Theater maker Rikkert van Huisstede: “There’s a lot of kitsch at Christmas”

The theater-maker Rickert van Hoestedt remembers it well: he was about nine years old and he was thinking with a friend about going to school in a dress. When the teacher caught up with the plans, a serious conversation was required. “Although it was harmless to us, it made the adults very nervous. They probably wanted to protect us from bullying, it is possible.”

The signal was clear: it wasn’t “as it should be”. Questioning male habits became a thread running through his life like a red thread. Van Hoestedt (Amsterdam, 1993) studied musical theater at the Haarlem Conservatory and then worked for several years with Hermann van Veen. He toured with stage performances for five years Boys will not be boys across the floor. In it, he tries to adjust the stereotype of masculinity with a changing group of players.

And yes, he now wears a dress regularly, for example while participating in a TV competition The smartest person in 2021. It’s also become something of an icon, as he demonstrates, a visible alternative to well-defined frames of masculinity. to Boys will not be boys He shows with a group of performers how many ways you can break out of these boxes, he says at the Bellevue Theater in Amsterdam, where a special Christmas version of the show can be seen from Tuesday: Chosen-it-is family show. The evening includes personal stories, mime, cabaret, drag, pop music and classical ballet.

Do you really love Christmas?

“It’s a double. I like that for a few days in the winter we all fanatically pretend.” The most wonderful time of the year he is. This says something about the human ability to always want to make something out of it, even if it doesn’t come easy. But of course there is also a huge variety around Christmas. In those days, if you didn’t fall into that standard, you had to relate to a lot of songs and commercials and posters about how happy you were with your family.”

What does Christmas look like in your family?

“I have a family that accepts me and doesn’t ask a lot of hard questions. That’s fine. When I first took my current girlfriend, who’s going to have a baby with her in a few weeks, to my grandmother’s Christmas dinner, we were in dresses, and that might have been the case.”

When did you notice: I don’t feel at home in the prevailing male habit?

“Since elementary school I have rebelled against strong men. If someone is not allowed to play football, I will arrange it as a kind of mediator. It made me very unhappy, because it is too heavy for a child to bear that responsibility. In high school I decided to go for myself first And only then, with the energy left in me, to help others. I often wore colorful clothes, and I felt free to do so. As a result, classmates said: You are definitely gay? But I understood this question. I also fell in love with a boy at that time. In At the same time, I also wanted to make space to explore if I also like girls.”

Why did you start Boys Won’t Be Boys five years ago?

“I was looking for like-minded people. In the past, musical theater training was pretty standard. As a guy you had to fit in the box: wear jeans and a T-shirt, be able to sing low. Everyone was groomed.” Orange soldier to play. Fortunately, I ended up at Herman van Veen through an internship. It’s very different from school, Hermann said: you can’t be anything other than yourself, so just do what you want to do. Then I did a solo show, where I occasionally put on a dress, just because I liked it.”

With this single, she reached the semi-finals of the Amsterdam Kleinkunst Festival.

“It was also a lonely period. A lot of people thought I was kind of lonely one of a kind Paradise bird. You will also find yourself special because of it. It’s not healthy, and actually not true, but I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know many people like me, and five years ago, masculinity as a topic wasn’t as much of a focus as it is now.”

Rikkert Huisstede: “It is not true that the queer community is made up of like-minded people.” Photo by Lars van den Brink

You have actively approached people who want to talk to you about masculinity.

“I organized circular talks with them at my house. That was very nice, but it also went in all directions: One wanted to talk about the relationship between climate change and patriarchy, and the other asked if he would feel more at home with yin or yang yoga. Then I thought. : Let’s do a show about it together. It’s precisely the differences in how everyone deals with it that I wanted to emphasize, also because we’ve had to stick to one story of masculinity for so long.”

How has the conversation about masculinity evolved over the past five years?

At first a lot of people thought: is masculinity a thing? Should we talk about that too? Many people are now aware of the fact that as a man you can think about your masculinity, that you also have a gender identity, and that choices are made about how you cut your hair and whether you wear jeans. Just as it has become clear to many people that there are problematic aspects to stereotypical masculinity.”

Do you have an example?

“Masculinity and femininity lie in a social hierarchy: the so-called masculine qualities—financial success, leadership, individuality—are above the so-called feminine characteristics. Caring, kindness, openness, creativity are to be valued much more. If these are to be considered more egalitarian, It is also easier for men to deviate from the existing norm, without immediately climbing the social ladder.

You call the show a “safe space” with like-minded people. Don’t you miss the voices of people who take a different point of view and want to stick to the norm?

“There are a lot of people who want to free themselves from this box, so my agenda is full. Well, if you don’t want to do it, but I don’t make time for it. This is what my activism is like: We make a suggestion of how things work in the world, and people who They want to come and see it, but that’s as far as cosplay goes.

Furthermore, it is not the case that the queer community is made up of like-minded people. There is still a lot of disagreement and ignorance and a lot of racism, sexism and Islamophobia. One of our performers is bisexual, and most of the gay people I talk to have never heard of him. Also the fact that I wear a dress and have a girlfriend is not a given that you can easily walk into a gay bar. Polyphony is precisely our strength: there is always something in a performance that you didn’t know you had a bias on your own.

You said on the show that a theater technician had asked about a surrogate mother when you said you were having a baby. Aren’t you tired of these assumptions?

“Actually, I love a comment like that. Of course I don’t always feel like explaining what’s going on, but I mainly see this reaction as an invitation to a conversation, an opportunity to get to know each other better. I’d rather have that conversation than not.”

Boys will not be boys: Chosen-it-is family show20-24 December, Bellevue Theatre, Amsterdam. A special youth edition can be seen before each show: The boys will not be the children of the next generation. Including: theatrebellevue.nl

Read also: How toxic masculinity is dividing the gay scene

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