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International Theatre Amsterdam makes report on sickened working climate public 

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"Regarding the victims, it was mainly employees with managerial duties who experienced the cross-border behaviour. This apparent contradictory result with the discussed hierarchy is explicable from the fact that the perpetrator of the transgressive behaviour in the majority of these cases is (a) board member(s) or other manager(s)."

Ivo van Hove suddenly left last year as director of Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, the company on which he had been an all-important influence for at least a quarter of a century. There was no big farewell party; his successor had already been appointed. Six months before the internationally renowned director's departure, there was a strike by the technical staff; a few months after his departure, one actress complained of transgressive behaviour. Silence and an internal investigation followed. 


The outside world was left guessing what on earth had happened. The Culture Council, too, remained in the dark. In early July, that Council ruled harshly on the company and the club that considered itself almost too big for the Netherlands was downgraded to medium-sized company. The removal of a contribution for international productions meant a halving of the budget: 2 million instead of 3.85 million. 

Against its habit of keeping investigations into cross-border behaviour indoors, the company now feels compelled to make the report public, albeit as anonymised as possible. Presumed reason for the disclosure is the improvement that has begun under the new management. Unfortunately, the investigation also makes it clear that the corporate culture is intractable. You don't undo a hierarchical model grown over years in one year. 

Medieval monastery

The quote with which this article opens makes that clear. ITA was organised like an army, DWDD or medieval monastery: whoever was higher in the pecking order did to lower-ranking people what they themselves were subjected to, right up to the highest summit: kicking downward, licking upward. Also significant is that two-thirds of the survey participants reported having seen others being victimised. Reports were poorly handled, or even led to new harassment. 

Source: research Verinorm

Knowing that the press (such as this medium) would focus mainly on the negative aspects of the investigation, the report tries to emphasise above all that there are also many people reporting positive experiences, and that there is confidence in the new management. So Eline Arbo, who was appointed as Ivo van Hove's successor last spring, may well bring about a change in the intractable corporate culture. 

Diva worship

What will also have to change, above all, is the diva worship that is somewhat part and parcel of (performing) arts institutions: great actors and actresses, guest directors brought in from far abroad could sometimes indulge in unlimited excesses. It is the 'Champions League' mentality that we are also familiar with from certain television programmes, and which probably also wreaks havoc with lives at law firms on the Zuidas and at political parties in The Hague. 

ITA is now a striking example from a vulnerable sector. That is not a licence to blame it on art or Amsterdam, or Wouter, René, Ivo and Jan. In this report, ordinary workers might also read something about their own company. We all need to think differently about leadership. 

Read the whole report here.


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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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