Obligatory masks, curfews, riots on the coast: the summer of 2020 will not soon be forgotten. For artists and other players in the cultural sector it was above all else a question of adapting, a stiff upper lip, hoping and searching for something to hold on too. Editor Els Degryse went out in search of- live and online- a few of those active in the circus world to ask them about their experiences.
Author: Els Degryse // Circusmagazine #64 (September 2020)
“Have you seen anything since March?” I recently asked my parents. As they are both in their seventies, it wasn’t surprising that their answer came down to ‘no, nothing’. Nor is it surprising that I myself can count on one hand the number of circus performances I saw this past summer. Not surprising, but painful nonetheless. I confess: I live bij the grace of art and culture. I am not exaggerating when I admit that if I go too long without seeing, hearing or experiencing something that astonishes me, that makes me think or touches me, a little piece of me dies. If corona has taught us one thing, it’s that we can’t live without music, dance, literature, visual arts, theatre or circus. Without live performance. I cannot say it often enough. I hope that they hear me in Brussels and don’t forget it during the next round of funding.
Corona does have some advantages. I suddenly managed to get my hyper-sensitive husband to come with me to a music performance, as luckily now the audience is limited in number and obliged to stand a mandatory distance of a meter and a half apart from one another. If you’re really lucky the seating is even numbered and you‘re always sure to get a good spot. What I also noticed was that everyone I interviewed for this article tried to make the best of their corona summer. Is this a general phenomenon or a particular quality of the creative animal? I will leave the sociological study to others and give the word to several people from the circus sector, fettered much tighter than they would ever have wished to be.
The Dutch duo Maartje Bonarius and Harm van der Laan formed Tall Tales Company together in 2012. They met at the circus school in Rotterdam and from the onset they have created performances based on acrobatics and object manipulation. In the spring of 2020 Square Two was set to premiere; a site-specific performance that could play almost anywhere- in a natural setting, in the public space or in a building. Bonarius and van der Laan made twenty scenes that they can test out and adapt to the space they are in. The concept is an attempt to offer the audience a new way to experience juggling, visual art, and the location itself. When in March the lockdown went into effect and everyone was forced to stay inside, Bonarius and van der Laan decided to adapt the piece so that people could watch it online: Square 2.1. They went back to the drawing board and imagined a route that everyone could take in their own home, a chance to see their own house from a different perspective. So the theme didn’t change, but they had to add a new element to the movement material which largely already existed: film.
Maartje Bonarius: “We didn’t just want to film our performance, but to make something interactive that people could experience online. That’s what is special. Square 2.1 is a true child of the time we are living in. It’s a new way to make online performance.”
Harm van der Laan: “People don’t have the feeling that they’re just staring at the screen for an hour, but that they are receiving a performance that was made specifically for this medium, and that it actually works the best on a screen.”
Bonarius: “Film is very different from live performance. You can place the audience right in the middle of the juggling routine.”
Van der Laan: “We really looked at how we could film things in a way that made them visually even stronger. For example, we filmed a lot of things from above. We gave a lot of thought to the new possibilities that the project offered us. If we were going to take people with us on a journey we wanted to try to give them a new perspective on juggling. We had a lot of Zoom meetings. We had so many ideas it was difficult to make a choice. We tested out everything and in the end kept the best ideas.”
Do you have any way of knowing what the reactions to your work have been?
Bonarius: “To begin with the launch was really weird. We drank a toast together to the launch… and that was it.”
Van der Laan: “Then you think people are watching the performance at home, but you can’t be sure. There’s no applause.”
Bonarius: “We have a reaction page that people can post on. The people who have seen it are enthusiastic and often want to give it as a gift to someone else. There is a way of doing that on the website. That really works well. But because these day there are so many things on line, it is difficult to explain to people what Square 2.1 actually is, and why it’s justified to charge people money to see it.”
