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'I'm not the discrimination police.' Romana Vrede on her role in Gloria Wekker's team on SPOT-LIve.

'How do I make the world a little more beautiful? That's what I ask myself in everything I do.' Romana Vrede, award-winning actress with Het Nationale Theater, 'table lady' on De Wereld Draait Door and Summer Guest, likes to look positively into the world. So will her contribution to SPOT-Live, the performing arts symposium taking place in Rotterdam on 28 May, be optimistic? She will be there, along with Sylvana Simons and Fenneke Wekker on Gloria Wekker's team. It will be about our cultural archive, and how the Netherlands is able to cope with ingrained racism.

How does Romana Vrede feel about that? 'I do feel positive,' she says. 'I feel that the forces on the political right are getting stronger, but the left forces in society are also getting stronger. I don't think it's a lost battle yet. I do see that people are starting to speak out against the noises from the right. You see that on stage too: what does it say when you make a character say certain things? I am in good spirits. Maybe I'm naive, but I'd rather be naive and combative than give up.'


Her positive approach is not always easy: 'I do notice that I am becoming clearer in the way I want to phrase things. That I have to come up with a very clear 'Yes!' That's my advantage: that new stories are being told, and better thought than ten years ago.'

'That is why it is also wonderful that at SPOT-Live Gloria Wekker is one of the three curators. More and more people are also noticing that an editorial board is completely white, or completely heterosexual and completely male. There is growing opposition to this. Movies with an all-white cast? There are comments about that. We are now having conversations at the National Theatre about how diverse we are in terms of cast and repertoire, while the management layer is still completely white. That's why there is now conversation about how the management layer should be more diverse. So I think that's a good thing. That we at The National Theatre are now implementing that. Ten years ago, you never had that conversation.'

From the inside

So it's not a nice-to-have 'for the stage? 'Basically, I don't care so much whether that shift is really motivated from within, or comes from opportunism first. As long as it happens. As long as you understand that it's a bit crazy when your whole team is white and male. We also have to find new audiences, because otherwise the theatres will empty. Then theatre ceases to exist.'

On Spot Live, Romana Vrede takes part in The Great Irritation Show. Isn't that too negative an approach, irritate? 'I don't think it's something negative. It might be negative for people who are annoyed that things are changing. For me, it's about the fact that a lot of things are already going well, but that there are also a lot of things that annoy me. For example: sometimes I have good conversations about what should and could change, and then there are people who ask me whether something is allowed or not. Then I say: "What do you think? I'm not the discrimination police." I sometimes find that a bit irritating.'


'Personally, I want to talk about representation. I have - without choosing to - become a role model. I then find it irritating that with me you meet the quota. Then there is not really a mindswitch come, but they just think, "Ha, we met the quota." '

'It is, of course, also about my own mindset. I was asked to audition for Willem Bosch's film Hereafter. I asked him which other actors had auditioned for this role, and he mentioned Hadewych [Minis], Maria [Kraakman], and some other actresses my age. I found that I had automatically assumed myself that he had asked other black actresses. But no, he was just looking for a mother for this role. So Willem was beyond me. More people should do that.'

Good to know Good to know
Spot-Live is the performing arts symposium and will take place on 27 May, from 10:00 to 18:00 at Theatre Rotterdam Schouwburg, Information: Spot-Live

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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