Make way for the multicultural theater!
Siberia makes youth theater, straight in the heart of Rotterdam North
It is no secret that the world of theater in Holland is pretty much as segregated as it was in the 1950s. The white audience pays to see white performers, the Morrocan audience goes to Morrocan theaters and Surinamese stick to Surinam stand-up comedy.
Siberia works regularly with actors from South-Africa. How does that influence the rehearsals?
Erik van Welzen: In Camp North, we have one male actor from South-Africa, Natando. I love working with him. His character speaks very simple English, which appeals to the younger audience, that have already learned their first foreign words when they see our show. His way of acting is almost like mask play, it’s big and excaggerated, yet very precise. It’s unbelievable how serious and focused he is when he rehearses and acts. It was very inspirational for me to work with him.
‘Camp North’, has an intricate mix of dance, music, text, play and puppetry. How is it to play with several disciplines?
In rehearsals it was a little tough to shift as an actor from one focus to another. It took some time for the actors to find each other and the level in energy. But we found the unity in it and started to play around with the different disciplines.
Is there a difference between multicultural and current theater?
I think theater made by ‘white’ groups often play what they want to play. Siberia really tries to focus on their audience and think of ways to lure them into the theater. It’s not the first choice for kids and teenagers to go to the theater, but Siberia’s plays are well visited. That is their merit.
How would you define the theater climate in Rotterdam?
Rotterdam is a city where people are not culturally interested on a large scale, as is the case in Amsterdam or Utrecht. But we do have a very good theater programming and a few top groups like Ro theater, MAX, OT and Siberia, of course. I do see a lot of new initiatives in other cultural fields happening in the city centre that will attract more people from outside the city, I think.
Will multicultural theater ever grow bigger than its current niche?
In my heart, I feel that cultural fusion is possible and will happen, especially in Rotterdam. There are so many cultures living so close together in this city, cross-cultural inspiration is bound to happen. However, the whole cultural sector faces uncertainty now that there have been so many drastic cuts in the government funding. Siberia was the fusion of three smaller theater groups and in 2013 they face another fusion with two other groups in Rotterdam. I don’t know how multicultural the focus of that new group will be.
Pictures copyright: Siberia.