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Amsterdam International Theatre issues report on poor working environment in performing arts

Amsterdam International Theatre issues report on poor working environment in performing arts

“As regards the victims, it was employees with managerial duties who were subjected to the inappropriate behaviour. This apparent conflicting result with the hierarchy discussed can be explained by the fact that in most of these cases the perpetrator of the inappropriate behaviour was (a) a member(s) of the Board of Directors or another manager(s).

Last year, Ivo van Hove suddenly left his post as director of the Amsterdam International Theatre, a company he had had a decisive influence on for at least a quarter of a century. There was no grand farewell party; his successor had already been appointed. Six months before the world-famous director’s departure, there had been a strike by the artistic staff, and a few months after his departure, an actress had complained of inappropriate behaviour. Silence and an internal investigation followed.


The outside world was left guessing what happened on the ground. The Culture Board was also left in the dark. In early July, the board judged the company harshly and the club, which considered itself too big for the Netherlands, was downgraded to a medium-sized company. The loss of the contribution to world production meant that the budget was halved: 2 million instead of 3.85 million.

In a departure from its tradition of keeping investigations into misconduct private, the company now feels compelled to release the report to the public, albeit with the source’s identity kept as anonymous as possible. The likely reason for this disclosure is improvements made under new management. Unfortunately, the research also shows that corporate culture persists. A hierarchical model that has grown over the years cannot be undone in a single year.

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medieval monastery

The quote that opens this article illustrates this. The ITA was organized like an army, a DWDD, or a medieval monastery: those who were higher up in the hierarchy did to those of lower rank what they themselves had been subjected to, up to the very top: stairs down, licks up. Also significant is that two-thirds of the study participants said they had seen others become victims. Reports were poorly handled, or even led to new acts of intimidation.

Source: Verinorm Research

Knowing that the press (such as this one) will focus mainly on the negative aspects of the research, the report tries to emphasize that there are also many people who report positive experiences, and that there is confidence in the new management. Ellen Arbo, who was appointed to succeed Yvo van Hove last spring, can certainly bring about a change in the company’s ongoing culture.

Singer worship

What also needs to change is the cult of divas that is somewhat associated with the performing arts: where great actors and actresses and guest directors who are sometimes brought in from abroad can indulge themselves without limits. It is the “Champions League” mentality that we also know from certain TV shows, and which perhaps also leads to the destruction of lives in the law offices of Zuidas and in the political parties of The Hague.

ITA is now a stark example of a weak sector. This is no license to blame Art or Amsterdam, or Wouter, René, Ivo and Jan. In this report, ordinary employees might also read something about their company. We all need to think differently about leadership.

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Read the full report here.

Verinorm Report – International Theatre – Amsterdam – A – Culture – Research