Posts Tagged ‘Toneelgroep Amsterdam’

Adrienne Mackey on Fear and Pleasure in Performance Life

Posted September 4th, 2015

stars surviveWe’ve been running a number of pieces on the artistic life lately, in the context of After the Rehearsal/Persona. To wrap them up, we reached out to Philadelphia’s own Adrienne Mackey, who’s been involved with all sorts of wonderful, adventurous, collaborative and indeed critical work on her own and with her company, Swim Pony. She wrote movingly for us about life as a theater artist and how theater forms and informs the lives of those who create it:

By Adrienne Mackey

There’s a common stereotype of theater artists as loud, brassy, attention-loving people. This image that those who would associate themselves with the stage must be naturally larger than life, filtered down from Broadway’s multimillion-dollar enterprise all the way through the nooks and crannies of high school musical theater, is a false one, I think. I think this size and showiness is a put-on. I think it hides a deeper layer, one that is common in a great number of theater makers, of uncertainty and fear.

For a lot of us who actually go on to make a career in the arts, theater begins as a kind of training ground for being human.

In middle school I was shy and intensely quiet. My mother likes to point out how all the pictures I drew of myself in this phase of childhood show a figure with massive eyes that take up half of my face and a tiny and tight little mouth. I was a thinker, an over-feeler, a not-quite-sure-how-to-connect-with-the-world-around-me-er. I was fundamentally uncomfortable in my own skin, uncertain about how to express the person I felt myself to be, afraid of showing too much lest I do it wrong.

After the jump, theater and transformation:

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Under the Spell of Ivo van Hove, Ingmar Bergman Has His Say

Posted September 1st, 2015

Persona2By Randy Gener

Forget the sanctified Image Maker. Don’t bother to bone up on Ingmar Bergman’s films before seeing Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s raw and urgent twofer, After the Rehearsal/Persona, which will have its U.S. premiere in the 2015 Fringe Festival in Philadelphia. What’s the point of seeking to certify a heartbreaking work of stagecraft by comparing it to Bergman’s cinema aesthetics?

Allow me to press the point. Shortsighted comparison freaks come in two rabid forms. Film devotees tend to hate on Bergman movies-to-play forays because they can’t help but be sincere to a thudding fault. And then there are bleary-eyed critics — Christopher Isherwood’s New York Times review of van Hove’s Cries and Whispers being a prime example — who lazily argue that “Bergman’s use of dramatic magnifying close-ups is more or less impossible to translate effectively.” To which we can only say, well, duh. What of it?

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Living on the fringes: a survival guide for avant-garde theater

Posted August 19th, 2015

By Simon Joseph


Eelco Smits in A Song Far Away

Europe’s capitals have always had a love affair with art, one that is as enduring as art itself. In times of upheaval, this courtship has come into question; survival demands reality, not romanticism. To be sure, for any amorous relationship to triumph, it needs the support of others. But then the art world’s benefactors are a fickle bunch.

Cultural policy and economic crisis do not normally make ideal bed partners. As you might expect, stimulating the arts sector comes low down on the list of government spending in much of the European Union. Nevertheless, there are subsidies available, and a handful of large Dutch theater companies are benefiting from them.

Tiny it may be, but the Netherlands still lays claim to no less than eight major-city theater companies, all vying for their share of the Ministry of Culture’s ever-diminishing pot of gold. One such company is Toneelgroep Amsterdam. This fixed ensemble has grown into the largest, and by far the most popular, theater company in the Netherlands. Despite a lack of funding, in the country’s capital, theater is thriving.

In the rest of the country, subsidized theater, which is presumably of most value to society, continues to fight for its life. This raises the very question that Toneelgroep Amsterdam seeks to examine with their production of After the Rehearsal/Persona: “What place does art have in society?”

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The Art of the Steal: director Ivo van Hove’s methods to create plays out of film scripts

Posted July 13th, 2015

“In film,” pronounced Ivo van Hove, director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the largest, and most culturally influential, theater in the Netherlands, “the director is the god of his creation.”

On June 28, I attended Live Remix, a daylong symposium on van Hove’s work and “the proliferation of live performances devised from film and digital media.” Curated by Tom Sellar, editor of Theater, and presented by FringeArts (and supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage), Live Remix opened with the screening of van Hove’s first and yet only feature film, Amsterdam (1997). The film acted as a precursor to a conversation with van Hove about his work and a round table with contemporary American artists whose work might speak to his. For those who came to hear van Hove talk about his adaptations of Ingmar Bergman films—like After the Rehearsal and Persona, which will be showing in the 2015 Fringe Festival—Amsterdam’s jarring aesthetic and gritty, violent characters are well outside expectations.

IMG_9435Knowing little about van Hove myself, I expected a grey old man—more of a Sophocles than an Odysseus. But the man sitting across from Sellar is slim, matter of fact, and intense.

Sellar directed van Hove onto his past, his youth devouring movies by John Cassavetes and Michelangelo Antonioni, and his turn to theater in his twenties—largely because film takes so long, he explained, and theater seemed a more realistic way to reach an audience. And how, late in his career, he began to adapt some of these films into stage plays.

“Bringing the movie to the stage is a challenge,” he pointed out. “It’s not meant to be on the stage.”

Persona lives in my mind in Bergman’s vibrant images—Liv Ullmann pulling back Bibi Andersson’s hair back to bare her forehead, both of them gazing languidly into us.

I, like many people, have never thought of Persona as a script. Its long stretches of silence or stillness make it a perfect leverage of the visual film medium against script. Persona, to me, is a film.

persona poster

Poster of the film.

But something very simple that van Hove said made me, for the first time, remove images from script and consider it as a text. “In Persona,” he pointed out, “you get the sense that something in [Vogler’s] life is very wrong . . . something she has been covering up with her artistic life.”

The film had always led me to consider Bergman’s characters as a microcosm, as that picture of Ullman’s hand on Andersson’s head, or the slow smile on Andersson’s face while Ullman gives her interminable speech; not as individuals with individual problems, but as an encounter. Bergman’s strong, specific vision led me into one world to forget the possibilities of others.

“I always do an interpretation of the script, not the movie,” Van Hove says sharply. There is Bergman the writer, and Bergman the filmmaker. Van Hove’s appropriation of text suggests that there’s something the former had to say that the latter didn’t realize.

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