Eind goed al goed by Thomas Bernhard, performed by TG Stan, in the Lokeren Cultural Center. Photo: Sanne Peper
Volume 2

TG STAN Performs Modern Classics by Bernhard and Schnitzler

TG STAN performs up and down Flanders largely to audiences at the beautifully equipped and welcoming cultural centers to be found in every hamlet and mid-sized ones of it towns. The small casts, the aleatory approach to text, the jerry-rigged sets, the soft avant garde approach that typify TG STAN’s performances, have defined live theatre for a whole generation that prefers to partake of such experiences close to home rather than venturing to the metropolises of Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent for a wider experience. TG STAN and other less well-known groups do the circuit of all these cultural centers through any given theatre season, and the cultural centers are happy to host them for three performances of their latest works, knowing they’ll do just fine at the box office.

I finally caught up with this highly popular group I’d been hearing of for years with their new production of Eind Goed Al Goed (All’s Well that Ends Well)—in the original German Am Ziel (1981), which has been translated as Arrived, by the distinguished Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard—in the cultural center of the improbable town of Lokeren, a backwater mid-way between Ghent and Antwerp best known for its soccer team and also as home to the recently deceased Belgian statesman, Wilfried Maartens. The burg was found to be peaceful, with few pedestrians on the street, as we were tipped out of the dilatory local train and commenced our walk to town center. But as we approached the state-of-the-art cultural center a buzz reached our ears, and it became clear that this venue is not just the center of culture for Lokeren, but also that for sociability on a weekend afternoon, in contrast to the other cafes we had passed along the way. The outdoor terrace and continuing indoor café were full to bursting with affable imbibers and ingesters. When time came to take our seats for the theatre event, a large coterie remained at their tables, oblivious to the adjacent cultural treat. Most were there for fare and company, not to see the show.

But the show was well-attended nonetheless in the well-designed and substantial performance space. The three performers walk up and down vocalizing on the darkened, undefined stage as the audience enters the auditorium. Every so often a coherent phrase emerges from their pre-show exercising. The burly male actor (Damiaan De Schrijver) unexpectedly looses the question that everyone can hear:  “Is there still Zero Tolerance in Lokeren?” cracking up the audience.

A bit of history related by my Belgian theatre-going companion explains the joke. In 1998 the (dominant) xenophobic slice of the population initiated a “Zero Tolerance” policy to counteract the allegedly prevailing disorder, or fear that disorder might set in… in Lokeren. No more double-parking; no more noise in the street; no more than three walking together were permitted. This set of harsh restrictions came in response to a growing immigrant (largely north-African) population, such as has been seen all over Belgium, but with Lokeren in the vanguard, that has prompted a sharp rise in popularity by the Far Right and a concomitant protest from the progressive sector for whom Lokeren—forever after associated with the euphemism “Zero Tolerance”—has acquired a bad name.

While the peripeties of Zero Tolerance had nothing to do with the Thomas Bernhard play that followed, the droll question established an immediate bond with the audience, bringing them closer to the players with its local topicality, and introducing an element of stand-up into the presentation of a seemingly elite and elitist event. This joke is followed up by the smashing of a ceramic cup. Then another. The actress demands: “What are you doing?!” De Schrijver answers: “I do it every night.” This preamble is all clearly free improvisation which changes from performance to performance, but further greases the wheels of access between performers and audience. They continue to chat amongst themselves in public for a while until “It’s started” is casually tossed out at us.

Eind goed al goed. Photo: Sanne Peper

Eind goed al goed by Thomas Berhnard, performed by TG Stan, in the Lokeren Cultural Center. Photo: Sanne Peper

The lights, as they come up, reveal seemingly random detritus strewn all over the stage with a simple stool on one side and a low ledge on the other for perching on, with a raggedy drop hanging all the way downstage leaving very little space for action, as the character of the Mother (Jolente De Keersmaeker) enters into a lengthy monologue. She goes on at length about her failed marriage, about a deceased child she had that she’d found ugly, about people in general who she finds “dumb,” and in general with a sarcastic tone about life which is stripped of sense or redeeming qualities. She is like Winnie from Beckett’s Happy Days without the latter’s cheerful optimism or her appealing minor heroism.

