©Frank van Eersel

Interview Iselle Claassens and Bram Jacobs

choose content, intimacy and atmosphere

Visitors know where to find the Parktheater again. The performances in July and August - from Brandweerman Sam to Dolf Jansen - were well attended. But what does theater look like now? Programmers Iselle Claassens and Bram Jacobs have put together a new program at a killer pace. "We have noticed that there is a lot of creativity among the companies."

Bram and Iselle had just finished the bookings for the 2020-2021 season. Colleagues from the Communication & Marketing department were fully engaged in the preparations for the website and the seasonal brochure. But then, the Parktheater closed in mid-March.

Fortunately, the Parktheater has once again reopened. Will a new theater season begin in September?

Iselle: "Actually, the 2019-2020 theater season has not ended. Normally we would have been closed in the summer. But because we had to close in mid-March, we wanted to show performances in the summer, in the Zomerfestival. In July and August, regular performances were booked for the first time, such as Bier & Liefde, Brandweerman Sam, Vet Kindercabaret, Theo Maassen and Dolf Jansen. And now, it’s just continuing. So, a new season in September? No, not this time. "

Bram: "We can't even say it's a season. Previously, we were working on presenting a program in a new format. But for the time being, we announcing our programs less far in advance than we are used to. The program is much more phased, often with individual bookings or with separate group bookings because we cannot look far ahead. "

How did the performances during the Zomerfestival go?

Bram: "At Bende van Oz (Bier & Liefde, July 9-11), I noticed that the visitors were already accustomed to the meter and a half distance and that they also observed it. We tried to arrange the rooms in such a way that the sense of that 1.5m distance was softened. That you felt like you were experiencing a normal evening of theater. "

How have the halls been arranged?

Bram: "We are going to use the Philipszaal, which normally seats 500, as a club with a café setting. We have arranged tables and sets of chairs and a small stage in the middle. Only 120 seats, but this arrangement is very pleasant and intimate. Especially for comedians, theater lectures and small-scale music programs such as Bier & Liefde and Tigre Blanco. This worked very well at Bier & Liefde. I have actually only received positive reactions about this new setup. "

In the Hertog Jan Zaal, we can only use 250 of the 900 seats there. Here the audience is seated one and a half meters apart with an empty row in between. Another option in this room is a 110-seat setup, with a seating stand on the back stage. It is more suitable for smaller performances."

Artists and companies had to stop their performances and cease their plans due to the crisis. Yet you were able to book many performances.

Iselle: "In terms of genres, we have fairly the same range as usual. We have musicals, but those are concert performances. Made very small, with a small cast. And fortunately, we still have a lot of dance, a lot of theater, a lot of cabaret, and a nice offering for family and youth."

Bram: "Actually it is all there. The proportions may be slightly different from what the visitors are used to. This has to do with the fact that productions were not made or have been pushed to the future due to the circumstances."

And is that because there is less money for the companies to spend?

Bram: "Performances are budgeted based on the number of tickets you can sell, so if the number of tickets goes down, that budget becomes smaller and you have to make choices regarding the artistic product. That means that a large grandiose musical cannot be not done. But a small musical with a small cast is possible. A grand opera cannot be performed, but streaming an opera or organizing opera dinners provides an alternative for the opera-loving audience."

Are artists allowed to come into contact with each other?

Iselle: "This is an example of the sometimes incomprehensible Corona-logic. Artists fall under the contact professions category, just like hairdressers. They may come within that one and a half meters. Fortunately, because that makes much more possible than what we originally thought possible a few months ago. We thought all dance would disappear from the program."


Has the crisis changed your view of theater?

Iselle: "What I am very happy with - and what we have talked about before - is being able to play closer to the court, programming for the near future. It sometimes felt very strange to plan a year and a half in advance. Because you never know what the situation will be like in a year and a half and whether a certain theme will still be relevant. We notice that companies also think differently about offering a performance. Maybe they will stay in one place more often. Take a look at what Club, Guy & Roni are going to do with Swan Lake (November 26-28), for example: make a performance that you will watch in groups while walking through the entire building. That idea probably wouldn't have arisen if it hadn't been for this pandemic. We notice that there is a lot of creativity among the companies."

Bram: "We are all now breaking free from an enormously binding system. A musical production is conceived three years before it is played. The rights will be bought off, the tour must be completed, because such a tour will also help determine the budget. We are also now working on what will be on the shelves here in spring 2022. While we cannot even imagine what the world will look like after we have emerged from this pandemic. And how we will organize our society differently." 

Short-term programming has advantages?

