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Dutch playwrights still have no idea about the quality of the stage work of their predecessors.


Dutch theatre is thriving, despite frantic attempts by various Rutte cabinets to bring it down. And even though money is always short as a result: a lot of new theatre is being made. More than ever, even. But.

There is a but, though. Because that newly made theatre doesn't stick. Nothing more than a video often remains of it. And even then. The texts - for centuries the best way to preserve theatre for posterity - disappear. While it is so much fun to read theatre texts.

Theatre bookshop

In this podcast I talk about it with Rob van der Zalm of the University of Amsterdam and Marlies Oele, owner-director of the publisher International Film&Theatre Books. The occasion is the launch of that publisher's new online arm: Theatrebookstore.co.uk, and the recently published book 'In Reprise' which was compiled and edited by a team led by Rob van der Zalm. That book contains essays dealing with the playability, just today, of 22 original Dutch theatre texts from 1600 to the present.

In turn, the book is a logical sequel to a study I conducted myself in 1989, together with Dan Rapaport. That research into the reasons behind the failure to revive original Dutch theatre texts led indirectly to the founding of Hans Croiset's company Het Toneel Speelt... which, in the 1990s and early 0s of this century, had as its life goal not only the presentation of new work but also the revival of existing work.

No idea

The survey can be read in a blurred copy at the bottom of this text as a pdf. Spoiler alert: Dutch dramatists have no idea about the quality of their predecessors' stage work.

What is also funny is the difference between the professional theatre field and amateur theatre, where newer, more experimental theatre work by writers is also very often replayed. Too bad that this is no longer properly charted, but nice for top Dutch authors like Jibbe Willems, Lot Vekemans, Judith Herzberg and Peer Wittenbols, who make a small living out of it. Provided they have arranged the rights, of course, because that is quite a thing.

International successes could help make Dutch playwrights more important to professional creators. However, Maria Goos, whose successful play Cloaca is an unprecedented world hit, can now make such a good living from it that she doesn't necessarily want to put much effort into adding to it, she explained on the radio programme Kunststof a year ago. And that other success, Soldier of Orange? Edwin de Vries has countless successful lyrics to his credit, but is hardly known as the writer of that musical.

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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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