As she speaks the Daughter character (Sara De Roo) pours tea, making a waterfall stream of it into the cup from high up. For the longest time the Daughter is present with the audience in silence as her mother speaks, but she has a very pronounced passive-aggressive energy, undermining her mother’s emphatic points with her business and mugging. The Daughter brings the cup of tea over to her mother who drinks water instead. The Daughter holds an iron dangling from a cord in one hand, a black dress on a hanger in the other. Her mother may have all the lines, but she gets her revenge in silence with such stunts. Both actors perform presentationally, right out to the audience, maintaining the bridge that was established in the prologue. As the play goes on, the male actor is seated perpendicularly at a table following along in the script, his head buried, in a sense offstage, although he is in full view. There is a giant wicker basket which is a receptacle for all the props that are used, then discarded.

The play as Bernhard conceived it concerns this Austrian mother and daughter who make an annual visit to a seaside resort in the Netherlands. In Act I they get ready to go, and impetuously invite a certain accomplished playwright to join them, thus overturning a long established ritual of isolation. There is reminiscing about past summers in Katwijck. As the daughter has pretentions of being a playwright, they argue over Kleist’s classic The Broken Jug. The mother affirms that she’s been a terrible mother, whereas the Daughter is a “spotless” daughter, one—horrible as she admits she is—she orders to kneel before her. After asserting that she loves her in that position, she contradicts herself, ordering her to stand up. Finally, she makes no bones about her principal project: it is to keep her daughter attached to her come hell or high water, in this symbiotic and sado-masochistic dance of death.

In Act II the pair are there at Katwijck, and the visitor, a professional playwright, joins them. A romantic possibility arises between the playwright and the wallflower daughter, but the mother does everything in her power to thwart it. By the end nothing has changed (again, like Beckett). That just about sums up the minimal action. This work is the last in a triptych, the other two parts of which TG STAN have also done in the past. This latter third is a tour de force for the actress playing the mother, who is narcissistic and voracious for attention and adoration, and has a slew of conversational tools in her arsenal to surprise and galvanize her little entourage—keeping them off balance and in her thrall. These include wit, diversionary tactics, shock tactics, and feminine charm. The other two characters wind up emotionally parched as a consequence. This is essentially a chamber play, a monologue with appendages (the other two characters).

In the original German this play has been done by some extremely well-known directors—Claus Peymann  and Thomas Langhoff—and has become part of the standard repertory in Germany and Austria.  When one compares images of some of those productions with this one by TG STAN, the difference is not all that pronounced. As is the hallmark of TG STAN, there is no director. The three actors have cast themselves, pretty much according to type, but all three—as became pretty clear in the post-show discussion—would have wanted to play the Mother, which is not surprising as that one’s such a scene-stealer. The set, as I have described, is literally skeletal. While in the German productions they have gone more for an image of a pile of detritus lost in a void, here it is literal, random detritus scattered in a bare, bluntly exposed theatre space.

The costumes, too, are more extreme here; more thrown together. The Germans capture the realism of class, style, and taste appropriate to each character. Here the costumes are grotesquely patched together. Both women’s costumes feature the very same dull brown fabric, but that fabric turns up in the Daughter’s trousers as well as the Mother’s skirt. Each element in their costumes is in argument with every other part. The Mother’s mylar bling tops are juxtaposed to big fur boots that render her feet into those of a bear, the lot topped off with a drab beige raincoat. The Daughter’s upper body-wear flattens her front and sides into a two-dimensional rectangular tube, depriving her of feminine curves. The Mother’s sticks out in isosceles points, like a parody of a tu-tu, emblematic of the monstre sacrée she has become—hard, prickly, charismatic yet unapproachable.

