this text
starts in a forest
it is winter
the only animals you hear
are barking dogs
and their owners calling them
I look down
at the brown mass of leaves under my white city shoes
next to me is a woman in tight leggings
She is a head taller than me
and 84 years old
Her name is Vivian Gornick
and she has lived and worked in New York as a writer all her life
Her books read like highly
concentrated coffee
they are a wakeup call
every observation is razor sharp
my favorite book of hers is Entangled
and is about the symbiotic relationship with her mother
In that book they walk through
the city together
and talk about what they see
in shop windows, on the street
Based on those observations, their relationship is unraveled.
We walk together too, with big strides
That?s how I imagine it.
And Vivian Gornick says that writing for her is pure eroticism
I believe her

she looks like a woman who, at 84, still masturbates every day
I am impressed
because I experience writing more like cycling up a mountain in fifth gear
she says that that?s normal
that you shed your first skin around the age of thirty
shedding that skin is a chaotic struggle
in which you scrub off all your excess education, knowledge and traumas
and see the new skin that has developed underneath.
She says that this is why you are so vulnerable at this stage in life

because your new,
grownup skin is still thin
and sometimes unable to cope
with the outside world
I have been asked to take stock of the state of the young playwright here
when taking stock of something

I think of a house, in what condition the doors, windows and roof are
what can still be used for a few years and what is in need of repair
An Çtat de lieu is made retrospectively
to know who was responsible for the scratches
an Çtat de lieu is an agreement between two parties
the tenant and the owner
does Lot Vekemans represent the boomers and I the millennials?
i cannot speak for the millennials
or for all playwrights
I don't think anyone can
and yet there is a clear image
of our generation
when I think of millennials
I think of avocados and burnouts

a generation of hyper individual
constantly distracted
smartphone addicted zombies
without faith in the future
only in their own manufacturability
and i do not recognize myself
in that image
I wouldn?t describe any of my
friends that way
and maybe that's why an Çtat de lieu
is important
because sometimes we get
assigned scratches
that we would rather make ourselves
our generation is often seen as
a lost generation
we feel lost
or we have lost something
a kind of idealism or collectivity
but I have the feeling that we have
actually gained a lot
compared to previous generations
in insight
in consciousness and self-awareness
in modesty
and certainly in sensitivity
in shaping and maintaining our relationships
with our employers, employees, parents
parents, children and loved ones
we question the power of our superiors
we question our limits
we question monogamy

and not because we are chronically dissatisfied and always hope for better
but because we focus on our desire first
and put the construct around it in second place
we see our parent not only as a guardian
but also, as a human being
and men too are finally beginning to emancipate themselves
and are saying goodbye to the all too often repeated narrative
of the authoritarian boss or the
absent father
new forms of connection are emerging
people are living together more and longer in co-locations
not like the hippies, who tended to confuse freedom with boundlessness
and collectivity with unspoken hierarchy and male dominance
but in a sensible and respectful way

with cleaning schedules and
monthly meetings with spaghetti
we are more modest, less arrogant
more critical and socially engaged
David Grossman writes in his book 'Living and writing in times of war' that
that it is of vital importance that we never cease to formulate our own story
each time using new words
that are not yet blunted, not yet frozen
we must not allow ourselves to be reduced to a few themes
to passive victims of a time that is moving too fast
we are not the story that is being
told about us
we are all inhabitants with our own story
and we know very well that the scratches were already there
it's not us young makers who are individualistic
it's the system that we inherited from the previous generation that is
that forces us to be pragmatic
to compete
we live in a volatile age
in which everything moves
and we want to move too
we want to act, make, try, fail
but first we have to apply for subsidies, get our paperwork in order
the only free space there is, is temporary
in that temporary space we get 'the chance' to develop our work
but what we are actually doing is urban development
in addition to a lack of space, there is also a lack of money, a lack of opportunities and a lack of playgrounds /performance spaces
one consequence of this scarcity
is that we have started to develop
more broadly
as a writer, you start directing, because otherwise your texts
would remain in a drawer somewhere
As an actor you start writing
because otherwise you have to wait years before you can play a monologue
This diversity of creating writers and writing creators
makes the term 'playwright' and also the term 'theatre text'
less one-dimensional
the most unequivocal form of a theatre text is the text that is kept in a booklet
The text that is used as the starting point of a creative process
as a map for the world on stage
and results in text theatre
but there are just as many performances that are created on the work floor
in that case, can you retroactively distill the text from a performance?
can you make up the floor plan afterwards?
a bit like ghent, where i always get lost
because there is no floor plan thought out beforehand
the city has evolved organically and therefore forms a maze
of crooked alleys and sloping streets
as opposed to, say, New York, for which
a plan was drawn up in advance
where you can always find your way back from first to last avenue

in the world of the theatrical text,
New York has the upper hand
maybe charming monstrosities like Ghent should be given more space
in the world of theatrical writing
But in what way?

should we record organically generated performances in a score?
and why should we do that?
Because we want to make the
transitory immortal?

