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The flash marriage between theatre and television could hardly be any shorter. Or could it?

15 minutes of television. Theatre Maas, formerly known as Cornald, has managed to get Dutch theatre's biggest party back on kind of prime time television. On Monday, September 18, we saw his summary of this gala of Dutch theatre, which included awards, snippets of speeches and elated actors. I wondered if we should be happy about this.

Question one, of course, is who I mean by 'we'. For the sake of simplicity, I will assume the broadest definition: Dutch television viewers. For some time now, these have been getting to see an extensive commercial break for art, usually visual art, in the 15 minutes before Nieuwsuur on NPO2. Often, a museum director will walk through a colleague's building and see beautiful things. It can certainly help to get an idea for the next outing.

3 seconds of fame

What exactly is the Theatre Gala summary going to achieve? I don't know. Due to circumstances, I didn't get to see much of the Dutch theatre season this year. I could now watch with the uninformed eye of quite a large part of the Dutch television audience. So what do you get to experience?

The clips from the performances in which actors had won awards were about three seconds. I saw someone being threatened with a gun, a woman smeared with blood, a speech about racism without introduction and context, a beautiful queer dress. This topped off with a something for the Wilmink Theatre (0.75 seconds), a library (0.5 seconds). A sneer at a Theater Bellevue technician (3 seconds) and lots of proud parents. Any context was missing, except that everyone was surprised in an obscure, medieval-looking catacomb by Theater Maas with a microphone and a question.


I had a really sympathetic look, and had read a super-enthusiastic story about the gala from a fellow journalist on Facebook, but none of that in this mini-report of what is, for many people I know, the biggest party of the year.

I'm professional about art and theatre, I know the faces, I know what the catacombs of Amsterdam's Stadsschouwburg, sorry, ITA, look like, but does anyone take the fresh viewer by the hand? Does anyone perhaps come up with a solution without a guide so introduced that he forgets about the people at home? Because that's what Theatre Maas does.

Without context

This summary by Avrotros is understandable only to people who were there. Those will be happy with the scarce airtime for the mother of all arts. Theatre Maas and the always engaging festival director, with a glass of bubbles in hand, chatting about how these awards are the last to be awarded and that something new will be coming on Thursday?

Without further context, this little conversation in particular confirmed the preconception many people have about Amsterdam and art: predominantly white and disconnected from the world.

News Hour?

Can it be done differently? Of course, but then they have to want it in Hilversum. Remains the problem that award ceremonies are always awkward on television. Take the Oscars or the Kalveren awards: rarely spectacular television, except for those moments when people are at each other's throats.

Maybe we could do something with News Hour from now on? Like with the Literature Awards? Jeroen Wollaers? He also knows a lot about theatre. At least it would give a less 'insiders only' image.

And otherwise maybe just: not?

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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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