The male character (De Schrijver) finally stands up, puts on his shoes, and picks up a suitcase and coat and “enters” in the character of the successful playwright, ready to accompany them to their vacation in Katwijck. The mother wastes no time in warning him off, letting him know that he could be the first to break the cherished “rhythm” she and her daughter share. That sets up the ungracious tone for the trip to come, and with it comes the end of Act I.

Eind goed al goed. Photo: Sanne Peper

Eind goed al goed by Thomas Bernhard, performed by TG Stan, in the Lokeren Cultural Center. Photo: Sanne Peper

There is no intermission for this relatively brief performance. In preparation for Act II, the canvas drop is lifted by pullies (by the actors themselves; there are no stagehands), so that it reappears upstage, clearing space in depth that had been so lacking earlier on. The drop is revealed to have the same collage aesthetic as the actors’ costumes—black on top and sloppily pasted over with newspapers on the bottom half. An image of the sea is projected onto the drop. A gawdy tasteless chandelier is flown in by the actors as well. Bel canto plays as the Mother and Visitor set themselves down into metal deck chairs. The Mother ensconces herself in a ludicrously patterned giant beach towel. Once the Daughter has scattered a bunch of shoes all over the upstage area, the Mother invites the Daughter to join her and their guest downstage “on the beach.”

It becomes plain, as the Visitor invites the Daughter for a walk on the beach, and slips her a surreptitious further invitation to hook up with him in Amsterdam, that the Mother intends for no such liaison to form between them, although she successfully seems to ignore anything taking place whatsoever; she simply ploughs ahead with her banter, keeping the focus on her and the couple she has contrived to bring into proximity with each other keep under her thumb. She throws off-handed insults about her daughter, as for example referring to how badly sewn their clothing is, knowing full well that they are the Daughter’s creations. So the Daughter, thwarted, drags herself offstage while her succubus Mother continues to monopolize the Playwright’s attention, rattling on about playwriting technique and Mozart while we hear the strains of Mozart played on the piano by the Daughter, poignantly wafting back onstage. The Mother not only professes to know as much about playwriting as the Writer or Daughter—she being the only one present who is not a playwright—but she asserts that she has the power, wit, and invention to anticipate all the dialogue he could ever write in her daily conversation, making her a superior writer to him. It is intimated that perhaps she is saying everything from all the plays he ever wrote.

The Mother continues pumping up and stomping on the Playwright’s ego by turns, as the Daughter tromps back onstage. She (The Mother) even goes so far as to place her hand on his face, on his stomach, and then on his groin—all in a seduction she doesn’t mean and erases immediately after essaying. As her monologue never seems to reach an end, the Writer and Daughter sneak off to snuggle behind the clothes trunk, where they enjoy a fleeting embrace that is interrupted once more by the Mother. The Flemish title suggests that everything ends well, although it all ends as badly as it had begun, while the German title implies that the characters and play will get somewhere, whereas the vacation in Katwijck leaves them all exactly in the same psychic and concrete place where they had started.

Following the show there was a question and answer session with the artists who reiterate the boilerplate that TG STAN regularly puts out—that there is no director, only actors and a text. They profess never to rehearse and that ten days before the opening night, none of them even knows which role they are going to play. Up to that point they do table work at which they simply read the text aloud, each of them trying the various roles on at random. Yet it is not clear how casting is ultimately done, since they actually do wind up in certain roles and not others; how the set is designed and realized, since—perfunctory though it may be—there is a set of sorts; and how the show is staged, since there is a very respectable staging. Indeed a plethora of artistic choices have been made, granted that no director has made them. The notion that there has been no rehearsal, as the term is generally understood, is also baffling. Though no assigned director actually runs them, the actors have met and done the play often before opening night. Another member of the company sits out, watches, and comments.  Presumably a number of those commentaries have resulted in the show we are watching.  One might wonder whether this constitutes directing by another name, whether there is in actuality a gap between theory and practice.