Van der Laan: “And it is the middle of the summer, so that doesn’t help. No one feels like sitting inside. Everyone wants to get out. And when you tell people that it’s something with juggling, visual art and mathematics it scares a lot of people off. That said, we have gotten reactions from people who say they normally don’t enjoy the visual arts, but that with our performance they love it. That’s what we are aiming for. That’s the big challenge. The performance works. People really like it. How do we get people to ‘come and see it’? It would be fun if people could post a photo of themselves if they have watch it, in bath for example. But the technical aspect of the website, with films and all, is really complicated. We really misjudged that. The amount of time we lost trying to get it to work on telephones, tablets, laptops, Apple, Windows, …”
Bonarius: “We entered an entirely new world. It was actually pretty intense. There is such a huge technical aspect to the whole endeavour. If one thing malfunctions everything shuts down.”
Van der Laan: “It took us as long to get the thing on line as it took to make the entire performance in the first place.”
How many people have seen the online performance to date?
Bonarius: “Well as I said it’s the middle of the summer so it’s slow. In the autumn we expect to pass the 1000 visitor mark. And in the coming period there are several collaborations coming up with festivals and theatres. For example, De Werf in Aalst is offering the performance at a discount for their audience. In a few weeks we will also put an English version online, and then we’ll have an international launch.”
Bonarius: “It’s also interesting from a promotional point of view to be able to offer this concept to programmers and cultural centers. Normally some of them would have come to see the performance live, but now they can watch it at home whenever they want. They also understand immediately what it’s all about. It remains weird that this version is there the whole time, always available. Normally you play live and the performance is exclusive to that moment. Now we can sit home and do nothing while everyone watches us on line.”
I watch Bonarius and van der Laan on my laptop screen, telling me enthusiastically about their online concept. Their energy is contagious and it seems as if corona is just a new challenge for them. But things weren’t so bright as they watched the cancellations pouring in. Within a week’s time their whole summer and everything they had worked towards for the past year and a half was gone. But it’s obviously not in their nature to roll over and play dead.
Bonarius: “We have a lot on our ‘to do’ list. We have a Circus studio in Rotterdam where professional circus artists come to train so they can stay in The Netherlands, and next year we have to find a new space for that. We have more time now since we’re not performing ourselves.”
Van der Laan: “At first it was quite a blow, losing all that work, but after a while we started to enjoy doing all the things we normally had no time for. This situation will not last forever. We have to be patient. The arts will have a very tough time of it in coming years here in the Netherlands. But at the same time the crisis has shown us how vitally important culture is. So there are a lot of conflicting feelings to deal with at the moment.”
What is the financial impact?
Bonarius: “Also quite a blow. Normally our busiest time is in the summer, with the festivals, and that is all gone. We still hope we can make our new piece in November and play it. There is just no way to know how long this is going to last.”
Van der Laan: “Compared to other countries, it’s already a lot more difficult for artists in the Netherlands. We are very jealous of your artist’s statute and your Circus decree. As things look at the moment, we can just get through this if we draw from all our reserves, but the insecurity of it all drives you mad. No idea if the performances on our calendar the coming months will actually happen. We have contracts, but there is no guarantee that we will be paid if the performances are cancelled. I understand that theatres and festivals are also fighting for their survival. They want to still be here a year from now. It’s complicated”.
In June and July you could play a bit, no?
Van de Laan: “A few things came our way: we were the subject for a final exam in a course for light designers. And we played in emergency day-care centers that had been set up for the children of front-line workers. We realised how much we had missed it when we stood there in a school yard, playing for ten children. It was wonderful to do it, but it’s not a viable alternative in the long run.”
Has corona changed anything definitively?
Van der Laan: “I am pretty sure that things will never be the same. Everything will be disrupted by corona for the next two or three years, and we don’t know what that will finally mean for the cultural landscape.”
Bonarius: “We are hard workers and we are fanatic about what we do, every day. Now we have had a chance to rest from time to time. Everything is pretty much at a standstill so we have a lot of energy left over to help us get by.”
