract it, it can open up new perspectives, sharpen the eye for alternatives. Linguistic formulations, the characters and the gestures of the actors are subject to constant adaptation to the social context. The theater criticism recently often moves in the tension between faithfulness and director's theater .

History of the theater

Early forms of theater developed in the early days of civilization in the form of dances in Stone Age cultures . For the Egyptian Abydos , religious festivals are occupied with theatrical elements from the period from 2000 to 1500 BC, but it was only in the theater of ancient Greece that new principles were invented that created the theater. With the “Theatron”, the auditorium , on the one hand the opportunity for discussions about Greek democracy was made possible, but also the religious festivals, especially the Dionysia , were held; At that time, politics and religion formed an inseparable unit. Aristotle 's treatises also established theater studies , and above all he demanded the unity of plot, place and time in drama.

The Athenian theater of Dionysus became the prototype of the theater and exported to the Greek colonies across the Mediterranean . In addition to the auditorium, it had a stage, the skené , on which the scene named after it was displayed (on pictures hung in the skené). In tragedies, the first form of drama since 534 BC at the latest. BC, and comedies since about 480 BC. BC, the god Dionysus was worshiped in the "Great Dionysia" ; the cheerful sequel to the tragedies was a satyr play . All dramas were shown only once, and were not repeated until several decades later.

The Romans adopted Greek theater culture at the time of the Punic War ; theaters were built throughout the Roman Empire. In the imperial era, however, this culture apparently lost its appeal in favor of pantomime .

In the Middle Ages , theater plays were held in the form of passion plays ; In general, however, there were no ancient dramas, only miracle games with content from the Bible and reports on the lives of the saints . Towards the end of the era, Mardi Gras and Morality Plays also became popular in England ; the latter formed a strong influence on the theater culture of modern times .

The Renaissance combined the ancient mystery games with the rediscovered classical tragedies and comedies. In northern Italy a new form of comedy was created at court theaters , the commedia erudita . Niccolò Machiavelli wrote the most famous comedies of his time. The tragedy was determined by the Aristotelian ideas.

In 1545, the first groups of professional actors appeared in Italy. Previously, theatrical performances were held as part of courtly or religious celebrations, the actors of which happened to be among the staff of the courts or the clergy . The theater only developed into an element of splendid court life in the baroque era .

As an art form of absolutism and the counter-reformation, the baroque was characterized by exuberant splendor, and theater became a multimedia experience . At the absolutist court even everyday life was theatrically arranged, and every production was to surpass all previous ones, a circumstance which brought the dramatist's profession into a heyday. In the big cities, an urban, commercial theater business was added, and the ever-increasing rush and the expansion of the game called for the change from courtly theater to popular theater . Nevertheless, auditoriums were set up here, the tiers and boxes of which reflected the hierarchy of society.

Theater construction

Bielitz-Biala Theater
Theater building ( Royal Opera House Budapest )
Schaubühne Berlin

City theaters, state theaters and state theaters are - from an architectural point of view - mostly special buildings and are still planned and built today as architecturally splendid buildings. The architects are particularly challenged by the need to combine refined aesthetic ideas and practical requirements, up to and including the mundane fact that a theater should also meet high standards in terms of the acoustics inside and also be practically soundproof against outside noise .

No matter how old or new theater buildings are, they have to meet strict safety regulations as meeting places. There are manifold requirements for all functional areas: for the stage , the auditorium (up to the " seating "), for the foyer (the - often entertained - meeting place of the audience), also for the audience cloakroom and the toilets as well as for all administrative and Workshop units up to social rooms, canteen and doctor's room , in which (possibly necessary) first aid can be provided.

What can be done without in small or room theaters (up to a maximum of 99 audience seats) is not possible in larger houses. Responsible stage managers must be employed for every larger stage ; For every performance, depending on the size of the house, a certain number of firefighters must be present to inspect the stage before the performance and to stay directly on the stage during the performance. In the big theaters (in Germany since 1889 ) an “ iron curtain ” is compulsory, which is lowered from above in case of danger (fire) and separates the stage and auditorium as a protective “wall”. All fabrics (curtains) must be flame-retardant, all technical devices must meet the " TÜV " standards and may only be operated by trained personnel (e.g. event technicians ) - to name just a few of the numerous construction, fire and safety-related issues To mention conditions.

