‘The Play of Nijmegen’: Coaching
This post is a translation of Steven Trooster’s original article “Hoe een amateur theater group naar de finale gecoacht wordt“.
Next weekend the finals for the “Play of Nijmegen“, the new amateur theater festival, will take place. Four theatre groups and actors will perform on Friday and Sunday at de Verspiegeling. One week before the finale, Ugenda talked to one of the participant groups, the English-languaged theatre group WOW-EFFECT, and jury member Marianne Hermans, during their coaching session.
I find myself in a spacious living room in an apartment in Lindenholt for the rehearsal of the play Inbetween by WOW-EFFECT. And still the room seems too small, as next to the nine people performing, there are also three seats placed in here, for the director, the light technician and the jury member and coach Marianne Hermans. They are working on the very last scene of the self-written play in which different Shakespeare characters find themselves between Heaven and Hell and have to prove themselves to the Angel of Death.
The Theater Group
Together with the actors Tanya de Kruijff, Sarah Fünke and Ferdinand Niemann we move into a smaller, quieter room for a short interview.
How did your theatre group came to be?
About a year ago our leader, Tulya Kavaklıoğlu, wanted to do something with theater. She’s from Turkey and works at the Radboud University and was looking for other actors, primarily expats, to start a new theater group. Even before the group had found itself or we had a play, she had booked a hall at the Lindenberg Theater for two days. We had auditions and a workshop for everyone, not just with people from Nijmegen, but also from Kleve. The Hochschule in Kleve has about 70% international students. So we ended up with a group of 15 international actors, with some people who had hardly any acting experience beforehand, and with those we started writing and rehearsing. In May we had our first performance, Bedtime Stories.
And now you’re participating in “The Play of Nijmegen”
After Bedtime Stories we wanted to have a breather and wait until the summer was over to see what would be next. We meet and rehearse every Thursday in the cellar of the Café de Fiets and wanted to just meet and have a good time there after May. But then we heard about the festival and spontaneously decided to participate and start a new play. Some of our actors had left, while new ones came in, so we are now a group of twelve people.
Inbetween, what is it about?
Tanya wrote the script and it was conceived via brainstorming with the group during summer. The question was: What happens after you die? Different characters from different Shakespearian plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Othello, are dead now and get a chance to prove that they belong in Heaven. But only five of them will get to go to Heaven, the rest will go to Hell. There are many subtle references to different plays by Shakespeare in it.
In the preliminary rounds we were really surprised by how well the audience reacted. They laughed a lot more than we anticipated. But be sure: Even though there is some humor in it, it is a dramedy – a drama and comedy.
How do you experience the coaching by Marianne?
Ruud Mol is our director, he guides the play and gives it life. The two coaching session with Marianne were extreme helpful. She gives a lot of good feedback. Most of the time she points out small things, but her suggestions always work as if they’re magic.
How will you proceed after the finale?
We now have a play of 45 minutes, which we will try to shorten a bit to stay within the festival’s limitations. After the finals we will work on it a bit more and make a 1,5 hour play out of it. Now the play centers around Romeo, Julia and Othello, but the longer version will incorporate even more plotlines and characters. We really hope that we will win, as we would love the chance to participate in the master class.
Theater maker and teacher Marianne Hermans is one of the three jury members and coaches. She’s the leader of the theatre group Spaanse Pepper, which performed their play Manneneiland this summer in Lent.
What do you think of “The Play of Nijmegen”?
A few years ago we already had an amateur theatre festival, back then in the Steigertheater. Sadly, when the Steigertheater closed its door in 2005 there was no successor. It’s a great initiative by Elly Snip (de Verspiegeling – edt.) to start this anew. There’s sadly not that much attention for the festival, but I see it as a start. It has to develop on its own and I hope it will get the chance to be more present in people’s minds in the following years.
How do you experience your role as coach with this group?
It’s absolutely awesome! I also coach the group Het Linnen. That is an absolutely different style. The diversity makes it so nice. There are just two coaching sessions, which is not much. I always try to find out what the group wants and then I try to support them in it, try to give tips over the form and the play. WOW-EFFECT has a really nice play, with all those references to Shakespeare. I think it would be really good to perform this in schools.
What do you keep in mind while judging?
In the preliminary rounds we had a broad range of plays. One was really funny, the other was pretty heavy. Our main focus was: Can the group develop anymore in the short time of six weeks? Is it realistic to coach them to a higher level?
For the finale we don’t have any criteria yet. The jury will meet this week and we will define what we are looking for.
At this point, Tulya asked us in a strict tone that it was time to rehearse again. The group had to do a whole run-through again. “Could you not mention how it ends with Romeo and Juliet?” I was asked. Of course not – to find that out one would have to go to the finals on Sunday in de Verspiegeling. Or see it on May.