het Theater Festival

Theatre, my darling, we need to talk 

vr 16 sep 2022

Het TheaterFestival, Nederlands Theater Festival and Horizon Showcase join forces by creating The International Exchange program, in which they invite six artists to reflect on theatre and its possibilities. 

Maria Magdalena De Cort


© Nisran Azouaghe


In between the turbulence that typifies the production of Het TheaterFestival, I was invited by the group of the International Exchange Program to listen to and engage in one of their daily discussions. Around the table, in one of the many small rooms where the magic happens at VIERNULVIER during Het TheaterFestival, they take time to reflect on the meaning and possibilities of theatre. This pilot project is a collaboration between Het TheaterFestival, Nederlands Theater Festival and Horizon Showcase (during Edinburgh Fringe). Two artists from each institution were given the chance to hop on the road and see shows at the participating festivals. After each day of showgazing, the group congregates to share their thoughts. In the two hours I’ve sat with them as a wallflower, I was pulled along in their imagination, soft as butter for the amount of respect and patience they cherish for each other as well as the firmness in which they hold on to their thoughts. They came up with ideas to expand our artistic pool; one of the proposals was named ‘Say It Forward’: a sort of relay race where artists in residence recommend another artist. 

In times in which we receive typhoons of input and in which it’s duck soup to go ‘wasco’ (to quote Bambiraptor), we must not forget the value of sitting down, sharing thoughts and harvesting patience toward each other. Listening is an artistic practice, a skill like any other that takes ten thousand hours to master, and as one of the people in the group says: ‘Not all conversations need an artistic output.’ 


Allow me to share some snippets of the thoughts that were exchanged during my visit. 


‘The profile of the jury selecting work to present or projects for funding doesn’t always match the profile of the audience.’

‘What would your Bravest Festival line-up look like? Just fantasize, be brave, if finance or popularity were not a deciding factor.’

‘When, while creating, I think about who my audience is, I immediately start compromising.’

‘The question is maybe not: who is this made for? It’s rather: who is this erasing?’ 

‘Doesn’t curation poison friendship?’

On solidarity between artists.

‘So, when you’re an artist in residence somewhere, and you use your designated space every day from 9 to 5, why not share it with another artist during the hours you’re not using it?’

‘It could be an eco-system of artists: each artist invites another one.’

‘Provocation in English is just a weird bit different than provocatie in Dutch.’

‘There is a way to find the known in the foreign through each other’s eyes.’

‘Because international exchange is often conducted in English, it’s tiring for people to talk in their second or third language for a whole day.’

– On the need of finding new ways to communicate.

‘This is important. We have to remind ourselves that talking is not slacking. And to talk about things so freely as we are right now is rare.’

The artists from BAC Edinburgh are Mark Maughan, who makes critically acclaimed contemporary work, platforming those with a marginalised experience of the world and Hester Stefan Chillingworth, who makes playfully subversive and interventionist work which sits at the crossroads of live art, theatre, visual art, text and film.

Mathieu Wijdeven, whose work follows his fascination for the symbiotic relationship that people enter into with objects represents Nederlands Theater Festival, along with Maria Magdalena Kozlowska, who works with voice and its political potential, often collaborating with classically trained musicians and singers.

Het TheaterFestival sent out Musia Mwankumi and Prisca Agnes Nishimwe. In their work, Musia as a Black, queer person tries to propose a new and broader focus. Prisca is driven by philosophical questions between beauty and tragedy in a vanguard universe.

Theatremaker and actor Dounia Mahammed moderated the conversation in Ghent. 

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