This group, with its refreshing approach in a production of a distinguished text that breathes and feels quite pre-determined, yet spontaneous, was formed by one class from a local theatre conservatory who have stayed together for several decades.  The group’s genesis from an acting class and subsequent selection of their title TG (=Theatre Group) STAN (= Stop Thinking About Names) places the responsibility for a production’s success or failure squarely on the actor without intercession by directors; it is the direct confrontation between actor and text followed by direct delivery of that text to the audience with as minimal emphasis on production values as they can manage, which defines their aesthetic.

One could sense the natural tensions that have arisen between them over the years.  Sara De Roo’s performance as the daughter was redolent of envy, since her fellow actress had bagged the more desirable role (one can only imagine the uncomfortable scene where the casting decision was finally made after all that table work), overcompensating for the injustice with gross, defiant gestures that call attention to herself as an equal partner despite the dearth of lines. And in the discussion, her irritability as Damiaan De Schrijver scrolls through messages on his cell phone in full view of the audience was palpable. In a sense, he was overtly separating himself from the experience and letting everyone know he had bigger fish to fry elsewhere in his life than the audience members who’d stayed for the talk or than his long-term collaborators. It made us all wonder if the trip to Lokeren had been as futile as the characters’ vacation in Katwijck. In a group like this, with its soft self-definitions, such interpersonal stresses are the stuff of meta-theatre.
[David Willinger]

For its latest production, Het wijde land (Das Weite Land in the original German, 1911, known as The Vast Domain in English) by Arthur Schnitzler, TG Stan has collaborated with the collective Olympique Dramatique, another theatre troupe based in Antwerp. The actors from the two troupes have been acquainted for some time, having acted together in several movies and television series, and this production is the result of their fraternization. Even as they remain faithful to their respective principles, this production combines the best of the two collective companies: the intensive text work of TG Stan and the frequently outlandish scenic experiments of Olympique Dramatique go quite well together.

The collective Olympique Dramatique was founded in 1999 by four actors (Tom Dewispelaere, Ben Segers, Stijn Van Opstal, and Geert Van Rampelberg) who, after having finished their studies at the Studio Herman Teirlinck (renowned theatre school in Antwerp, now defunct), decided to undertake a project in common at least once a year. Devout soccer addicts all, they borrowed their company’s patronymic from a very well known French soccer club in Marseille, and adapted it for their own purposes as Olympique Dramatique. The name is significant: play for its own sake and the pleasure derived from playing and games constitute the kernel of their interests.

Their first great success, an adaptation of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (De Krippel in Dutch), earned them the 2002 CJP Cultural Prize. Since then, their shows have uniformly attained the same level of success. They often perform as a company of four, and sometimes they hire other actors from companies compatible with their own unconventional view of theatre. In 2006, Olympique Dramatique was invited by Guy Cassiers to the Toneelhuis, principal municipal theatre of Antwerp, to participate in a global project based on the a book by Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters. The Collective staged the immersion of four actors dressed in tuxedos inside a human-sized aquarium into which they were dipped and in which, immersed, they floated around for a goodly length of time. This parody of Raft of the Medusa, one of the key images from Barnes’s book, at the same time referring laconically to the orchestra on board the Titanic, is an example of the way in which Olympique Dramatique manipulates text. Since that occasion, they have often been welcomed back to the Toneelhuis.

Even though this theatre collective has no fixed recipe for creation (they sometimes work with a director, and at times without one), they nonetheless do consistently follow a particular work process. In the first phase, they gather all sorts of ideas, from tame to the most outlandish, about a story to put on, with the aim of amassing a surfeit of material. Then, in place of rehearsal, they begin to experiment and entertain all possible scenic possibilities. They impose on themselves, for example, an obligation to explore possibilities that veer far from the text, but at the same time require that each actor maintains an alert state of being and rigorous concentration. Leery of compromise, they’ve imposed a rule whereby their rehearsals may only stop when the actors declare themselves unanimously in agreement on which course ultimately to follow. This absolutist approach guarantees performances of great visual power, overflowing with physical and verbal energy, in which the acting is characterized by a sustained rhythm and put forth with disorienting irony.