Van der Laan: “Many people can relate to the possibility for reflection. We are used to living our lives in the fast lane, and though we longed to stand still for a moment, there were so many great projects left to be done, that we just never got around to it. So there is something positive about the fact that we’ve now being forced to take that moment. Our online version was also a rich experience for us artistically. I don’t feel like we have fallen in a black hole. That’s also typical of circus. We are creative and if something changes we adapt. We want to find what’s positive in the situation. We just ignore all the negative consequences, and that seems to work for us.”
Patrick De Groote is the artistic director of the Zomer van Antwerpen (Summer of Antwerp). The festival offers theatre, dance, circus, cinema, expositions and comedy at various sites throughout the city. In March they were obliged to cancel the summer’s program, yet by July, in spite of the pandemic, they had managed to organise somewhere between 250 and 300 events. Behind the scenes the team continued to work diligently throughout that period, until July 27, when they were forced to shut down once again until the end of August, together with the entire region of Antwerp, due to a new surge of the virus. And even that couldn’t throw De Groote off balance.
Patrick De Groote: “We never really stopped. Since March we’ve been adapting our own productions to the new situation. And for circus I set up an alternative program. When they put us back on hold at the end of July, we just continued working behind the scenes. It’s only the public activities that were brought to a halt. We have a big workplace here. Since the end of July it’s been used for dance, theatre and music rehearsals, instagram live, film and video shoots, workshops for young people, etc. So it’s not like we have stood still. We offer technical support and free working space to the artists. Things they really need right now. We have paid 30% of the fees to the companies that we had to put on hold, with the agreement that we will put them back in the program as soon as we can start up again. I realise not everyone is in a position to react to the situation like this, but for us it is the best we can do. It may not be an ideal solution for the artists, but it’s better than just sitting at home. And otherwise I would just be sitting at home as well, and that would be no fun.”
What kind of effect does that have on a person, this constant state of adaptation?
De Groote: “Not much of an effect at all, at least not on me. I just keep going. It obviously has been a very difficult year for companies and artists, as well as strange and confusing for the general public. Personally I just have more work. Things are what they are. We focus on what we can do. We did that during the preparation period and we continue to do that now. If something is forbidden, we don’t do it. You can complain a lot about that, often justifiably so. But we try to remain focussed on what remains possible.”
What is the financial impact?
De Groote: “We’ll see by the end of the year. That’s an important question but at the moment not an urgent one. For the time being we focus on what’s possible and the ways that we can be of assistance. How can you continue to support companies and artists and keep them working when there is no audience? How can you help relieve some of the financial pressure?”
Have you put more time into offering things online?
De Groote: “In the period leading up to the ‘Zomer van Antwerpen’ we set up a number of online events. Just to keep a bunch of artists and freelancers employed. In July we did an alternative live-stream of a number of events. Since the end of July we have done a lot on line. A number of events that were planned for that period and for one reason or another couldn’t be rescheduled, were put online. And there are other, broader cultural initiatives being realised on the Instagram Live platform.”
Some disciplines don’t really lend themselves to an online format. What do you do in that case?
De Groote: “You can put almost anything online, but not everyone has the social media skills or know-how to do it well. We have young people working here who maintain a broad network on Instagram. They are perfectly at home in that medium. For some circus artists Instagram remains no more than a clumsy way to share photos and has very little impact, so there’s not much point to it.”
Is there anything you miss, in these times of corona?
De Groote: “No, you?”
We’ll yes, just stumbling upon the smaller performances in the course of a summer, for example.