Modern theater operations include elaborate lighting and sound systems (both now usually computer-controlled), for which only trained specialists are required.

The large houses have sufficiently large side stages on which the sets and props for the various scenes of the current play can be "hidden". The backstage is now seen in modern productions as a welcome opportunity to achieve great depth of the playing surface. The upper stage , the Schnürboden ("stage sky"), is at least as high as the visible stage itself because of the iron curtain alone. Up there hangs what curtains, stage sets and the like when the stage is being converted from one scene to another. a. can be lowered with the help of cables. The artists' cloakrooms and hand magazines for the daily requirements of props and decorations can be found near the stage.

In addition to the extensive magazines, in which the sets and props for all the productions that have been played and the repertoire pieces are stored, there is also a large pool where the often huge inventory (in some cases very old) costumes is kept, which can be used again and again. The theater also houses many workshops (painter's hall, carpenter's shop, locksmith's shop, tailoring, make-up, electrical workshop) as well as administrative offices.

In opera houses and multi-branch houses, the orchestra sits in the orchestra pit between the first row of seats and the stage ramp, which is lowered for musicals, operas and operettas, but is raised for theatrical productions, which expands the stage to the front. Big houses have revolving stages . This makes it easier to change scenes and also enables special features such as the option of hydraulically lowering the stage floor in segments or raising it above normal level. The auditorium in the theater is normally to be completely darkened, which is particularly practiced at the beginning of a performance in order to lead the audience into another world, as it were, from the "before". The dark auditorium also enables blackouts (in which the entire room becomes dark in one fell swoop by “switching off” the stage spotlights). Because the auditorium is dark during the game, but the stage is illuminated with spotlights from the direction of the audience, the actors on the stage are “blinded”. You don't see the audience. You play against the “fourth wall”, which is built by the brightness of the en-face lighting.

Peep box stage
Arena stage

In addition to the stage in the large house, the large theaters have rehearsal stages, foyer stages and the like. Since the 60s of the last century, when small stages caused a sensation with then new pieces and many experiments, the large houses usually also have studio stages, workshop stages and podiums that are externally based on these avant-garde competitors (up to the "open", visible ones Technology), and in which a "young" game plan is maintained.

Many new buildings are turning away from the traditional peep-show stage towards the spatial stage , arena stage and all- round stage in order to achieve a different audience-actor allocation (which is not that new either, think of the Shakespeare stage, the “ Globe Theater” "). So that the event has a direct connection to the audience, the stage and auditorium merge architecturally into one another. There is a dispute (which flares up again and again) among theater makers about whether it is not contrary to the nature of theater to seat the audience around a stage. Critics of this, from their point of view, seemingly modern practice mean that no (stage) “space” would arise - the secret of the “behind”, the other imaginary, invisible spaces would be lost. There is a lack of audience focus on what is happening, the imagination about what is behind it is curtailed. One becomes an observer of the other respective visitors, which prevents the observed from complete concentration, influences them negatively and makes the reception of the stage events with all senses impossible. If one observes current theater events, one realizes: Even otherwise free and unconventionally working theater makers tend to go back to the "old" practice when it comes to the assignment of stage / auditorium.

Establishment of today's theater

In a theater people work together who have very different professions. Above all in publicly sponsored theaters, but also in most of the larger private theaters comparable to these, there is a division of labor. For example, actors are not allowed to do any technical work there. The success of the theater productions depends on the good cooperation between the artistic and non-artistic employees. However, there are more theaters in which such shared work is not possible and / or not wanted.

Organizational area

Publicly owned theaters are usually artistically directed by the artistic director (the artistic director). For example, directors of city theaters are elected (for a certain period of time) by the council of the municipality. Usually a (civil servant) administrative director is provided. The directorship contracts define the area of ​​responsibility. This includes details, for example whether and how often the director (the director) himself staged in-house, whether and how many external directing work he / she is allowed to take on. Framework conditions are also laid down, such as the number of (new) productions (in the categories and genres) per season and much more.

