Toneelhuis, the largest municipal theatre in Flanders, is a meeting place for exceptional artists, artistic disciplines and diverse audiences. In the historic Bourla Theatre in the centre of Antwerp, Toneelhuis accommodates a wide variety of theatre-makers who create contemporary and innovative work with international allure. Their artistic diversity reflects the multitude of positions that characterize our society in this day and age. The Toneelhuis makers create their productions for the Bourla, for specific locations and for national and international theatres.
Read the complete mission of Toneelhuis here:
Toneelhuis, Antwerp’s municipal theatre, is the largest theatre company in Flanders. Toneelhuis performs in the historic Bourla Theater in the centre of the city. The company’s artistic strength is its rich palette of highly diverse and exceptional theatre-makers, all of whom create their productions under the same roof. This artistic variety is meant to reflect the multifaceted character of our times. The 'Toneelhuis model' is esteemed in Belgium and abroad as an important contribution to the debate on municipal theatre companies and large theatre structures.
Artistic director Guy Cassiers has made artistic distinction the beating heart of Toneelhuis since 2006: Olympique Dramatique, Benjamin Verdonck, FC Bergman, Mokhallad Rasem and Guy Cassiers all create their own work as part of Toneelhuis. They make contemporary and innovative theatre, presenting both singular themes and broadly appealing narratives. The Toneelhuis spectrum includes repertoire and verbal theatre, extremely visual theatre, the intense use of audio and visual technology, small-scale artisanal work, visual interventions in the city and regular productions on the large stage.
As of 2017, this palette has been extended with P.U.L.S. (Project for Upcoming artists for the Large Stage), a four-year plan that enables talented young theatre-makers to evolve toward making work for the large stage at their own pace. The four P.U.L.S. artists are Timeau De Keyser, Hannah De Meyer, Lisaboa Houbrechts and Bosse Provoost.
In recent years, Toneelhuis has also increasingly focused on the city’ changing demography. Various new theatre-makers have come to us with their own stories and audiences and rightly demanded a place. The LevelUp project offers workshops to a variety of young makers and gives them a chance to show their work in the Bourla. In this context, Toneelhuis also collaborates with other Antwerp partners in supporting the De Nieuwe Spelers initiative, a training course for young people between the ages of 16 and 25 that prepares them for drama school auditions.
Finally, each season Toneelhuis invites a broad range of colleagues from Antwerp, Belgium and abroad to present their productions in the Bourla Theater. In doing so, Toneelhuis aims to be a meeting place for artists, artistic disciplines, performances and the public.
A house of artists
Toneelhuis is the largest municipal theatre in Flanders. Its artistic leadership has been in the hands of Guy Cassiers since 2006. Prior to that, Guy Cassiers was artistic director of the ro theater in Rotterdam from 1999 to 2006.
Upon being appointed artistic director in Antwerp, Cassiers decided to replace the classic model of the municipal theatre – a permanent ensemble of actors with one or more permanent directors – with a new model whereby different theatre-makers make their own productions under the roof of Toneelhuis.
At present, this team consists of five artists:
- Guy Cassiers combines his fascination for literature with his interest in visual media in creating productions for the large stage. Themes such as power and manipulation, and a great interest in Europe’s historical development, form connecting threads through his work.
- Olympique Dramatique is an actors’ collective specialized in brazenly quirky adaptations of stock plays that emphasize group dynamics.
- Mokhallad Rasem draws on his Iraqi roots for (collage) productions in which his experience as a war refugee is an important source of inspiration. Besides making shows specifically for a theatre space, he also likes to make site-specific productions. For instance, he has worked in an asylum centre on several occasions.
- FC Bergman is a collective of theatre-makers that takes a highly visual, filmic approach to large productions – often taking place in surprising locations – about the searching individual.
- Benjamin Verdonck is a theatre maker and visual artist. He combines both of these aspects in large and smaller projects in the theatre and in the city. His involvement in ecological and social issues permeates his work.
Together, these five theatre-makers form the multifaceted artistic profile of Toneelhuis. As a municipal theatre, Toneelhuis does not propagate a single type of theatre as the sole correct response to today’s complex reality. Rather, it defines itself artistically by presenting a multiplicity of responses side by side. This artistic multiplicity and the artistic differences between the makers are central to the functioning of Toneelhuis. Moreover, Toneelhuis also enters another kind of dialogue with the city and its inhabitants through projects and actions by FC Bergman, Benjamin Verdonck and Mokhallad Rasem at site-specific locations and in unexpected places.
Toneelhuis essentially comes down to creating artistic ‘interest’ or 'inter-est' (literally, 'it is between'). What makes Toneelhuis so rich and unique is the dialogue between its different artistic expressions. Interest is generated by the dynamics between the performance and the audience, between artistic autonomy and social involvement, between the power of words and the power of images, between originality and experience, between daring and skill, between tradition and experiment, between the here-and-now and the long term, between the local and the global, between different artistic disciplines, between different makers.
The work of the Toneelhuis makers is followed with intense interest both at home and abroad. By now, 'the Toneelhuis model' has also become an (inter)national benchmark in the debate about municipal theatres and theatres in larger structures: the generosity of this model that allows different makers to develop their work over a longer period of time is inspirational.
P.U.L.S. is a new Toneelhuis initiative that stands for Project for Upcoming Artists for the Large Stage. P.U.L.S. is explicitly meant for a young generation of theatre-makers. The idea is to give four talented young theatre-makers (Hannah De Meyer, Lisaboa Houbrechts, Timeau De Keyser and Bosse Provoost) the opportunity to develop toward working for the large stage at their own pace, over a period of four years. Looking on as their conversational partners are five internationally renowned theatre-makers: Jan Lauwers, Alain Platel, Jan Fabre, Ivo van Hove and initiator Guy Cassiers.
Antwerp’s demography is changing rapidly. The city has become incredibly diverse. Various new theatre-makers have approached us with their own stories and audiences, rightly demanding a place for themselves. Together with Jeugdwerking Kavka, Toneelhuis therefore started LevelUp, a project that offers workshops to young, diverse makers and gives them a chance to show their work in the Bourla Theater in the I HATE MONDAYS series. In this context, Toneelhuis is also collaborating with other Antwerp partners in supporting the De Nieuwe Spelers initiative, a training course for young people between the ages of 16 to 25 that prepares them for drama school auditions.