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Events After the Rehearsal / Persona

After the Rehearsal / Persona

Toneelgroep Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Sep 3 – 5, 2015

Runtime TBA

Cost TBA

23rd Street ArmoryMap

Wheelchair Accessible

170 min.

DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviewFurther Reading

“The rehearsals were very intense and very emotional because it was about our own life in the theater and all the joy, tensions, problems that come from it. I consider this production one of our best ever made.” Ivo Van Hove, director of After the Rehearsal/Persona

“At his best—which is the level he is consistently operating on these days—Mr. van Hove brings us so close to a work’s white-hot emotional center that it burns as it never has before.” Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“This theatrical diptych, with each play delving into the messy lives of theater artists, features deeply emotional and physical performances to match the layered psychological drama of Bergman’s texts.”

“…As a latecomer to Van Hove’s work and a fervent convert, I’m contemplating three hours of travel in order to complement the trilogy of work that’s already showing up on my Manhattan doorstep.” Howard Sherman, The Stage

Art and reality, illness and normality: two Ingmar Bergman screenplays are reimagined brilliantly for the stage by celebrated Dutch director Ivo van Hove and set designer Jan Versweyveld. This theatrical diptych, with each play delving into the messy lives of theater artists, features deeply emotional and physical performances to match layered psychological drama of Bergman’s texts.


In After the Rehearsal director Hendrik Vogler organizes his life within the confines of the theater. His life is his work: rehearsals like notes in his diary, performances his autobiography. All emotions are submitted to his control. Yet life and reality cannot be kept at bay: love, birth, decay, and death seep into his sanctum in the persons of Anna, his former lover and star actress, and Rachel, her daughter and his current star.

In Persona an actress falls mute during a performance of Electra and has not spoken since. As if a short circuit has gone off in her brain, she cannot distinguish between the roles she plays in real life and the ones she plays on stage. But does she have a condition or is she merely assuming another role? The star-struck nurse who cares for her idolizes the actress at first, only to develop a deep resentment towards a woman for whom real emotions and experience serve only as research. Persona is played out in hospital and beside a lake, represented by a 10,000 gallon, full-stage pool of water.

*September 3: Post-show Talk back with dramaturg Peter van Kraaij moderated by Tom Sellar


Philadelphia Film Society Screenings of  Bergman films

August 24 & 25:  After the Rehearsal 

August 26 & 27: Persona

All screening are at the PFS Roxy Theater.



This presentation of After the Rehearsal/Persona has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
After the Rehearsal/Persona was made was possible in cooperation with ALMO Antwerp and Joseph Weinberger Ltd. London and The Ingmar Bergman Foundation


Festival Executive Producer Andy and Bryna Scott

About Toneelgroep Amsterdam and director Ivo van Hove

Ivo van Hove
is the artistic director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the largest theater company in the Netherlands. Van Hove is known for his bold, actor-centered stagings of classic dramas. In collaboration with scene designer Jan Versweyveld, van Hove uses sophisticated media to heighten theatricality and redefine the relationship between reality and fiction. Versweyveld and van Hove continually break through the restrictions of the large theater, eliminating the natural distance between actor and audience, sometimes physically, always psychologically.

Van Hove has built a long and intense relationship with Bergman’s oeuvre as a director. Past productions include: Scenes from a Marriage and Cries and Whispers. The Fringe Festival will mark the first time Toneelgroep Amsterdam has performed in Philadelphia.

Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007) is considered one of the greatest film and theater directors of all time. His voluminous oeuvre is a constant search for the boundaries of the human psyche. His scenarios, films, and plays show man’s search of love, beauty, and the meaning of life—falling, tripping and fumbling. At his death in 2007, Ingmar Bergman left an inimitable and influential body of work which challenges and delays moral judgment, and above all celebrates life.

On Persona, his masterpiece from 1966, Bergman had the following to say: “At some time or other, I said that Persona saved my life – that is no exaggeration. If I had not found the strength to make that film, I would probably have been all washed up. . . . Today I feel that in Persona—and later in Cries and Whispers—I had gone as far as I could go. And that in these two instances, when working in total freedom, I touched wordless secrets that only the cinema can discover.”