In close cooperation with the dramaturge , the complete program is prepared for one to two years in advance. It is the basis for all dispositions up to the dissolution of previous contracts and (new) obligations in the field of artistic personnel.

The Artistic Operations Office (KBB) is the contact point and assembly point for rehearsals and performances in a theater. The KBB is an organizational unit that coordinates all tasks, people and processes.

The press and public relations work is responsible for the connections to "outside", to the media and other contact persons; it issues press releases, it controls advertising ( posters , flyers , postcards and monthly leporello , etc.), and there are specialists in many houses for cooperation with visitor rings, schools, with young audiences and other target groups. The work of the marketing departments of the musical houses and other private theaters is seen as central to the success of the house. Many directors of publicly owned theaters tend to rely on the supposed attractiveness of their artistic offer, are reserved about the "sale" of their products and rely on less and less effective conventional ways and means when trying to reach their - or a new - audience.

The administration, which also includes a personnel department, plans, controls and accounts for all financial and administrative processes. The budget of the publicly funded theaters is set by the sponsors, including their own income. Here, some houses still after cameral system process, many theaters have already but the double-entry changed, which is known from industry double-entry bookkeeping. As a rule, the theaters receive budgets that allow a certain leeway in the use of the funds, with around 85% of the budget being committed to personnel expenses. As a rule, around 9% of the budget is spent on administration.

Artistic area

Many artists and people work in the theater on and behind the stage:

Women: soprano , mezzo-soprano , alto ,
Men: countertenor , tenor , baritone , bass

Technical part

Most theaters have their own technical departments, divided into

The technical departments in the theater require great artistry , inventiveness, flexibility and an understanding of artistic processes. In many smaller and so-called free and off-theaters , the technical area is often limited to a minimum.

Theater and economics

Public sponsorship

There are around 140 publicly owned theaters in Germany . These houses are supported with funds from state and municipal budgets. The income from ticket sales (own contribution) in these theaters amounts to an average of around 20 percent of the total budget. A theater ticket in Germany is supported at an average of 95.74 euros. Despite tight public budgets, the subsidy providers are largely sticking to the public funding of theaters; In addition, they are bound by collective agreements as employers, especially with non-artistic staff. However, since the subsidies have been frozen or cut in recent years, the theaters are looking for other sources: patrons, sponsors, development associations and foundations ( Federal Cultural Foundation ). Furthermore, in the new federal states, many theaters are in company collective agreements in which salaries are reduced. Thus the employees of the theater co-finance their theater themselves.

Guest theater

Not every city, not every municipality can have its own theater, possibly with a permanent ensemble. Guest performances are an alternative for those municipalities that value a wide range of cultural and even artistic offerings: in some cities there are real theaters, in others there are cultural centers, auditoriums, congress centers or other venues with the appropriate technical facilities that enable good performances are necessary. There are also municipalities with their own theater ensemble, which nevertheless allow tour organizers and theater producers to perform in other venues , in which case a broader spectrum of programs can be presented. German cities with venues but without their own ensemble have come together to form a community of interests of cities with theater guest performances .

The advantage of the touring theater model from the point of view of the host community: A variety of different performances is possible, as numerous touring theaters and theater producers offer productions without incurring the permanent costs of a theater operation.

Apart from doing theater with its own permanent ensemble and numerous guest appearances, especially the State Theater , as well as other platforms. As a rule, many solid partnerships have resulted. Germany's largest guest theater are the Landestheater Detmold and the Landesbühnen Sachsen .

Private theater

Schmidt Theater Hamburg
Millowitsch Theater Cologne

In addition to around 150 publicly funded theaters (city theaters, state theaters and state theaters) there are around 220 private theaters in Germany . These are theaters of very different sizes, artistic orientations, provenances and traditions. Around 80 of these private theaters are organized in the Deutsches Bühnenverein (examples: Altes Schauspielhaus, Stuttgart; Ohnsorg-Theater and Schmidt Theater , Hamburg; Komödie am Kurfürstendamm , Berlin; Millowitsch-Theater , Cologne ; Komödie im Bayerischer Hof , Munich, Grenzlandtheater Aachen ). There is hardly anything that applies equally to all private theaters, be it in artistic, organizational and administrative or financial terms. Some of these theaters are larger than city theaters and have the same “apparatus” (administration, workshops, large ensembles), other private theaters are so small that there is no division of labor and everyone involved (must) do all the work.

