ACCESS NL > Features > Curtain up!
2019-04-15 | By Tracey Taylor
The arts take centre stage with some of the English-speaking theatre groups and creative organisations around the country.
While the Netherlands is one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world, in the land of bicycles, tulips and windmills the world of the arts and creativity still remains an important part of the national, cultural and economic landscape.
At the forefront of this movement are many English language arts and theatre groups–artistic outlets that are building communities, working to develop entrepreneurial skills and insights, and illuminating the approach towards those in society with special needs.
These pioneering organizations are evidence that the cultivation of creative expression is still very much encouraged, valued and needed in the Netherlands and the international community.
We are focusing on five such organisations, but there are many international arts and theatre groups across the country. Or you can follow the lead of these groups and their founders and start your own!
Established by the University of Maastricht (UM) and the municipality, Kaleido Maastricht offers a place for students to meet, be inspired and make meaningful connections.
Josh Oudendijk moved to Maastricht to follow a course in European Studies at the UM. A talented musician, he quickly discovered that Kaleido hosted bands at the trendy Muziekgieterij and was so taken with the concept and vision that he joined the organisation. “Kaleido is now a home away from home for me” says Oudendijk, “and I’m thrilled how it’s gradually taking shape and becoming a place where everyone can feel welcome and express themselves creatively.”
The ambitious team at Kaleido hopes to create its own permanent location in the city to offer a diverse programme of musical, social and educational events. “The dream is that during the day, Kaleido will be a work and study space,” Oudendijk says, “and by night, it will transform into a cultural spot, club or music stage.”
Kaleido also offers advice and support for smaller organisations and the creation of events including standup comedy evenings, boardgame nights, presentations and talks. Kaleido currently has three full-time project members and roughly 40 dedicated volunteers. “Our teamspirit and diversity make us very proud,” says Oudendijk, “and we’re passionate about being part of this ongoing and ever-exciting project.”
The Artist and the Others
Jessica Capra pursued a Masters in Art and Heritage Policy Management and Education at Maastricht University. Upon completing her studies, Capra – along with two friends – formed The Artist and the Others. “We discovered that students graduating from cultural connected to artistic practices,” says Capra, “how to make project plans, how to sell one’s product, where to find opportunities.”
The Artist and the Others initiates projects reflecting the needs of artists and cultural professionals with workshops, lectures, symposiums, exhibitions, tours and international artistic exchanges. The Artist and the Others also connects professionals to the broader Euroregion network and offers a platform for talent development by working and sharing knowledge with stakeholders such as the Arts and Humanities Hub and European Creativity business network.
“Our hope is to create a sustainable cultural education, economy and environment,” says Capra, “and to cultivate talent in Maastricht, the Euroregion and, internationally.”
STET The English Theatre
STET was formed in the Hague in 2006 to fill a need for a professional English-language theatre. STET prides itself on its integrity and aims to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
Elske van Holk, artistic director, attended the Cours Simon School in Paris at London’s Southwark Playhouse theatre. “Although theatre is a wonderful tool, it’s often language based,” says van Holk, “so for those yet to master Dutch but who still love the theatre, there is STET!”=
STET also attracts native Dutch speakers to its performances staged at the Paradijs theater, Theater aan het Spui and Zaal 3 in the Hague. Alongside the “traditional” theatre experience which includes classical texts and Shakespeare, STET also facilitates workshops to develop “theatre-in-education” programmes. “This platform is gaining recognition amongst international and Dutch schools,” says van Holk, “of which I’m very proud.” Read about STET’s 10th anniversary in the Autumn 2016 issue of the ACCESS magazine.
In January 2021, the STET subsidy from Gemeente Den Haag is due to cease, coinciding with van Holk’s retirement. While difficult to replace, the team is already searching for a successor to help continue the work and secure necessary funds to sustain the ongoing development of STET.
Saskia Maas is a founding member and current CEO of Boom Chicago, the renowned comedy institution marking 25 years in Amsterdam in 2019. When Saskia’s son was diagnosed with autism, she educated herself on how autistic brains develop, and identified Boom Chicago’s approach to improvisation as valuable for individuals on the autistic spectrum. “People with autism speak in scripts,” Maas says, “and are often not ‘fluent’ in spontaneous interactions.” Maas and Pim Donkersloot, educational psychologist and director of the ChildCenter Foundation, founded Inter-Acting. “Our goal is to equip children with autism with social skills and understanding through improvisation,” says Maas, “we also endeavour to help folks with severe shyness, depression or low self-confidence.”
Inter-Acting is bilingual in terms of tuition and support and launches a new syllabus in Spring 2019 including taster classes for prospective students (age 13-22).
Inter-Acting is bilingual in terms of tuition and support and launches a new syllabus in Spring 2019 including taster classes for prospective students (age 13-22). “There are many wonderful organisations and clubs in the Netherlands but the improvisational theatre Inter-Acting offers is unique,” says Maas, “our wish is to continue bringing joy and growth to our students.”
Ellen de Ruiter previously worked at Nederlandse Stichting voor het Gehandicapte Kind (NSGK), a Dutch foundation for children with disabilities. In 2010, NSGK marked its 60-year anniversary with a 5D festival. “5D stands for the five dimensions of the senses and was a festival,” says de Ruiter, “showing it was possible to hold a festival accessible for everybody.” They noticed that generally in theatre there were few individuals with disabilities represented, either behind the scenes or on stage. So Stichting 5D was formed. “Our initial goal was to train young people with a disability (physical or psychological) in marketing, theatre production and administration,” says de Ruiter.
Although 5D festivals are no more, Stichting 5D has continued with disabilityled theatre productions, an accessibility advice bureau and training people for the work-floor and stage. And even though de Ruiter is stepping down from Stichting 5D, the next generation is already waiting in the wings! “My hope” says de Ruiter, “is that the young people taking over will have the support they need to claim their rightful role in the theatre world.”
About the author
Tracey Taylor lives in Maastricht with boyfriend, Dave and cat, Tubbs. She’s a writer, foodie and radio co-host @traceytaylor_nl @littletubbs_nl @themaastrichtedition