photo: de Filmmarkeij

Interview with Giel Pastor

Curious about the performance that has not been made yet

Since mid-March, it has been empty and quiet at the Parktheater Eindhoven. But that is going to change: starting on July 1st, the theater will open again with the Parktheater 150cm Summer Festival. Interview with Director/Strategist Giel Pastoor: "If the world is turned upside down, let's see how we can go with as much strength as possible into the next ten years."

How are you and your family doing?

"We’re alright, luckily everyone is healthy. And I like it that there is a little bit of freedom returning. That we are going to get going behind the scenes again."

What is your most recent memory of the theater when there were live performances?

"I remember the performances Tonio and Opera Melancholica by Opera2Day at the end of February. And I was looking forward to Stef Bos's performance. That was, in the end, a tipping point. He sent a message from Cape Town saying that he was on his way to the Netherlands. I replied: the question is whether your performance will go ahead as planned.

"In the initial period, we took a different approach than other institutions. We listened carefully to the region’s Safety & Security Board. This resulted in a decision to immediately close the theater for a week, and it felt like the right thing to do. Our closure was one week earlier than other cultural institutions. And as the first theater in the country to do so, we immediately began rescheduling our performances." 

The Parktheater has now been closed for two months. What does that mean for you as a director?

"On one hand, I find it horrible. You cannot do what drives you, you cannot deliver what you are meant to produce. On the other hand, I cannot change this. That is when you have to look at what you can do in this period. This is a difficult task because you do not know how long the situation will last. But, you can think about what this all means: how did we do things, and where are we now? How do we keep everyone healthy? How do we keep the Parktheater afloat, and in which direction are we going? How do we keep in touch with the public?  Thus, this situation encourages looking inward."

Does it give you space?

"Normally you make time for reflection, or you take that time during a vacation. But now, you are forced to take that time by a reality over which you have little or no influence. It is too big to ignore. You have to think about how the Parktheater will return to the people. My initial thought was: that will be possible within a week or a month. But it was not. The world has turned upside down. And if the world is turned upside down, let's see how we can go with as much strength as possible into the next ten years."

There’s been a little more freedom since Rutte's announcement about the easing of restrictions. Summer programming lies ahead. Schools will be performing via live streaming in July. And, a "Parktheater Roadmap" lies ready. How do you envision the (near) future of the Parktheater?

 "I think it will be a long time before we get to return to anything like the old situation. In which we can use all the halls and deliver a large range of offerings. But recovery will occur, even if it never returns to completely normal again. I find the change rather interesting; I am curious about it. Change does not necessarily mean to get worse."

"Meanwhile, we all participate together in this adventure. We have to find out how it goes with thirty people, and then with a hundred people. Maybe soon, restrictions will be relaxed to 200 people and, in a year, to 400 people. Small adventures on the path to what will someday be "the new theater". With a different sort of production. For we are not alone; agents and producers must also think about this new reality. Just like the theater-goers. What will they want when they return? Every relaxed restriction is another step closer to that desired reality."

The Cabinet came up with a support package of 300 million. The province and the municipality also took action providing financial resources. Can the Parktheater be saved financially?

"Incidentally, the minister's money will only enter the country if it is "matched" by the municipalities and provinces. We are absolutely helped by this because we normally have a lot of our own income in addition to the subsidy. Now this income is lost, and we have a problem. That is actually quite ironic.

"The merit of the employees is that we have been able to build up equity capital in recent years. We will now have to eat some of it. That is what it's for; it is not called "resilience" for nothing. I think financial support is important, but verbal support for the importance of art and culture is just as important. Fortunately, I have felt that support in this past period."

Giel Pastoor
'I was looking forward to Stef Bos's performance. That was, in the end, a tipping point. He sent a message from Cape Town saying that he was on his way to the Netherlands. I replied: the question is whether your performance will go ahead as planned.'

The programming for the new season is completely uncertain. How do you as a theater - together with the companies and producers – figure out this Corona-theater puzzle?

"It is a very difficult puzzle, indeed. No one has been left unharmed. The harm to one is more urgent and greater than that to the other. There is a lot of discussion behind the scenes to reach out and help each other. And to make smart agreements. I believe we will get through it all, but it will take a long time. "

Do you think theaters or agents will disappear?

That possibility certainly exists. That's the tricky part of the puzzle. Up until mid-March, we were still negotiating to deliver the most wonderful performances, and at the best prices. We are still negotiating to this day. But now, the approach is: how can we keep the entire sector afloat?
At the same time, we do not know exactly what we are trying to save. Large shows and operas… let's be honest and realistic: they are not coming back yet. "

At our anniversary in 2014, we looked toward the future: what would the theater look like in 2020?  It is now 2020. What do you think the theater will look like in six years?

"I think some things are going to change substantially. The world has been locked down. And that has made many people stop and think. I expect some of these people will return to old patterns. But I also think things will change.

"The questions we already had have returned even more firmly to the table. For example, air travel has been down for some time. There is a relationship between air quality and well-being. This also applies to the theater world. We have toured many large productions throughout the Netherlands. Maybe we should think of more sustainable ways to continue to make that possible in the future.

"I think the current situation can encourage theater makers to create smaller, beautiful gems of performances in intimate settings – performances which deal with more sensible and more meaningful themes. Let's use this interim to give each other and theater makers our focus --Eindhoven theater makers that we have always had in the spotlight. Gradually, as soon as it is permitted, we will see that larger shows are also possible.

"This requires a different sort of financial model. And for that, it is naturally nice to receive help in the coming years. Because this situation will not end at the close of 2020; it will continue to simmer for years to come. If the Parktheater is placed in the Arts Plan up through 2024, we will be sixty years old by then. Then, we will once again be able to make videos about what the theater will look like in 2030. I think through this course of action, we will make it through. With great appreciation and gratitude for everyone's commitment and (financial) support. And, of course, for the return of the theater makers and audience."

What are you most looking forward to?

"We are now in the survival phase, and we all have to fight to stay upright. I will be happy when things start to run even just a bit. When the theater-goers can enjoy us again. When that special atmosphere in and around the organization and within the building is created again. And what I am very curious about is the performance that has not been made yet. How our theater makers will use their creativity.”

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