De Groote: “I can only go by what happens here. Since we never stopped working, we managed to put together an entire program which will just happen to take place under different circumstances. A lot of our colleagues were forced to cancel their festivals, and then in a later phase, often at the request of the authorities, to offer some kind of alternative. Which means that the impact is entirely different from in other years. ‘Zomer van Antwerpen’ has also had a different impact, but in July we averaged 10 to 12 events per day. That’s not so much different from last year. Of course those events were often scheduled to play two or three times a day in an attempt to compensate for the smaller audiences we were allowed to receive. So in the end we had to change our game plan but the process was just as intense. Of course we had to limit the capacity for the circus performances and that’s why we programmed performances that could play several times a day. In the course of that day you could at least reach a bit of an audience.”
Where do you get the motivation and confidence to continue against all odds?
De Groote: “For us it’s obvious. At one point I had a program on paper that was entirely corona-proof. Playing in front of apartment blocks with mobile installations that traveled the streets, 1 to 1 bubble performances… you can always do something.”
So you planned all of that, and then it never happened?
De Groote: “Right, so now we have that plan in our inventory for the next time we are invaded by aliens and have to react once again to new rules.”
Isn’t that frustrating?
De Groote: “No, it’s actually interesting to be forced to come up with new formats. Here at the ‘Zomer van Antwerp’ we are used to thinking of different alternatives, because we virtually have no space of our own. We always question frontal performances, so it’s been easier for us to switch to different formats. For colleagues with a fixed space or a fixed format, it’s a much more difficult process.”
You are the first person I have met who hasn’t seemed to suffer from the impacts of corona.
De Groote: “I am very aware of the impacts of corona, but I think it is important to focus on what is possible and how to do that, under all circumstances. For myself and the team, for the companies, to support them and to try to give them some financial oxygen. If we realised 250 events this July, that also means people got paid 250 times. It’s something we are quite proud of, together with the fact that we could present things and bring some joy to the public. The theatre company Laika had to adapt their entire performance. They had a calendar that was completely full, opening with us and continuing until next spring. That entire calendar is empty now. If we hadn’t stuck to it, they wouldn’t even have played once. As it was, a lot of organisers came to see their performance here, and now it looks like they will be able to tour the play in Canada. That’s also important. If we had given up that performance wouldn’t even exist now. Of course I can complain about corona and how horrible the whole situation is. But it’s important to offer some kind of perspective and keep going.”
Kris Hoeylaerts and Lien Drent have been the driving force behind youth circus Locorotondo in Herentals and Turnhout. In March the circus lessons were brought to a halt, and workshops, school projects and performances were cancelled, all the activities that are financially essential to an atelier, as well as a chief means of promotion.
Lien Drent: “We were in the middle of a schoolproject in Turnhout, with one week of rehearsals left to go before the performances in theatre De Warande. Everything was going very well. It really hurt when we had to cancel that performance, and it was disorienting to look at our calendar, which was suddenly empty”.
Kris Hoeylaerts: “There were a lot of reasons that it was a terrible shame to have to cancel that performance. And we also had no alternative to offer.”
Did you take your lessons online?
Drent: “Yes, for some teachers that worked really well, for others it was more difficult. Sometimes attendance was also down. And it’s more difficult to give a free running lesson online than a juggling session.”
Hoeylaerts: “The lessons that did work really well online were for aerial acro That group realised that at home they could still work on power, flexibility and endurance, and the teacher was really good at giving online lessons. One of the advantages of corona is that we were forced to go in search of what we could do outside of our normal working space. We held the last lessons outdoors, disinfecting all the material and splitting the group up into smaller islands. Everyone was so happy for the chance to see each other again. For aerial acro we developed a few online games. The teacher posed a question and the answer was a movement or a series of movements. I found it really interesting to translate cognitive things into a physical language. Normally you just do the exercises all together, but now we put the exercise in a context that took it to another level then just doing a trick.”
Drent: “We also had our blog Circuscorona where we posted our daily challenges. That way we kept some contact with our students. In the beginning it was popular, but that didn’t last for long. The blog was maintained by the teachers. We asked if there was anyone who needed their lesson money just to get by. We have three people who work officially for the atelier, everyone else gives the lessons on a paid volunteer basis. One of the teachers couldn’t get by without that money, so we continued to pay them to run the blog.”
