Baumbauer, Frank

Baumbauer, Frank
(1945- )
   Intendant. Baumbauer gained considerable notoriety in the 1990s for his businesslike approach to running theaters, notably in Basel and Hamburg (he had previously run the Munich Residenz Theater). Baumbauer had begun his career as an assistant in Düsseldorf and began directing his own productions at the Bavarian State Theater in his native Munich. In 1983 he became chief director at that theater, and in 1987, intendant of Theater Basel. There, he established his career as a theater administrator, using a much less confrontational approach with city politicians and union leaders than had been the case in most cities. The result was that his theater continued to run efficiently, and often far more successfully, with fewer subsidies. Among many in the German theater profession, however, Baumbauer's approach was close to heresy. His operations at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, for example, accepted less subvention every year as a percentage of annual operating expenses; by 1999 subsidies covered "only" 72 percent of his expenses, among the lowest subvention rates of any major theater in Germany. Among other controversial measures Baumbauer initiated with city officials a specific annual subsidy for every year over the course of his contract as intendant, thereby giving himself some budgetary predictability. His opponents said that such tactics provide officials the opportunity to base government support on the personality of a theater's administration—that is, subsidies predicated on the intendant's success, rather than on "community needs" and the centuries-old and nearly sacred German tradition of state obligation to theater and the arts generally.
   Baumbauer certainly did not lack artistic success in Hamburg; he hired Christoph Marthaler, who went on to become Theater Heute's "director of the year" twice. He fostered Jossi Wieler in Basel and likewise hired him to work in Hamburg, where in 1994 he staged the premiere of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Elfriede Je-linek's Wolken.Heim (At Home in the Clouds); it was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen and named "production of the year." The Deutsches Schauspielhaus was itself awarded "theater of the year" three times under Baumbauer's tenure. Attendance rates at the Schauspielhaus were also among the highest of any in Germany, even though it has the largest seating capacity (1,397) of any dramatic theater in the country. Yet Baumbauer is not an iconoclast; he refuses even to consider the commercial practices of a length-of-run contract for actors, common in the English-speaking theater; he also rejects out of hand any departure from the rotating repertory theater model, which some politicians have noted is economically unfeasible compared with the "long run" of a successful production. He also rejected the idea of "merging" theaters in close geographical proximity.
   There was extensive controversy when Baumbauer left Hamburg to assume leadership of the Munich Kammerspiele in 2001. City officials that year had fired Dieter Dorn, who had worked at the Kammerspiele since 1977. Complicating Baumbauer's assumption of Dorn's job was the fact Dorn was thereafter hired to run the Bavarian State Theaters in Munich, and with him went many of the Kammer-spiele's audience. Baumbauer found such a development inevitable, given the long presence of Dorn in Munich. He meanwhile recognized that the Kammerspiele's audience needed changing, as do most of the city-subsidized theaters in Germany. A worthwhile goal for German municipal theaters, he has stated, is to change the identities of those theaters and make them more closely resemble festival theaters, in which non-German directors are invited to stage productions and where new German plays are more frequently staged than elsewhere.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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