Playwright Lotte Vekemans: “While writing, I play my own shows at home”

Who are the women next to the men of power? We sometimes know their names – from Imelda Marcos and Margot Honecker to Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama – but often without knowing much about them. in her play text Pushing force Playwright Lotte Vekemans presents such a woman, while her husband, the country’s leader, is going through a crisis. Premiering Saturday, it is a production of the Kurtals Sturman Theater Borough, directed by Mike van Langen, with Astrid van Eyck as the wife, and Aldemar Torenstra as the husband.

Over a cup of coffee at a study at the Verkade factory in Den Bosch, Vekemans explained that the idea arose from her amazement at the role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare. Macbeth receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become king and when he returns home she immediately says: Perhaps you should kill the king tonight, then you will be king. Then I think: how did I get there? What’s wrong with that woman? A Woman Predicts Her Husband’s Murder: A Scientist Behind Her. From frustration, from having nothing to say, from feeling like you can climb higher through your husband. This mechanism is interesting. In our society, this dependence often does not go away.

The 57-year-old author wrote the article in 2018, at the request of a German censor, after which it premiered at the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf. In the Netherlands, Vekemans is known as the most played foreign playwright, but her fame extends much further in Germany. Especially thanks to the international strike cm (2009), which has been shown in more than twenty countries and has nearly fifty different productions to his name in Germany alone. A second version premiered in the Netherlands at the beginning of this year, with Karen Crutzen and Stefan de Waal. She is now also working on an international film adaptation with actress Thekla Reuten Pushing force.

Wieckemans explains that many German performances of her work are due in part to the fact that German theater companies do not travel. Every major German city has its own stage. The advantage of the book is that you can run in multiple places at once, sometimes all at once. The public hardly travels. Now play Pushing force in Stuttgart. I also played in Bielefeld and Aachen at the same time.”

The advantage of this system, she adds, is also that there is a strong link between the city and the theatre. “The population really looks at the theater as their own. You can notice that during the crisis, when people said: ‘Hands off our stage.’”

depressed and barren

in Pushing force It introduces two main characters who are stuck in their ideas of who they should be. In the piece I call it the mold you were born into. That mold exists for everyone: your gender, your skin color, your sexuality, etc. Babies are put into patterns: boys aren’t allowed to cry, girls are sensitive. In Pushing force My characters fall apart there. Meinrad, my head of government, is depressed, but he is not allowed to say that. He is also barren, another secret. This is his frustration. The whole article is about things we don’t look at, discuss and hide.”

Actors Karen Crutzen and Stephane De Walle About Gif from Lot Vekemans

Pushing force Written with two German actors in mind, Suzanne Wolf and Stephen Scharf. “When I start writing, I do research and talk to people a lot, including actors. It inspires me.” The idea for depression came from Charf. Then Vekemans read a book about “sick world leaders”, in which I found many examples, from Kennedy to Blair. Willy Brant was often unreachable as a consultant in the early 1970s and after his resignation admitted that depression was the cause. All this had to be kept secret, as politicians are not allowed to show weakness. The outside world will not allow it.

in Pushing force The woman, Ebba, measures her husband when he no longer loves him. Feckemans describes Ebba as “an intelligent woman who has always had political ambition. They both had potential, but he got the momentum and she went with him, thinking they were a couple. I compare her to the Clintons in this regard. But Ebba discovers her role is smaller than she thought. It was her sacrifice for not Something, and thus her world falls apart, until she picks herself up and sets new goals. She often sees such a change in people after a breakup. Then she wonders: How did she allow this to happen for so long?

“If as a director you intend to omit something from my script, you must not want to work with me.”

Meinrad and Ebba are not necessarily likable people. “They will not immediately be the favorite of the crowd. But when another person is treated harshly, sympathy for the underdog always arises. And that feeling will change many times. For example, you have sympathy for a woman because you see how impossible this man is. You suddenly find yourself with a Labzuan dog in the home “.

She is not preoccupied with this judgment while writing. “I don’t think ahead: I’m going to put a bunch of bastards on stage. But drama doesn’t happen if I just perform with nice people. Then not much happens.”

In the discussion the couple have, including with his doctor, political pragmatism collides with idealism. I have studied Zygmunt Bauman’s philosophy, which states that politicians have no real power and only pretend they have solutions. What I want to show is how porous that game is in the back. Meinrad has lost his ideals, and Ebba still believes in them. But both are hardened and silt.”

Margot Honecker

The poet also plays a role in the play and says he notices that idealists are always very angry. “I noticed this when I asked people: What would you do if you had the power? The idealists immediately wanted to put in place bans and wills. This is what makes someone like Margot Honecker — minister and husband of the GDR president — so interesting for decades. She sincerely believed that the GDR She was one hundred percent correct, until her death. We only needed more time, she said, while the GDR collapsed. Eba also says this line in the piece, referring to her. Honecker’s idealism was clear and flawless, but the practice was state terror and oppression. So there’s nothing wrong with toning down the ideals. It’s better than having no ideals: because what are you supposed to do next?”

in her play cm Parents lost a child. in Pushing force He is an unborn child. But this person is wandering around, like an apparition that only Iba sees. It stems from Shakespeare’s idea of ​​witches in Macbeth: a voice says what you do not know. I needed that layer, a different way of speaking, outside of reality. It is a metaphorical presence and signifies all that you do not name, but still carry with you. It also represents the desire to have children that Eba possesses. I also made a sacrifice. This desire to have children is knocking on her door.”

Discussion around the table With playwrights, including Lot Vekemans

All those unspoken desires and annoyances fuel conflict. How do you work for it? “I tend to follow the path of my pen. I haven’t come up with an outline or a story. I write organically. With each sentence I think of the next step. That’s how I figure out the story. When I get it done, I let it mature for a long time.”

Language is the power of language

Do you also derive the characters’ tone from real life? “No. Well, I’m auditory. I say each sentence out loud hundreds of times in order to weigh the sound and rhythm of the words. Moreover, working only on paper runs the risk that you start to think about language. Language superimposes another. This also happens in my work , But you also have to get out of it. I wasn’t busy with anything either Nice Say. I want to know what my characters are up to.”

She also acts out the scenes herself, in her home. “Then I try to imagine where the other actor is. What I’m looking for is the path to the characters’ emotion. What does it look and feel like when someone is listening? I do that a lot. I play my own shows.”

She thinks long and hard about the characteristics of her characters. “But it’s a good sign if at the end of the play I still don’t fully understand my characters. This happens now too. When the actors ask: who are they, then I can say a lot, but I also can’t say a lot. Nor have I ever had images For what it sounds like, with the advantage that I can go along with the interpretations of many directors. As a playwright, you also have to leave that space open.”

She is not afraid to delete her text without her consent, as sometimes happens to playwrights. She says she is always there at the beginning of rehearsals. “I’m lucky enough to be able to see many productions of my scripts, so I know there’s a difference between a perfect script and a perfect performance. But I’m so meticulous, I’ve thought of everything a thousand times. Give me a call, I’ll come and deliver something else if needed.” As a writer, you’re out of the club and it helps to be clear about how you see the collaboration. And if your intention as a director is to throw something away, you shouldn’t work with me.”

She says the first reading of a new script by the cast doesn’t make her nervous. exactly the contrary. “Tense, Tense-I’m at the premiere. But on the first reading, people sitting at a table suddenly give your words a serious sound. For the words she carved on her own for a long time. This is a magical moment.”

Pushing forceby Korthals Stuurman Theatrebureau. Premiere 19/11, Koninkliche Scheuborg, The Hague. until 3/18. Information: Korthals

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