It has already been more than a week since I left the Netherlands for America and what a week it has been! I’ve already seen a Broadway show (Tootsie) and more will soon follow! The review of Tootsie is up this very website right now!
In the Past week I’ve had room to explore New York City and I participated in the international orientation here at Hofstra University. During my time in the City I tried to go to more unconventional places. I decided to take the Ferry to Manhattan, for example, instead of the subway. And as someone who is used to taking the Ferry to cross the IJ in Amsterdam, let me just tell you that the waves of the East River are much higher than the waves of the IJ. After arriving on the Island I went to the 9/11 memorial, which was impressive as always. And then I decided to walk to the Stonewall Inn where the fight for LGBTQ+ Civil Rights began 50 years ago. Stonewall was a very humbling place since it was a very small and insignificant site in the huge city that is New York. The monument built to commemorate this place and its history reflected that humbling nature by being very intimate and natural.
The visit to Stonewall inspired me to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the exhibition “Camp: Notes on Fashion” was entering one of its last weeks. The exhibition was inspired by Susan Sontag’s Essay “Notes on Camp” and was also very small and intimate. Both Stonewall and the exhibition were very inspiring to me since it created a space where everything is accepted. The exhibition revealed a history that has been hidden for so long and it revealed a subculture (Camp) that also been hidden from the public eye.
My goal here in America is to learn more about the American Musical and about the practical side of theater as a whole so I can bring that knowledge with me to the Netherlands. With that knowledge I want to reinvigorate Musical Theater as a genre in the Netherlands. While I’m here, a lot of my peers in the Netherlands are also starting wonderful initiatives that seek to reach that same goal. I’m slightly annoyed I can’t be there to join them but I’m also proud of what they’re doing. Especially Niels van Doormalen and the others who created the ‘#1 Nieuwe Musical’ initiative that held a seminar in CREA in Amsterdam last Friday.
While I’ve used this past week mostly to settle in this new environment, I also tried to build the pathway to the above mentioned goal. Like I mentioned, I went to see the Tony-winning musical ‘Tootsie,’ a show that has been a controversial topic because of its themes. Its about a struggling actor who uses female-impersonation to get work, eventually he’s found out and he learns his lesson (or does he?). Having been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier in the day to see the excellent exhibition ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion.’ I was quite disappointed to see that Tootsie went out of its way to avoid certain political topics. Which is a shame, because theater is the medium to push the audience to think about certain subjects through entertainment.
Because theater is the medium to push the audience to think about certain subjects through entertainment.
For example: The Lion King brought African-American representation to ‘the great white way’ by ingeniously using a popular Disney movie and inserting cultural representation, Hamilton focuses on the fact that the United States was built by immigrants by having PoC-actors portray the founding fathers, going against the ‘Immigrant-Bad’ policy of the current administration. Normally there is an intrinsic argument, a message or a political belief that drives the creators to adapt a certain story to the stage, Tootsie however had no reason other than ‘It was a movie’.
On my second night in New York city I ventured Off-Off Broadway, the place where experiments are set free. At the RAVE festival, presented by Ken Davenport one of New York’s most prolific theater-producers, I saw the play ‘Doppelgänger.’ This play is more in line with what I expect to see when I see new theater. The play’s conflict was instigated because of New Media. After a famous youtube-prankster dies, the company representing him seeks out his doppelgänger to replace him to keep the money flowing, but things take a dark turn and who can be trusted in this corporate world?
It is the kind of story we need, but we don’t get from the big commercial producers.
The play certainly had its flaws but it’s only in its childhood, it still has ways to go before being performed commercially. The story being told however is very relevant to the times and the conflict is entertaining to watch, though relatable. It is the kind of story we need, but we don’t get from the big commercial producers.
After a very adventurous weekend in NYC, I moved to Campus to start another adventure: school. My dorm room is quite spacious and my roommate is just a chill dude. He doesn’t bother me and I hope I don’t bother him. During international orientation we had some wacky classes. We had a fire-safety talk that started with a clip from the TV-series ‘The Office,’ a talk from a very enthusiastic director of the Rec-Center and, and this one takes the cake, a talk on sexual consent. Now in the Netherlands sexual consent is considered basic human decency, here they had to explain it to us using tea. As demonstrated in this video:
This week my classes will start, these classes include Play Producing, Play Directing, American Musical Theater and Introduction to Playwriting. These classes are extremely relevant to me reaching my goal and I hope they give me the tools to make the Dutch musical work. Besides these classes I will also be attending meetings of the ‘Theatre Intern Network’ which is an organization run by the American Theatre Wing (the organization that hands out the Tony awards, comparable to the Academy and the Oscars). At these meetings I will interact with young-professionals who operate in the New York theatre scene and who are writing new and engaging material as we speak. At a meeting on Immersive Theatre this past week I already spoke to some very interesting people and I hope to put these connections to good use.
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