Het wijde land is a tragicomedy in which Arthur Schnitzler dramatizes the languorous high bourgeoisie of Vienna at the start of the twentieth century. Around the two protagonists, Friedrich Hoffreiter, manufacturer of light bulbs and incorrigible woman-killer, and his wife Genia, flutter a mass of characters—friends and acquaintances of the couple—who pass their time playing tennis, making excursions into the mountains, and chit-chatting on such inoffensive subjects as flashy sports vehicles. It is first and foremost about individuals freed from all social and moral constraints. At the same time, beneath the surface is linked an adjacent conflict between values and norms on the one hand and passions and instincts on the other, a conflict whose resolution turns out to be pitiless.

When the audience enters the auditorium, all the actors are already onstage. They stroll, chat amongst themselves, pretend to comment on certain spectators, pointing them out as they do, even cross to the apron to draw them into a bit of conversation. The stage is empty; the upstage wall bare. The set consists entirely of a vast painted drop which covers almost the entire stage floor. This groundcloth consists of wide blotches, each in a different color; on the forestage it’s green with a white rectangle inside it stage left, alongside a part that’s red, then a splotch of dark gray, and finally one in brick red. As the stage directions in the original play indicate, this drop represents a garden downstage behind which are suggested a porch, and then the road that wraps around the porch, and finally a tennis court. Several globe lamps, in bunches of five, hang down from the flies. These incandescent bulbs are a simplified version of the gigantic crystal chandeliers from bygone years, and doubtless recall the profession of the principal character, the electric lamp being the symbol of modernism at the time of Schnitzler. Midway upstage, to the left is set a long table lit up from inside. Here and there are scattered several garden chairs.

Het Wijde Land (Sarah De Roo, Koen De Graeve, Stijn Van Opstal). Photo: Bart Grietens

Het Wijde Land  by Arthur Schnitzler. A collaboration between TG Stan and Olympique Dramatique. Photo: Bart Grietens

The set as a whole represents a schematic version of a bourgeois gentleman’s townhouse, reduced to its bare essentials. All the elements indicated in the original play’s stage directions are there, but in minimalized form. Far upstage is placed a raised structure, visibly detached from the rest of the scenic elements. The actors all remain present onstage during the show on this raised area, and withdraw to it when they have no speaking roles assigned. This is also where they change attire, putting on tennis garb or formal wear, as the case may be. On the apron, in the garden part (or stage right) is a white-painted rectangle: this represents a terrace which becomes a point of focus by the lighting each time any two characters are isolated to speak together.

The strains of classical piano music signal the start of the show. Genia Hofreiter played by the excellent Sarah De Roo, half sensual, half odious at the start, but played with suppressed despair towards the end, and Dr. Mauer discuss the imminent voyage of Friedrich, Genia’s husband. Dr. Mauer takes advantage of the occasion to mention the end of the Friedrich’s liaison with Adele, wife of a mutual friend and Friedrich’s latest conquest. Genia appears impressed neither by the end of this relationship nor by the liaison itself.

At this moment, Friedrich Hofreiter enters. He is coming back from the burial of his friend Korsakov. The young pianist was in love with Genia, who, out of fidelity to her husband, wouldn’t respond to his advances. She shows Friedrich Korsakov’s farewell letter, which shelters her from risk of suspicion. But Friedrich reproaches his wife for her refusal and her cold attitude which had pushed his friend to suicide. Her moral superiority causes him anguish. The scene proceeds with the comings and goings of other characters: Dr. Mauer, Von Aigner, owner of the hotel, the banker Natter and his wife Adele, Lieutenant Stanzides, the actress and former wife of Von Aigner—Frau Meinhoff, the young Erna. They have all played sets of tennis. The scenes which follow consist essentially of a string of dialogues on the theme of infidelity which lurks at the heart of any marriage. For this series of two character scenes, the actors are isolated on the white-painted rectangle—the terrace of the garden—which is given focus in each case by the lighting. The other characters remain in plain sight on the stage all the while. They go get something to drink from the table, they have quiet conversations, or else they withdraw to the set pieces upstage.