Bram: "Corona has turned the whole theater system upside down; in short, the system that demands that companies meet their subsidy obligations and plan four years in advance. These companies are now suddenly making performances at very short notice. The special Ferris wheel performance Radman (De Parade gaat door, September 4-6) by Het Zuidelijk Toneel and Schippers & VanGucht would normally not have been there. Intimate theater in a ferris wheel gondola, a unique performance that fits very well in this time.

Much of the large auditorium supply has disappeared. A lot of middle-sized and small hall offerings have remained. The performances are made as they have always been made, only in a different setting. You will not notice that the light and decor are different than usual. Visiting a performance is still more than worth your money, it is still a full-fledged theater evening. "

What else has changed?

Iselle: "Performances can be seen twice a day on weekends. On Friday and Saturday, we have booked late-nights: two performances in one evening. The first is at 7:30 PM and the second starts at 9:30 PM or 9:45 PM. We do this mainly for performances that attract a somewhat younger audience. We have also programmed some performances intended for older audiences twice on Sundays, but then in the afternoon and early in the evening.

‘Dichterbij’ is the term that appears on this newspaper and in other communications. Why this theme?

Bram: "The theme ‘dichterbij’ (‘nearer’) actually arose by itself. When we were programming, we found that this word summed up how we were working. We give substance to it in three lines.
First of all – small and intimate: we set up the rooms in order to continue guaranteeing intimacy, atmosphere and safety. Making an evening of theater still the evening of theater that you would expect from it.

The second line is that we program "closer to". Meaning that we work less far ahead, as we just talked about. What is going on this autumn instead of in the autumn of, say, 2023. The program announcements, like in this newspaper, are more of a snapshot. What is happening in the Parktheater right now, and what is being booked now? The visitors will have to keep an eye on our channels much more to keep up to date with what is happening in the Parktheater."

The third line has to do with the philosophy "more than you". That we want to bring the stories of makers and the stories from Eindhoven closer together. Want to get closer to the city. By visiting people in the city and wanting to link them to performances by means of in-depth programs."

Iselle: "We also look for it in a program around the performance. This new form is somewhere in between a performance and a conversation. We are going to focus very much on performances that we frame with an online event before or after. So that we further explore the theme that a theater maker deals with in his performance. And in this way give people from the city the opportunity to talk about it or find out more about it. "

So that can be a theatrical but also a realistic form?

Iselle: "Yes. And we do that with makers from Eindhoven. We also involve them in making the context of the program. They can be theater makers as well as podcast makers, journalists and institutions. So much more of looking for collaboration on content in the city. "

Are there any themes that are already taking shape in the coming period?

Iselle: "We are inventing how we can explore themes or a collection of themes, such as racism. For example, there are various performances that link up with Black Lives Matter, on institutional discrimination. We are now talking to theater makers about what they are going to do and which current themes will come to the fore in their performances. But also consider themes such as caretaking or gender identity. Reflecting on current hot topics in society, talking about them and discussing them together. And if there are urgent themes at play, it may also be that we only offer a context program, so without a performance."

The content of performances will receive more attention in the program?

Bram: "The content is very important, but we also opt for the intimacy and the atmosphere. We can make this choice because our halls, especially the Philipszaal, offer so many possibilities. We think it is important that the theater experience feels right. Also for the artist. "

Bram's tips
Memento Mori (Nineties Producties) An online ritual in which you are taken to the afterlife.
Can be seen on September 30 and October 1.

Citizen K. (Trouble Man | Het Nationale Theater |
Sadettin Kirmiziyüz), a hyper-personal story that makes tangible how ruthless and insidious identity politics and racism work in the Netherlands.
Can be seen on October 6.

A Medicine Show (Ashton Brothers), a mix of music, acrobatics and downright wizardry, served up with dinner.
Can be seen from Thu November 19 to Sun November 22.

Iselle's tips
Swan Lake (Club Guy & Roni + Slagwerk Den Haag + Tomoko Mukaiyama), 'a private, modern version of Swan Lake, which takes place throughout the building.'
Can be seen from November 26 to 28.

SHAKTI / Boys won’t be boys (Illusionary Rockaz Company and Rikkert van Huisstede), 'a performance about feminine energy and one about irregular forms of masculinity. Afterwards we will go deeper into the theme.'
Both can be seen consecutively on October 16.

Edward Scharenhand (Theater Sonnevanck), 'This performance, based on the Tim Burton film, won the 2018 prize for the most impressive youth production.'
Can be seen on October 18.

Comment on this interview?

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