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Every institution has rules, including theatre. Though these rules are almost never visible, they apply to the content of what is created and produced. Milo Rau decided to convert these implicit and explicit rules into concrete decisions for NTGent. What does a city theatre of the future really look like? Who works there, how do you rehearse, how is it produced and how do you tour? From this season on, all productions created at NTGent are subject to this manifesto. Blooming actress Linde Carrijn took a closer look at them and tried to implement this set of rules into her own work.
Text by Linde Carrijn
Translated by Gerlin Heestermans
Photos shot by Elies Van Renterghem at NTGent Schouwburg
At the moment I’m on tour with Heilig Hart, a show by Compagnie Cecilia (of Arne Sierens and with Anemone Valcke, Gilles De Schryver and Robrecht vanden Thoren). I’m also touring Dethleff, a show for teenagers of Mannschaft. For this piece I perform together with Jonas Vermeulen. We mostly play schools but from January on evening shows as well. 9 November Level Q by Lap vzw will have its premiere; a dance piece for children for which I composed the music. With Maxim Storms and our band Brik Tu-Tok there are plans to make a record. It’s a pretty busy time…
I’ve never put work into writing a manifesto myself. There’s a reason why a certain form is brought forward during the creative process. What’s communicated by a piece and how, is inseparable for me. Starting from a manifesto means starting by excluding certain things, things you normally research during the process – unless the choice to start from this manifesto is also in terms of content.
This manifesto could be the starting point for change and I’m curious to see it come into fruition
NTGent is reinventing itself and that’s definitely a good thing. This manifesto could be the starting point for change and I’m curious to see it come into fruition: in the kind of work that will be produced/programmed, but also within the structure of NTGent. Last year I participated in a brainstorm together with a group of young theatre makers and people in the sector, about the meaning of theatre in the city. We didn’t just question the content of the produced work but also the structure of the institute. We ended up with a skeleton that positioned the ensemble in the center (the ensemble didn’t only consist of players but also of philosophers, scenographers, writers, etc.). The main focus was on development, experiment, (self)reflection and ‘the city’ but we also discussed pay and other structural affairs. Those discussions are still relevant today; not just within NTGent but within the broader structure of the field.
Every artist works in his own way but experiment is inevitable. Without room for experiment, trial and error, there cannot be a creative process. For me it’s very important that there’s room for development, without it having to result in something. Those moments where I can tinker with something and test things without the obligation for a finished piece, are the most fruitful and freeing. And the direction this trial and error phase takes you in is most definitely reflected in the finished piece. (sometimes it seems as if artists are always throwing around words like ‘experiment’ and ‘research’ but that doesn’t always have to be interpreted in an academic sense. It could be reading a book for one person, or making field recordings of your grandma baking pancakes for the other. You find your feet through this research and that’s inseparable from your work.)
Those moments where I can tinker with something and test things without the obligation for a finished piece, are the most fruitful and freeing
This progress is something self-initiated but isn’t sufficiently supported yet, structurally. Every artist has their own way of working and their own timing so I understand it’s not easy to create a landscape where every method is supported. And yet I am convinced that we need to reflect on the current situation, focusing specifically on a platform for development and experiment.
A manifesto could be a way to see things more clearly, to relate to what’s going on. So that the imposed restrictions make it challenging and make you dig deeper. In that way I see a manifesto more like a dream or an ideal, or a reaction on, the arts as well as the world at large. Only a few Dogma95 films were made that really adhered to all the Dogma95 rules. More important than following these rules was reacting against the then predominant, American way of making films.
To be honest, sometimes it overwhelms me; the world and its multitude and the way in which I’m supposed to relate to that. Creating and playing theatre is part of this search and forces me to relate to that multitude. Making theatre is a way for me to ask questions. I see it as a chance to develop myself (and open my eyes) and to be able to share that with others. Every now and then my questions get answered, but most of all they create even more questions. When I turn 100 years old, I’ll probably exist solely of questions.
Making theatre is a way for me to ask questions. I see it as a chance to develop myself
I embrace this nescience because it makes me curious and makes me act upon that curiosity, investigate it and relate to it in a critical way. In the end no one has the answer. And once we acknowledge that and still relate to each other and the world, it could only result in beauty. Whether I’m in this process as maker, actor or musician, this critical curiosity, genuine openness, grounded naivety, or whatever you want to call it, is something that returns time and time again.
Magic is created when you make, play and watch with an open mind. I value that magical part of a show/performance itself, that one specific moment with that specific combination of people. That moment means something: that’s when art speaks, and not the form, the moment in itself or the idea behind the show or the institute or the structure.
NTGent is a partner of Subbacultcha Belgium.
Hannah De Meyer is performing Levitations on 21 November & New Skin on 05 December, both at NTGent Arca.
These events are free for members. Join here.