Het Lab Utrecht in the Netherlands, a production house that offers young professionals in theatre and dance an opportunity to create performances for young audiences. Het Lab seeks out an active dialogue with the audience and creates links with current social developments.a production house for theater and dance for young audiences. Dennis gave the keynote address at The New Victory Forum on Professional Dutch Theater for Young Audiences.
Funnily enough, thanks to these circumstances, this is one of the most exciting times for art the Netherlands has seen. It has been a while since everyone working in the arts, from directors and actors to technicians and marketing people, was forced to define the importance of what they are doing at such a fundamental level. And how to best develop it, because there are precious few secure values left in terms of financing and support organizations. And it has been a while since audiences, too, have joined in the debate about the value art represents to society. Unfortunately though, these exciting times go hand in hand with the destruction of the achievements of the past thirty years. For youth theater*, the most important thing will be to continue to fight for an independent artistic field, and not to allow it to be reduced to a point where it is simply the ‘educations department’ of Dutch theater.
My plea therefore is to create enough free space for those artists who are most involved in our present society, even, and perhaps especially, in these times. And these will often be the young artists. They are our leaders, pointing the way towards the new era and to what audiences need, from youth theater as well [as theater for adult audiences].
There are some important subjects and forms to which the theater can make a unique contribution in these times and which audiences can warm to once again: offering audiences and artists a direct, live experience (as opposed to film or the computer at home), trying to answer the questions that arise when a multitude of cultures live together in the same country, trying to fathom the contrasts between individualism and society, etc.
The institution I am running, Het Lab Utrecht, will have considerably less scope to offer young artists structural support starting from 2013. But this does not mean that we will cease to exist. On the contrary, we have decided to continue to support talented young artists who want to work for young audiences, and to focus on innovation and internationalization. A small and flexible organization, led by our current business director, will be shaping Het Lab in the future.
And perhaps the collaboration between the US and the Netherlands can be given a new impulse because we can support each other, especially in this new era, both in terms of creating space for (young) artists and in terms of reinforcing the relationship between art and the public. Perhaps we will have to organize a forum and festival such as this one here in New York. In any case, we should continue to talk to each other and keep our exchange going on the importance of contemporary youth theater of the highest artistic standards.
*Youth theater is translated from the Dutch word jeugdtheater, which means professional theater for young people, or what we Americans know as TYA
Forum on Professional Dutch Theater for Young Audiences, January 9, 2012. Excerpted with permission.