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ITA is a hopeless name for an art house. But there is no alternative for Amsterdam's city theatre

Toneelgroep Amsterdam and Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam will continue together as 'Internationa(a)l Theater Amsterdam' (ITA). Not to be confused with the just-removed Internationaal Danstheater Amsterdam. I find the name 'ITA' rather chilly. Maybe as cold as Toneelgroep, but at least that still contained the word 'group'. That has something cosy about it. 

ITA is something like ING. Big ambition and no roots. Leaving aside the naturally excellent quality and international success of Ivo van Hove, the new name mainly says that Amsterdam is just a place. An AirBnB host, accommodating sixty days a year for the globetrotters that ITA's actors are.


Needless to say, I have made myself here already made merry earlier about the theatrical cockfighting from the 1980s and 1990s that saddled the Netherlands with a Nationaal Toneel/Theater in The Hague, a Theater Amsterdam on an industrial estate in Amsterdam west and a Toneelgroep Amsterdam in the Amsterdam City Theatre. (Not to mention the hassle between Nationale Reisopera (Enschede), Nederlands Danstheater (The Hague), Het Nationale Ballet and the Nederlandse Opera (Amsterdam), which led to the compromise Nederlandse Reisopera and Nationale Opera en Ballet a few years ago).

Of course, it would have been logical to call the new combo of Toneelgroep and Stadsschouwburg 'Theater Amsterdam', but Theater Amsterdam boss Theu Boermans apparently had no intention of renaming his reasonably unsuccessful project in the Westelijk Havengebied into something like 'Harbour Theatre'. That leaves ITA almost as the only logical choice. In New York and London, they found 'Toneelgroep' hard to pronounce, and after all, that's where there's a big market for the grand theatre Ivo van Hove brings so successfully.


That a new name was needed for the collaboration, by the way, could be questioned. Only in the Netherlands do we have a division between the 'makers' and the 'presenters' of theatre. Everywhere else, there are city theatres with their own in-house makers, along with a few 'free groups', leading a nomadic existence. But Toneelgroep Amsterdam is a nomad with a fixed pitch. So the new company could have simply been called Stadstheater Amsterdam. Problem with that is that the international name of such a thing was already given to a cinema, a few dozen metres away: the Amsterdam City Bioscoop, for our international friends Amsterdam City Movie Theater.


Other solution: a proper name. Logical would be 'Vondel Theatre', after the first director and biggest name in the history of Dutch theatre. But apart from the fact that Toneelgroep Amsterdam has absolutely nada to do with the kind of theatre Vondel wrote, it is completely disastrous internationally. Is Amsterdam just trying to get rid of its red-light district image, suddenly the Kieteltheater stands in the centre. After all, Vondel is Fondle in English, and we don't want that.

Remains one name, which I would have found quite exciting: Jumper Theatre. Named after the architect who designed the 1894 building. Not a world-famous architect, but the man responsible for the kind of theatre such a design leads to: classic frame theatre with creaky sets, as the stage floor slopes 10 degrees because of the sightlines.

I would have found Springer Theatre a fine, in-house choice. In line with Ivo van Hove's greatest hit, his stage adaptation of The Fountainhead. Does well internationally, too. No language has trouble with that sound. Also sounds fresh, spring-like, but of course I think too small.

How do you think? Let us know below.


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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