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PODCAST! Govert Schilling and Leoni Jansen find solace in total nothingness via Twitter. (Why Joni Mitchell, too, is immortal)

It all started with a tweet. Leoni Jansen, singer, got into her car after a performance in Winsum, and looked around for a moment. She saw that the starry sky, far from the big lights in the Randstad, was beautiful. 'Just started the journey back from Winsum, fog low to the ground, clear sky. On the right I think I can see Castor and Pollux...', she wrote on twitter.

Some hundred and fifty kilometres away, astronomy journalist Govert Schilling checked his twitter again from his Amersfoort office. Leoni Jansen's tweet immediately caught his eye. 'Tell me: how often do you see a tweet about the stars come along from someone showing that they know what they are talking about?' he says of it now. So, he says, he tweeted a reply to Jansen's tweet: 'Absolutely right ;-)'. That with Leoni's reply ('Yeah!') something beautiful would begin, they themselves did not yet know.

Theatre College

Barely two years later, Govert Schilling and Leoni Jansen are on stage together thirty-nine times in the 'Starry Starry Night' programme: Leoni sings songs involving the stars and planets, while Govert provides expert commentary. In an hour and a half, we travel from Shocking Blue to Hijo de la Luna and back.

On Friday 11 January 2019, the programme premiered in the small hall of the Amersfoort theatre De Flint. The following Monday, I speak to Govert Schilling at home. It's about the craze of theatre lectures, TED talks and confessional performances currently sweeping through Dutch theatres, but it's also about the comfort we can take from our own futility.

Because tiny we are, Schilling makes clear between Leoni's songs. Our planet is no more than a speck of dust in the firmament, all of human history not even a sigh on eternity. 'It's easy to see everything relatively, and say that it all doesn't matter what we do because it has no effect on eternity. But that's not how I want to live. what we do and don't do now has a direct effect on those around us. In that small aspect, for me, is the meaning of everything.'


But there is more. Because even though the performance seems little more than a loose succession of songs and lessons, it gains depth as the evening progresses. This without being annoyingly foregrounded. Leoni Jansen almost interjects that she owes her love for the stars to her husband, who died four years ago. That puts her tweet in a slightly different light. And at the very end, among all the futility and meaninglessness of the universe, Govert Schilling brings the real consolation: the carbon atoms that make up us are billions of years old. Viewed that way, we cannot die at all: we are stardust. So the song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had to be in the programme. Or actually, of course, by Joni Mitchell: We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon....

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Listen to the conversation with Govert Schilling here.

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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