misunderstanding each other since 2003

Fence Archive

6. Amsterdam and Utrecht, 2005

Dutch Playwriting and International Collaboration

Notes from the Fence Session, 23.11.05

Members of the Fence Network and Dutch playwrights gathered together in groups to discuss more closely ways in which Dutch playwrights could engage internationally. In groups we were asked to answer the following questions:

  • What do Dutch playwrights want from international collaborations?
  • What models can we think of for those collaborations?
  • Can Dutch playwrights/ playwriting cross borders?

Responses were then shared with the whole group.

1. What do Dutch Playwrights want from international collaborations?

These responses fell broadly into three categories:

  • career development,
  • artistic development/ discourse,
  • nature of process.

International/ cultural understanding and reception to own work: The enrichment of own understanding of your work from seeing it through an international lens.

To compare and contrast working conditions elsewhere: find better ways of doing things.

Sensitivity in approaches to production of work in international contexts.

Revenue: an international life for your work can make big financial differences.

In the Netherlands you only get one production of your work: if you are to have the opportunity to see your work produced again, it must be internationally.

To share ideas about work: engaging with audiences and the Other.

2. What are some useful models for international collaboration?

Responses to this question, included questions and suggestions about the nature and content of collaboration itself as well as suggestions for types of international models.

Plays/ playwrights should not just be branded by country: they should be effectively targeted.

Sustained models of engagement are very very important to achieve depth.

Translator must have a sound understanding of theatrical languages, dramatic structures and not just words:

Playwrights should be travelling not just texts.


Is it useful to translate plays if they’re not going to be produced? Should we:

Translate in the hope they’ll be picked up?

Translate only in a production context?


Translator must have a sound understanding of theatrical languages, dramatic structures and not just words:

Should the translator be native to original playwrights’ country or to the country of translation?

International Street Theatre/ Live Art Networks.

National Student Drama Festival (UK)

Traverse Colours of the Chameleon

Translator Exchange (growing network of German language translators and playwrights)

5 best plays from the country, translated into every language, and sent everywhere. Creating a buzz!

“The Traverse Colours of the Chameleon project was excellent: but only happened once! 21 playwrights drawn from 6 countries worked for a month. There were exchanges and workshops. Each writer wrote a short 10 minute play in their own language which was then staged. They worked with directors and actors and the work was translated.”

3. How Can Dutch Playwrights and playwriting cross borders?

The key challenge for Dutch playwrights wishing to cross borders stems from the attitude to text in the Netherlands. In this context, the text is not viewed as finished until a production is made: thus playwrights are at a disadvantage when their text is simply translated.

To cross borders, then, Dutch playwrights need to find ways to set up collaborations with other theatre-makers and to make connections in places where this approach to text can be understood. Suggestions included:

  • Theatre making cultural exchange
  • An honest broker figure, which enables the click to happen between people, brings people together.
  • International exchanges through venues, enabling engagement with a wide range of practitioners.
  • Encouragement of theatre-makers to look across the borders of their own countries to seek collaborations
  • Development of contacts with drama schools and universities, to breed new, more receptive cultural attitudes in new generations of theatre-makers.

Example from the Fence: Dutch/ Hungarian exchange (Lazlo Upor)

For reasons already stated, playtexts do not cross (either way) between Hungary and the Netherlands. Thus, cultural exchanges were set up between playwrights from those countries, which have yielded very good results. In Hungary the Dutch model is seen as a potential model for Hungarian theatre, although there is concern that something may also be lost in the process....

Participating Dutch playwrights and cultural operators at
Janus Meeting, Amsterdam, Wednesday 23rd of November 2005

  • Jeroen van den Berg
  • Erik Ward Geerlings
  • Annemarie Slotboom
  • Sebastiaan Beerendonk
  • Miriam Boolsen
  • Magne van den Berg
  • Emanuel Muris
  • Marike op den Akker
  • Marcel Lenssen
  • Ditte Pelgrom
  • Hiekelien van den Herik
  • Arnoud Holleman
  • Willem de Wolf
  • Sanne Vogel
  • Lot Vekemans
  • Bodil de la Parra
  • Ko van den Bosch
  • Saskia Huybrechtse
  • Franck Mineur (plus students ?)
  • Alexandra Koch
  • Marielle van Sauers
  • Alexander Schreuder
  • Hubert Roza, Hogeschool Utrecht

The Playwright in the Post-Dramatic World

Off Meeting, IETM, Parnassus, Utrecht 24.11.05

A debate on the roles of the playwright in creating performance, and how the playwright's work should be developed and valued.

Getting away from the sterile debates of writers’ vs. directors’ theatre, members of THE FENCE, a European network of writers, directors and dramaturges,argued the case for the equal value of playwrights and directors in the creative process. Are we living in a Post-Dramatic World, as argued by Hans Thies Lehmann, beyond the system where it is the playwright’s role to make the ‘well-made play’ and the director’s role to interpret it?

Leading playwrights Gabriel Gbadamosi (UK), David Lindemann (Germany) and Nirav Christophe (Netherlands) discussed the return of the playwright to the centre of the process, not just as the creator of text, but taking an equal share in the creation of the vision, aesthetic and purpose of the performance. The discussion was chaired by Kees Vuyk, Director of the Theatre Institute of the Netherlands.

This discussion was placed in the context of the Janus Project, a European Playwriting project created by The Fence, and managed by Theater Instituut Nederland, the Finnish Theatre Information Service, Uni-T Austria, West Yorkshire Playhouse, UK and Writernet, UK. A vital debate for all those engaged with writers, new dramaturgy and performance.