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Sarah Moeremans camps out at the theatre and shows young actors all over it during #dekeuze

Director, actress and theatre designer Sarah Moeremans will hold office in the lobby of the Rotterdam Schouwburg for a year. Under the title "My First Camp", she has moved into the front house to be more in touch with the various users and visitors in the building and the world around it. Has public space become a wilderness to be rediscovered by theatre-maker Moeremans like a pathfinder? It is feigned naivety with serious undertones. Referring to the concept developed by Huizinga Homo Ludens and his distinction between harmless antics and serious play, Moeremans is indeed looking for how she can play a relevant role as an artist, including socially.

One of the activities Moeremans is undertaking during this camp year is "My First Acting". During International Choice, drama school students went to see all the performances. In doing so, they mainly immersed themselves in the play's conceptions. Their days are filled to the brim: performances in the evening, workshops during the day, talks and the research, which has to be captured in a "semi-scientific" film report and goes online at the end of the festival. A Rollercoaster self-examination for very young actors.

Why is "My First Acting" necessary anyway? Don't students already come into contact with all sorts of things on their own at training courses and in Dutch theatres?

"The Dutch theatre landscape is not a very diverse palette of acting styles, while the festival showcases radically different approaches side by side. Many people only watch highlights. Seeing everything is exhausting, but it is very good to get steeped in diversity. The acting profession has not developed very much. Do-it-yourself realism reigns supreme. A festival of this quality is a super good opportunity for young actors to experience different conceptions of acting first-hand. They are confronted with extremes and made to think. I want them to learn to choose, not to sit around waiting to be chosen. I want them to learn to see the richness instead of acting as victims."

An emancipation project?

"These are strange times. The old cliché of parents warning their child to choose a serious profession for God's sake and not do something like 'art' is back. Everything is being lumped together. The field is uncertain. This permeates everything, especially the youngest generation. The passion of actors like Fabian Hinrichs or Juan Loriente, how they take their profession seriously, make radical choices and command international respect for it, that can inspire and set an example. When things are so stuck, as they are now in the Netherlands, it is important to go back to basics, to the simplicity of voice and body and nothing else. Rediscovering important things in a naive way. That applies to me and My First Camp, and it applies to the young actor and their My First Acting. As the Festival also says: we live in parallel worlds. There is not one truth, not one world. The same goes for play styles. It is important to have an idea of what is possible before you choose. And not let a choice be forced on you. Thinking for yourself is different from fantasising about it. Action Tomato was certainly important, but it was mainly about freedom. I think now it will be more about responsibility.

Will the students manage to surrender and keep their heads up with so many impressions?

Some are energised by it and can't wait for the next performance. Others sometimes clam up. It is very easy to say that an actor should stay themselves, make their own choices, but what does that mean? They begin to discover their tastes, learn to name them. One student realised that he decided after only 15 minutes whether a performance was good or bad. That rules out a lot I think. Give time, observe, what do you actually see? Put off making those quick judgements. Your opinion will just be more informed. Try to put yourself into something that is alien to you. During my training at the Herman Theirlinck, I also had to play Kniertje or imitate Sarah Bernard's voice from a soundtrack. Doing things that are not obvious often teaches you the most. That is why I also ask the students to re-enact scenes from the performances. It's not about your own interpretation, it's about immersing yourself in something you don't yet know, maybe not appealing at all. As an actor, you are not in this project to be confirmed, that's really not going to happen. But they come out of it strengthened, by all the experiences and the risks they have to take."

Moeremans laughs.

"I like the motto of Schlingensief. 'Want, can, do. And can you leave out.' This is also reflected in the assignment to make a documentary. Students are, of course, of the generation that constantly films and follows themselves and others. But editing and making a coherent report is something else; they are not trained for that either. Under this time pressure, it is a matter of will and do. There is no room for looking for excuses outside yourself. I think they can use that well, we all can, in this day and age."


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Fransien van der Putt

Fransien van der Putt is a dramaturge and critic. She works with Lana Coporda, Vera Sofia Mota, Roberto de Jonge, João Dinis Pinho & Julia Barrios de la Mora and Branka Zgonjanin, among others. She writes about dance and theatre for Cultural Press Agency, Theatererkrant and Dansmagazine. Between 1989 and 2001, she mixed text as sound at Radio 100. Between 2011 and 2015, she developed a minor for the BA Dance, Artez, Arnhem - on artistic processes and own research in dance. Within her work, she pays special attention to the significance of archives, notation, discourse and theatre history in relation to dance in the Netherlands. Together with Vera Sofia Mota, she researches the work of video, installation and peformance artist Nan Hoover on behalf of Author posts

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