Hoeylaerts: “The blog was important for a lot of people, because there was something to work for. Most of the kids were stuck at home and had nothing to do.”
Were the three people under contract put on technical unemployment?
Hoeylaerts: “Yes, almost all our income disappeared. The only thing left were the circus camps and four workshops.”
Drent: “Those workshops were a last-minute thing. One group had planned to go to Bobbejaanland (a local amusement park, Ed.) but that was cancelled at the beginning of the second surge of the virus. Our workshop offered a safer alternative, because we were corona-proof. The material was left untouched for 72 hours after the workshop. The teacher wore a face-mask and kept social distance. Of course we couldn’t do alcro-porté, but juggling and all the balancing techniques worked well.”
Hoeylaerts: “Workshops that had been planned for groups without experience, for special events or one-off activities, had to be cancelled. Initiation courses for a ‘bubble’, a group that trains and works together exclusively for the week, we’re possible as long as the teacher kept social distance and wore a mask.”
How did it go, your circus camp?
Drent: “It was fantastic. We worked with two bubbles and that was especially challenging for the instructors. But we discovered a lot of advantages along the way. Usually we mix up age groups and consider that to be our strength: if a 16 year-old can’t juggle, they can join a younger group. And vice-versa. In the past our mixed groups have resulted in a lot of impressive jugglers and uni-cyclers because of the element of challenge brought on by the different ages working together. This year we formed the groups according to age. We noticed how much fun the kids had playing games with others their own age. If next year we can go back to the old system, we can use both methods to make the camps even better.”
Were the bubbles always separated?
Drent: “Not completely. They could play together if they could keep distance. All the activities were separate. We had two teams of instructors, but an instructor who specialised in juggling could also work with the other bubble, as long as they wore a mask.”
Were there other requirements you had to fill in order to keep the camp corona-proof?
Drent: “Lots of disinfecting and cleaning.”
Hoeylaerts: “We had a third bubble with a cooking team and a few extra volunteers. They never got a moment’s rest. They were constantly disinfecting materials, cleaning the showers twice a day. They realised it was necessary, and nobody complained, but it did have an effect on the vibe of the camp. So much that had to be done. Luckily our kids were also really good at keeping to the corona rules. We incorporated those rules into our theme. There were two accursed kingdoms that we’re not allowed to approach one another. The kids realised it was all about the virus, but when we put it into a sort of fairy tale theme it worked quite well. Corona has forced us to think about a lot of things that will be completely useless in a couple years. But it also gave us a chance to try things out. In the middle of the lockdown we were allowed to go and perform in an assisted living facility. At a certain point the municipality asked if there was anyone other than the singers and accordeon players of Flemish kitsch who normally perform. Right! You don’t have to ask a circus school that kind of question more than once. If someone is open for something completely different, of course we will come. In the end we performed simple solo things, and it was a big success. It also gave us a chance to see a bit of the world, all on a volunteer basis of course. Financially it has been a disaster.”
Drent: “We received 3000€ in support, but we don’t qualify for the more serious funding of 160€/day because we don’t have our own space. We also cannot go to the Emergency Fund for Culture because we aren’t considered part of the new Circus Decree until 2021. We hope to get some local support, but we won’t know that until September. We have the un-luck of slipping through all the nets this year. From next year onward our place under the Circus Decree will open some doors for us, and if this year ends up being a financial disaster, we can hopefully save ourselves next year with our new status and the advantages it offers. The funding we will then receive is meant to help us hire administrative support, which means that we will be able to concentrate more on coaching our instructors and teachers.”
Do you notice any particular trends in the registrations for the new school year?
