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Threatened theatre directors speaking: 'It literally hurts me when I hear that something like this is going to be abolished.'

'I didn't know you could also be digitised away in this sector, but so you can.' Susanne Visser and Annemiek Lely sounded the alarm on Saturday 7 December. Their jobs as ushers at theatre performances are in jeopardy. Companies would rather keep people engaged through podcasts, and such an usher only costs money. So on Monday 9 December we brought Susanne Visser and Annemiek Lely to our kitchen studio, for a - yes - podcast. With introduction.

It turned into a lively conversation. From which a few interesting things can be gleaned. For instance, the criticism of introductions - that they are too boring, uninspired, only for insiders - turns out not to be based on facts. At their introductions for the country's largest theatre and company, they have never seen a staff member or actor. So they simply don't know what they are talking about, Annemiek Lely explains: 'We get very positive reactions from our audience. The people you do it for, they are positive.'


At the small - unsubsidised - company Solo Stories, Lely travels along as a regular introducer. Her position there is therefore not on the cusp, as it is at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam. 'An introduction can contribute to new theatre visits. I literally ask the audience questions, give them tools when watching. that helps to buy a ticket again next time, and maybe make a riskier choice.' 

'Many makers think we are going to explain the performance, but we don't do that at all. We give viewing help!' says Susanne Visser: 'It's not an explanation, everyone watches in their own way, I really think an introduction helps the experience.' 


It's actually also about a mood introduction, says Annemiek Lely: 'I get a lot of e-mails, often weeks later, saying that people were so happy with the introduction, or that they like to get into the theatre atmosphere a bit beforehand and that the introduction helped. It literally hurts me when I hear that something like that is going to be abolished, because I also want to be in front of that audience, for them to be heard too.'

Whether it's all a grey audience? Susanne Visser has no qualms about that: 'Of course our introductions have the same audience as what is sitting in the auditorium, so not very young, although relatively often we also have newcomers, people who don't know much about theatre yet.' Annemiek Lely wouldn't want to miss the work: 'A few weeks back, a teenage girl came up to me afterwards. She wanted to know which Shakespeare play she should read first to get to know him. I find that touching.'

Which piece that should be? Listen to this podcast for that!

Open letter from theatre directors: 'Spectators want human contact'


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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