What is remarkable about all these vagaries regarding human impulses is the actors’ performances. They don’t throw themselves into psychological playing style/exploration, but have chosen a phlegmatic style, at times lightly ironic, as if they were deliberately distancing themselves from their characters, suggesting that, behind all they say a hidden part remains withheld. Thus they hit the gap between norms and desires right back to the audience: the tragedy is in the auditorium and not on the stage; the vast domain of the human souls is the labyrinth in which each of the spectators gets lost. The objective is to upset expectations: to what degree are we comprehending and broad-minded when what is at issue is no longer the theatre, but we ourselves? Further, the actors do not hesitate to accentuate this disconnect by interrupting the action from time to time. They then address the audience directly to ask, for example, if everyone, even at the back of the house, understands what’s going on. (“We’re going to speak louder, but that will make what we do seem less natural.”) Damiaan De Schrijver especially excels at this tactic: At a given moment he says that the director won’t allow him to turn around to look and requests the audience to let him know what’s going on behind him. At another point, he draws attention to the fact that he is playing three very different roles and even gives emphasis to the arrival of the key-phrase of the play (“Watch out, it’s about to come!”). The audience greatly appreciates these interventions and hastens to spontaneously respond to the actors’ questions, which regularly provokes moments of hilarity.

This detached playing style and the moments of departure from the text do not cause any loss from the caustic nature of the text. On the contrary, the impossibility of grasping human motivations and passions and the alienation which consequently results, are brought into even higher relief. After the show, one of the critics pertinently remarked that he felt like he had attended a version of Fifty Shades of Poison.

According to Friedrich, infidelity is a right, adultery a necessity. According to Dr. Mauer, Genia must do unto Freidrich what he has done to her, by being unfaithful in her turn. Frau Meinhof considers the selfishness (self-centeredness) of Friedrich and his penchant for young women as an injustice to his wife. Genia, who loves her husband, prefers to consider him possessed by some demon of passion.

Towards the end of this act, Friedrich announces that he’s going to spend several days in the mountains in the company of Mauer and the young Erna (played by Charlotte Vandermeersch, who invests the role of a young woman in love for the first time with great liveliness) on whom he has already cast his sights. On the mountain, he experiences a brief adventure with the young woman. While Von Aigner and Stanziedes seated on the terrace bathed in a repellant pale green light, philosophize about life (“We are full of contradictions, we try to put order into our lives, but nature orients us toward chaos.”), Friedrich, Mauer, and Erna, upstage of them, lend themselves to a particularly hilariously acrobatic scene. The three actors hoist themselves up, with the help of harnesses and smooth ropes until they are perched high in the air and in plain sight. There, as they sway from the ropes, the flirtatious couple kiss and enjoy a brief moment of passion. Mauer, dangling in the air alongside of them, removes a little tent from his knapsack, opens it and goes into it—leaving only his head sticking out—to disassociate himself from the embarrassing spectacle. The audience, on the other hand, follows this scene with delight, bursting out in fits of laughter. In Dutch there’s an expression, “van de grond gaan,” which can be literally translated as “pick oneself off the floor,” but which really means to “have sexual relations.” The scene of acrobatic adultery, which takes this expression as its basis, is doubtless the brainchild of Olympique Dramatique.

Het Wijde Land (Sarah De Roo). Photo: Bart Grietens

Het Wijde Land by Arthur Schnitzler. A collaboration between TG Stan and Olympique Dramatique. Photo: Bart Grietens