Drent: “We have been active in Herentals for thirteen years now, and in Turnhout it is our fourth year. In Herentals we managed to do the circus show with a bunch of performances just before everything went into lockdown. We knew there would be a lot of interest, and the registration is indeed just as strong as last year. Everything is just about full now. In Turnhout we didn’t manage to perform before everything shut down, and as a result, registration is down. It all depends on how you round off the year. Our presentations have a big impact. Whether students make the jump from the general lessons into one of the specialisations often depends on how well that specialisation performs in the presentation. Last year we put a lot of effort into the workshops in Turnhout and that created a lot of interest. This year we couldn’t do the workshops and we are feeling the consequences.”
Are you already making plans for the autumn?
Drent: “We don’t dare yet. We hope we can start up our lessons like usual, but we have to wait and see, The hardest thing is the uncertainty. If we can’t start up in September, people will leave us, and that scares me.”
What would the repercussions be for your circus school?
Hoeylaerts: “If you don’t get the numbers you planned on for your classes, then all of a sudden you have too many instructors. People that you have promised a regular spot during the year. So either you have lessons which are way too expensive or you have to let instructors go”.
What do you miss the most?
Hoeylaerts: “Spontaneity. Just making a date to meet in a park. Being crazy. Now you always have to ask yourself if something is permitted. The online meetings with the Circuscentrum are handy, otherwise you are traveling all day. Now you just log in. But an online meeting with your team or the board of directors is more difficult. You have to wait for each other. The spontaneity is gone. Everything is timed.”
Drent: “There is less space for small talk and a bit of bullshit from time to time. I miss social contact in general. Parents who drop their kids off at camp leave immediately because they are not allowed to stay and talk.”
Hoeylaerts: “That’s the opposite of what we are aiming for. Other years the parents help with building up the tents and rigs, Now people asked us if we were sure they were not allowed to help.”
Is there anything you have gained from this corona period?
Drent: “It was wonderful to be home. We had a crazy calendar and for me personally it was just fine when everything stopped. I was dreading that busy period. On one hand I wanted to do all those things, but it would also be exhausting-especially in combination with the first months of a pregnancy.”
Hoeylaerts: “We can’t complain. We had to write out our four year plan. Thanks to corona and our kids, who became each other’s best friend and could play together for hours with no problems, we could take our time and do a better job of it.”
Dieter Missiaen from Compagnie Krak sits across from me in our garden… again! I’ve seen my husband an awful lot this summer. Normally he’d hardly have been home, but now we are halfway through August, and it is clear that the situation we expected would merely last a few weeks is going to be effecting our lives for the months and years to come.
Dieter Missiaen: “My first reaction in March was: ‘ok, for a moment then, nothing’. At that point all hope was still alive. I still had bookings in Romania, France etc. But the situation didn’t improve and that feeling of insecurity began to mount. I remember the day the email appeared on my screen, cancelling the gig in Romania. That hurt. Then you curse. By then it was clear to all of us that most things were going to be cancelled.”
What is the financial impact of those cancellations?
Missiaen: “I think we are among the lucky ones. Our company has been able to build up a bit of a reserve over these past years. And I was employed by our non-profit, so I qualified for temporary unemployment money. The past years we’ve paid into the system so we had the right to that support. That offered a bit of financial security. But more than anything I was disappointed not to be playing. I was incapable of working on my new production. I tried, but it was impossible without a rehearsal space. With two young children, finding a place at home where I could concentrate on something else was impossible. That’s when I literally ran away from home, going to work for an organic farmer. That brought some extra money in, and more importantly gave me a chance to focus on something completely different. After a day at the farm I was exhausted and had no energy left to even think about the virus or the situation we were in.
Combined with playing and promoting his two solo performances Viva Raphaël and Kontrol, Dieter has now also begun research that should lead to a new production. He is exploring the question of just how close a performing artist can get to their audience, as well as examining the connection between the spectators themselves. The perfect subject for corona times: bringing people closer together. But on that farm a seed was planted.”