Interview with director Ivo van Hove 

Ivo van Hove © Jan Versweyveld-2_low res


FringeArts: What was the inspiration to stage After the Rehearsal/Persona?

Ivo van Hove: Two short pieces about the meaning of theater and art in our lives and our society. As is fitting for the great master Ingmar Bergman, he doesn’t adopt a moralizing approach, but invests his work with much attention to and insights into mankind in all its matchless complexity. Touching but harsh at the same time. The first case is about someone who lives wholly for and inside art, while the second case is about someone who brings its importance up for discussion. It is precisely in these times, in which we are continually debating the importance of art in society, and find ourselves having to defend this importance more and more often, that I find that highly interesting personally and as a theater maker. 

FringeArts: Can you describe process from text in hand to production?

Ivo van Hove: I always work from the script, in this case the screenplays. I never look at the movies because it wouldn’t help me. I have to relate in a personal way to the text otherwise it makes no sense to me to put them on the stage. The rehearsals were very intense and very emotional because it was about our own life in the theater and all the joy, tensions, problems that come from it. In After the Rehearsal I used visceral psychological acting. In Persona it is almost like visual arts, more poetic. Don’t forget Ingmar Bergman provided us with texts that have lots of emotional and psychological layers.

FringeArts: What attracts you to Bergman as a writer?

Ivo van Hove: He is a true humanist. That doesn’t mean he is softening the ugly sides of humans. On the contrary he puts them on stage or on the screen without any mercy. He is human in a way that you feel that he cares for human beings and that he knows every man or woman has a Jekyll and Hyde in him/herself.



Further Reading 

NDR_pers_-®_Jan_Versweyveld_03A Passion For Extremes: Words and images clash in the notorious dramatic installations of Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld
by Randy Gener, American Theatre. In depth overview of van Hove’s work and methods.

Van Hove’s 2007 bare-staged Angels in America for Toneelgroep Amsterdam, for instance, “was the most literal version of anti-space I’ve seen in the conventional theatre,” says Kushner, who is writing a new play for Toneelgroep Amsterdam. “It threw the entire event on the actors and their performances. There was no attempt to create stage illusion of any sort. The only departure from the play was that the Angel was played by a male actor. You learn immensely new things from whatever is formalistically unfamiliar in his productions.” Read the full article 

Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America
By Jon Magaril, Slant Magazine. Substantial interview with van Hove about directing.

[Jan Versweyveld’s] not a designer who makes a design, then comes back for the last two weeks for tech. No, he’s really interested in the collaboration with actors. For him, it’s very important that they feel good in his set, that they understand the set very well. Also, when things are getting difficult, he tries to talk to them, to see how to make it better. For me, I have the feeling it’s sometimes not clear who directed and who did the design. Of course, I do all the talking to the actors. But he also has a lot of ideas about me directing, just as I have ideas about designs. It feels like a Jan Versweyveld and Ivo van Hove production. It’s a real collaboration. Read the full article

Director Ivo van Hove Brings His Immersive Shakespeare Epic ‘Roman Tragedies’ to New York by Allison Meier, BlouinArtInfo. Interview with Ivan van Hove about his Shakespeare productions.

“If you want to be a director, there are three things that you cannot refuse: Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, and Chekhov. If you don’t want to do these things, well then, why be a director? That’s first of all.” Read the full article

The Dark Secrets of the Belgian Avant-Garde by Tom Sellar, Village Voice. 2007 profile on Ivo van Hove and his Misanthrope.

Eventually, Van Hove asks [his actors] Camp and Narciso to act out the subtext, to physicalize the swelling animosity beneath the characters’ literary debate. “This time, go at it like two crazy mad dogs,” he proposes. It’s not a metaphor: Camp and Narciso lunge for each other’s throats, then roll across the stage in headlocks, growling and grunting. Van Hove lets them wrestle in silence for nearly 10 minutes, with cameras trained. No one can remember who has the next line, and the roughhousing nearly careens out of control. Read the full article


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