Then the tone suddenly changes, becoming more serious. The quasi-comic scenes and interventions are over; over also the tone of comic airiness. One senses that the end of the play is approaching; the atmosphere grows tense, the actors reintegrate themselves once more with their characters; the banter with the audiences comes to a stop, and the rhythm of the acting accelerates. First Natter starts a rumor that Friedrich had a hand in the suicide of Korsakov. Then Genia declares to Mauer that she considers life from here on out as a game in which dishonesty no longer holds sway, and that she, as a result, has given in to desire and taken a young lover. Friedrich, returning sooner than expected from his trip, takes the lovers by surprise when, hidden in the garden, he sees them enter the house in order to spend the night together. He is eaten up by jealousy, not only because of Genia’s infidelity, but also because he’s outlived his youth. He tries to reclaim his old self in a tennis match against his rival. This poignant scene takes one’s breath away. The two actors use the upstage stage wall as one would in a game of squash and hit the ball with ferocity. Their single-minded playing makes it clear just how high the stakes are. Friedrich’s bitterness and Otto’s impetuosity cause the balls to fly out into the audience at times. This match prefigures the duel later on to which Friedrich challenges Otto and in which he ruthlessly decimates his wife’s lover.This cruel end is the culminating point of the play. To accentuate that fact, the murdered lover crosses downstage to the apron to sit down while the other actors gravitate toward the outer edge of the ground cloth to drag it downstage and fold it in two. It is clear that Friedrich has destroyed that which he can’t tolerate. He finishes by saying that he no longer wishes to love, that he no longer has any need to, and finds himself fundamentally alone.

After the show I started asking myself why they picked this play to put on. Clearly in a country where divorces outnumber marriages by two to one, Het wijde land is not without interest. But knowing that TG Stan’s performances are never devoid of political engagement, I can’t rid myself of the impression that there’s more to it. Since the conservative right of neo-nationalists from the N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) carried the last municipal elections and the city of Antwerp now has elected a mayor from that same political party, one portion of its inhabitants have had cause to be concerned on more than one occasion by newly enacted anti-social justice measures. The artistic sector has also had to react when the mayor awakened suspicions with the publication of a column in which he attacks the character of the anti-establishment art world, and in particular the theatre, as overly elitist, too costly, and proclaims an artistic ideal in the service of the expression of national identity. The theatre world has replied that—more now than ever before—the theatres are the established platforms best-suited for discussions on the complexity of a hybrid, multicultural, multi-racial, and world-wide networked society. From this perspective, it is not impossible that TG Stan and Olympique Dramatique have spun Het wijde land, especially the end of the play (the murder), into a veiled warning against the suffocating and lethal character all reductive conservatism, whether it be of a moral, social, or artistic sort, and as a vehicle for breadth of ideas and in favor of general tolerance.
[Régine Van Belle]


David Willinger is the author of seven books on Belgian drama; his The Maeterlinck Reader, co-edited with Daniel Gerould, came out in 2012.  Other titles include: Three Plays of Forbidden Love by Hugo Claus, Ghelderode, Three Fin-de-Siècle Farces, Theatrical Gestures of Belgian Modernism, Four Works for the Theatre by Hugo Claus, and An Anthology of Contemporary Belgian Plays. His many articles have been published in Contemporary Theatre Review, Plays International, The Drama Review, Modern Drama, Western European Stages, Symposium, etc.  He is Professor of Theatre at City College and the Graduate Center, CUNY and has been awarded the Prix de Rayonnement by the Belgian government.  He is currently translating works for an anthology of recent francophone Belgian plays and writing a book on the Flemish director Ivo Van Hove with Christel Stalpaert.

Régine Van Belle is one of the pioneers in research over the dada and surrealist theatre of Belgium. Those extensive documents have been published under the aegis of André Blavier in AaRevue and by the University of Cadiz in Dada-Surrealismo, precursores, marginales y heterodoxos et dans Estudios de literatura francesa. She made a large number of contributions to the anthology Lettres françaises de Belgique as well as having advised and served in diverse capacities with such theatre collectives as De Amazone stroomt, Van Zilverpapier & Spiegeltjes, and beginning in 2010, Silence Fini. In 2011 she published De Monnik en de Rups, a children’s show in collaboration with Steve Merrick. She has translated plays from French into Dutch, including De Plaaggeest by Alain van Crugten and Rivièra by Emmanuel-Robert Espalieu. She also contributes articles to Zone 03 on the current theatre scene in Antwerp.

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