Missiaen: “At some point I was helping to build a new greenhouse. We were tightening a tarpaulin onto the side of the structure. I stood nose to nose with the farmer, separated only by the clear plastic. That’s when I had the flash of seating an audience face to face, divided by a wall of perspex – completely corona proof. During my weekly skype meeting with my coach, Ief Gilis I explained the idea to him. He was immediately enthusiastic. Suddenly everything went very fast. We brainstormed about all the ways you could seat people across from and next to one another. Ief drew up different plans; a square, a pentagon and a heptagon.”
Did you think at the time that you could play in that kind of construction?
Missiaen: “No. Everything was still pretty theoretical. We did know that organisers we’re also wrestling with the situation and looking for alternatives. I had had requests to play my other performances for smaller audiences. So that spurred us on. I didn’t want to just accept that I couldn’t play. Ief and I had some video meetings with Theater op de Markt and Miramar They were both interested in the idea, even if there wasn’t much that was concrete about the project at that point. Those contacts made us more keen on the idea. There are some advantages too corona – it was easy to find a rehearsal space and a workshop. The fact that some very important festivals were interested in the idea also gave us a lot of confidence.”
How was your collaboration with Ief?
Missiaen: “From the beginning of May I had a lot of contact with Ief And slowly our relationship changed. We got to know each other better and better during those weekly Skype conversations. By the time we got together for the first time in a rehearsal space to realise our project, we decided to drop the relationship of artist-coach, and just began to collaborate on the idea together as equal partners. It was a luxury to rehearse on the big stage of De Spil in Roeselare. After we spent time there experimenting with all the possibilities, we moved to the creation space of the Circuscentrum. It soon became apparent that we needed a live audience.”
Can you play your other performances without adapting them?
Missiaen: “I can play Kontrol more or less as I normally would, if there is enough social distance. It’s different, but it still works. And you feel how thankful the audience is. The small events are usually organised by cultural centers who are not used to programming things in the summer months. This summer I watched first-hand how the cultural sector prepared and responded at their very best to make sure that things could remain corona-proof”.
Did the audience wear face-masks?
Missiaen: “Usually, yes. Certainly when they were circulating. For a player, it is your audience which helps you grow, but with those face masks it was impossible to read the audience’s expression or guess what they were feeling. At first I didn’t want to play my other performance, Viva Raphaël, but in the end I did make a corona version of the show. That performance is hard work, normally I really come close to the audience and grab hold of them. Of course that was impossible, so a good share of the magic was gone in the corona version of the performance”.
De Machienerie pitched in help build your installation in June and July. There was the pressure of a deadline, because in August you were looking at a calendar with 20 performances.
Missiaen: “I am not very practical with my hands. Luckily Ief had more experience building decors. I was more the helper. By the end of July everything was ready. Theater op de Markt had organised three days for us in Bokrijk. The first time with a real audience was wonderful. Once again that morning stress, because in the afternoon, you are going to play. At the end of July the Zomer van Antwerpen had to cancel, and thereafter all the other cancellations were to follow. Once again the void. Our calendar went from full to empty to full to empty. But we are not giving up. We know it will all work out. Our installation is ready and as soon as we get the go-ahead we can play. If you look now at all the classic situations, people packed into airplanes, big cafe terraces full of customers, the coast,… meanwhile the cultural sector is doing everything we can, but it is a shame that once again we are the ones who have to hold back, the ones who are hit the hardest.”
I had a front row seat as I watched how everything can change from one day to the next. From the joy of being able to play, to the misery of being confronted with the next in a series of cancellations. Going back to the calendars… again!
Missiaen: “It’s no fun, but we’re not giving up. Everything is going to get better. It is a lesson in flexibility, in letting go. That’s life. Looking forward to new things and discovering what they will become.”
What does the future hold in store?
Missiaen: “We have a few more dates in August and September. We’ll see. When I recently played Kontrol, my wife said: ‘enjoy it as if it is the last time’. I followed her advice and I had a lot of fun. In the end you always have to play as if it’s the last time. For me there is wisdom in that.”