While the collective agreements of the public service apply to the non-artistic employees at city and state theaters, the artistic employees - with the exception of orchestral musicians - work mainly on the basis of fixed-term employment contracts.

The private theaters, which have to generate a greater percentage of their financial resources from their own income than the publicly funded theaters, are not tied to public service tariffs. However, they usually apply the "normal stage contract (NV) stage" (especially the houses, which in terms of structure and size come close to publicly owned stages) - or they work according to individual regulations (free contracts). Most of the time, they can neither work in the artistic nor in the non-artistic field. It is more likely to work with freely negotiated fees per performance played. Since only a few days a week can be played in small and medium-sized towns, the fees for the artists are low there, calculated on a monthly basis. On the stages of the larger private theaters, however, the German TV and cinema stars from Mario Adorf and Uwe Ochsenknecht to Heiner Lauterbach to Judy Winter , Katja Riemann and Désirée Nick regularly play .

For the reasons mentioned, the better-known private theaters are located in large cities, as the number of spectators and tourists there makes the operation more profitable.

While the publicly run theaters had to accept a drop of around 300,000 spectators in the 2003/04 season, the private theaters, which also include the musicals, recorded an increase in attendance of around 500,000.

Theater landscape

Theater in the German-speaking area

The image of the theatrical landscape in Germany is largely determined by the around 140 publicly supported theaters, i.e. city theaters, state theaters and state theaters. There are also around 220 private theaters and around 70 festivals, around 150 theaters and performance venues without a permanent ensemble and around 100 touring and guest performance stages without a permanent establishment. In addition, there is a huge number of free groups. Most of today's city theaters were created on private initiative and were initially run as private theaters. At the beginning of the 20th century there were only 16 municipal theaters, but there were 360 ​​private theaters.

In Austria , the action is concentrated on the federal theaters (State Opera and Volksoper, Burg- and Akademietheater, including side stages ) , the large Viennese private theaters, the United Theaters of Vienna, the Theater of the Young as well as the state theaters and city theaters. The performances there were attended by 3.59 million viewers in 2012/13. There are also some private amateur theater stages.

In Liechtenstein , the Theater am Kirchplatz (TaK) in Schaan with 295 seats, the secondary theater in the TaKino with 100 seats and the cabaret in Vaduz are among the most popular theater stages.

There are no exact figures for Switzerland, but Bern, Basel, Zurich and Geneva have a rich theater tradition.

Theaters in other countries

Interior of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires

There are around 40 private theaters on Broadway, most of which specialize in musicals. There are 208 theaters and cabarets in Paris.

See also

Portal: Theater  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of theater


Web links

Wiktionary: Theater  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Theater  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Theater  sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. On the situation of the theater (s) in Germany, see the final report of the Enquete Commission “Culture in Germany”, German Bundestag printed matter 16/7000 16th electoral period of December 11, 2007, page 105 ff. Theater, cultural orchestra, operas ( Memento of the original dated May 30, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Erika Fischer-Lichte : Semiotics of the theater: The system of theatrical signs, Volume I, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen, 1983, p. 65 f.
  3. ^ Masuhr, Karl F .: "The Visite, a satyr play. Hoof-Verlag, Berlin 2014
  4. EGK Darstellendes Spiel, accessed April 12, 2015 ( Memento of the original from April 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. EGK Darstellendes Spiel, accessed April 12, 2015 ( Memento of the original from April 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. What does what cost in the theater? , Theater letter from the German Stage Association, which breaks down the expenses of the theater
  8. ^ Deutscher Bühnenverein, theater and orchestra landscape, accessed on April 13, 2015.
  9. Statistics Austria, Theater and Music, accessed on April 13, 2015.
  10. The TAK., accessed on November 27, 2017 .
  11. ^ Liechtenstein Marketing, accessed on April 13, 2015.
  12. Theater in Switzerland, accessed on April 13, 2015. ( Memento of the original from December 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  13. Paris info, access on April 13, 2015.