The theatres in Lithuania are divided into state-owned, municipal, private or non-governmental, and amateur theatres. Lithuania has 13 state theatres, including 8 drama theatres, 2 puppet theatres and 3 musical theatres. Three theatres were granted the status of National Theatre, namely, the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre and Kaunas National Drama Theatre. According to the data of Lithuanian Department of Statistics, in 2018 there were 37 private theatres in Lithuania.
State-run theatres operate in all the larger Lithuanian towns and cities (Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys, Šiauliai, Marijampolė, and Alytus). All state-owned theatres are provided with their own premises (buildings). They have the legal form of budget institutions (see chapter 4.1.9) and are financed by the Ministry of Culture and municipalities. The Lithuanian Council for Culture finances their educational projects.
Private or non-governmental theatres finance their activity from their own income; they can also apply for funding from Lithuanian Council for Culture and funds of municipalities. During the last two decades, some Lithuanian private theatres, e.g. theatre company “Meno Fortas” founded by one of the most famous Lithuanian theatre directors Eimuntas Nekrošius, and theatre of Oskaras Koršunovas, became well-known not only in Lithuania, but also abroad. Despite the uneven competition with state theatres, as the latter receive direct funding from the Ministry of Culture, Lithuanian private theatres became very popular and have doubled the number of their visitors over the last 10 years*.
Table 15: The number of theatres and their visitors in Lithuania in 2009–2018
|Number of national and state theatres||13||13||13||13||13||13||13||13||13||13|
|Number of private theatres||28||27||26||26||26||26||24||24||39||37|
|Number of visitors of national and state theatres (in thousands)||646||587||594||625||645||659||719||753||767||709|
|Number of visitors of private theatres (in thousands)||295||271||256||233||407||564||735||526||628||643|
*In 2017, the Ministry of Culture changed the rules of granting the status of a professional theatre and because of that the number of private theatres significantly increased in 2017. The largest number of visitors of private theatres, however, was achieved in 2015, i.e. before the change of the rules.
Lithuania has three public musical theatres: the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre with a professional classical ballet troupe, the Kaunas State Music Theatre, and the Klaipėda State Music Theatre.
The function of distribution of professional musical culture in the country and abroad has been performed by 7 state concert performers and agencies. The National Philharmonic Society of Lithuania unites 5 musical performance groups: the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Lithuanian chamber orchestra, Vilnius String Quartet, Čiurlionis quartet, and The Ensemble Musica Humana. Other music organisations, established and financed by the state are the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, the State Philharmonic Society in Kaunas, including the internationally renowned Kaunas State Choir, Lithuanian State Wind Instrument Orchestra “Trimitas”, the National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble “Lietuva”, the State Choir “Vilnius”, and the State Chamber Choir “Polifonija”. Besides their direct activities, these institutions, as well as the other non-governmental organisations are engaged in the organisation of international professional art festivals and different contests in Lithuania.
All mentioned theatre and music organisations are financed by the Ministry of Culture, the main political actor in field of performing arts. According to the Law on Professional Performing Arts (2004), the Ministry of Culture shapes policy of performing arts, drafts laws and other legal acts, promotes international cooperation between professional performing arts institutions and their participation in transnational cultural cooperation programmes, coordinates and controls the activities of state-owned theatres and concert organisations, etc.
The Minister of Culture is consulted by the Council of Professional Performing Arts. The Council performs the functions of an expert and consultant on issues of policy development and implementation of Lithuanian professional performing arts. It is composed of representatives of the Association of Lithuanian Performing Arts Organisations and of professional organisations that work in the field of performing arts.
The role of the municipalities in the field of performing arts policy is also defined in the Law on Professional Performing Arts (2004). Municipalities plan and monitor the activities of municipal theatres and concert institutions, coordinate the participation of municipal theatres and concert institutions in international cultural programmes, and ensure participation of municipal theatres and concert institutions in non-formal education programmes.
Performing arts organisations can apply for funding at the Lithuanian Council for Culture. In 2018, the Lithuanian Council for Culture allocated 2 880 150 EUR for 242 music projects, 1 481 566 EUR for 157 theatre projects, 742 156 EUR for 50 dance projects, 116 280 EUR for 11 circus projects. Grants in each of the four areas of performing arts were given for the following activities: 1) professional creation and its dissemination in Lithuania and abroad; 2) events; 3) accumulation of information (archiving, documentation) and its dissemination; 4) publishing; 5) professional criticism and analysis; 6) networking and mobility; 7) co-production.
The private and non-governmental performing arts organisations can also apply for funding from a special programme of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. The funds of this programme are used to finance the rent of the premises where the professional performing arts institution operates; the maintenance of the infrastructure of the premises; the bookkeeping services and to cover the wage costs, including taxes, of staff employed by a professional performing arts institution.
In 2018, the National Audit Office of Lithuania carried out the audit of the state theatres and concert organisations in order to evaluate the efficiency of their operation. The audit report states that professional theatres and concert establishments receive approximately 40 million EUR from the state budget each year. 97 per cent of these funds are allocated to 20 establishments which fall within the area managed by the Ministry of Culture, namely to national and state theatres and concert establishments. However, their funding is not tied to their performance, as the national theatres and concert establishments are not subject to any specific individual requirements. Audit results have also demonstrated that the network of professional performing arts establishments funded from the state budget has remained fundamentally unchanged for a great number of years, and that national cultural policy is currently being formulated without any crucial information on the performance of all of the relevant establishments. This leads to a lack of substantiated data on the pursuit of the goals of professional performing arts institutions, and whether the funds are being deployed in the most purposeful manner.
The Lithuanian Cultural Policy Strategy 2030 takes into account the audit findings and argues the need to formulate clear criteria for assessing the performance of state and national performing arts institutions that would be tied with their status. The status of the “national arts institution” implies not only the exclusive quality of the activity and leadership, but also a special role in the implementation of state priorities. The strategy also notes that the current Lithuanian system of national and state arts organisations can provide services of high quality but does not ensure effective dissemination of art and culture. Therefore, the system will have to be revised and changed in the coming years in line with the expectations of modern society and the possibilities of the country.