In my opinion, theatre texts are
a kind of zombies
waiting to be brought back to life
by theatre makers
Sometimes the world of the theatrical text seems to be a kind
of dead shadow
of the living world of theatre-making
and the theatre text lovers a strange bunch of people
that only celebrate the imprint of something living
I think it's important that playwrights
do not dwell too much
in the world of zombies
but also enter the world of the living
How can the playwright, for instance,
also mean something within creative processes where the goal is not a classic text performance?

in the last performance I made, Guus and I were both writer, maker, and performer
In the final phase of a performance, a triple role can feel schizophrenic.
Then perhaps it wouldn't be a bad thing to have a writer on the sidelines
not one who gives dramaturgical advice, but one who actively co-writes
who you can say to:
"this text is still missing this and that"
and who has the freedom to get
to work on it.
as a writer too, such an approach
seems interesting to me
to create live during the process
to write out improvisations
to let yourself be surprised by
the unthinkable
and then to lift the language a little and
add structure to it
let?s suppose you see a theatre text
as a recipe
then as a playwright you could go
into the kitchen
and develop the recipes while cooking
We don't necessarily have to keep these recipes in a booklet
but perhaps include them in our thinking about what a theatre text might be
Perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of a play is that it
does not have just the one form.

It is a collection of fragments, scenes,
and characters.
There is no glue.
That glue is us.
It is doing it live that makes it whole.
therein perhaps lies the difference between a play and a novel

A play shows us life as it is
while a novel shows us life as
we want to see it
as a coherent story
My shoes are soaked by now
We're sitting on a fallen tree trunk
and Vivian says that that's absolutely not what she wants when she writes
To show life as a coherent story
Her books are indeed fragmentary
yet her voice always shines through the characters/through the story
as a kind of divine voice, an all-seeing eye, that watches and describes
and that gives cohesion to the whole
it is different in a theatre text
then it is always the characters themselves who speak
and I think that's why I like writing for theatre so much

Writing a play is like creating a house
that you furnish with your most personal insights and thoughts
and then opening the door to welcome everyone in.
but it is up to your characters to take on the role of the master
or lady of that house
you have created a world in which you yourself do not exist
Vivian wonders whether I write because I want to disappear
because she writes because she wants to exist
I have no idea
In the meantime, evening has fallen
So we walk back to the parking lot
where dogs and children are pushed into cars
Vivian has a moped with a sidecar
and offers me a ride
I get a little helmet
and have to hold on tight to my seat
Vivian manoeuvres us smoothly out of the forest, into the city,
towards the sunset
While our hair is blowing in the wind I think:
writing is like a road you only remember when you walk it
you cannot say how it goes from memory
but while walking you can say
yes, here, this is it
and here to the right
and here to the left
and here a bit slower and here a bit faster
and when we get home
then I will recognize it and say:
yes, we are here

Because in the end making art
is nothing else than remembering
the bringing back to life
of an almost forgotten dream
how is it possible that recognising something always feels like a discovery
as if in our search for the new we are actually looking for the old
something important that we have forgotten
we long for new people, new clothes and new places
But every time we get to know a new part of ourselves
it is not as if that part is added
rather as if it was always there
A kind of: oh yes of course, this is me too

We arrive at Vivian's house
and while we patiently wait for the automated garage door
to open with a lot of creaking

I think
maybe every departure is also an attempt to come home.
I help Vivian put her moped inside
and in the dusty darkness of the garage
I ask if there is anything else she would like to pass on
to the young playwrights
I cannot see her face, but I have a feeling she is smiling
she says: my mother always wanted
me to be happy
I resented that because I wanted a career
and was convinced that as an ambitious woman
you should put your desire for happiness on hold
it was only very late that I realised that
you don't have to choose
will you please tell all the young women that you have the right to both?

to all women
Let us cast off our caution and prudence
like a heavy winter coat
and never settle for too little again

To all writers
Let us write and keep moving
Until the movement moves us
we reconcile ourselves
with the chaos and the dust
and breathe new life into desire

I don't always want to, when I express a wish,
also address the inadequacy of language
because to cast spells you have to feel powerful
I want to believe that we can bewitch the bad guys
that we can softly mutter little words
that will cause earthquakes
that we can make tectonic plates move
with our grammatical constructions
That we can write new stories
whose magic has not worn off yet

De staat van de jonge toneelschrijver


In 2023, the Ministry of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate will for the first time award the CARL ZUCKMAYER SCHOLARSHIP to promote contemporary European drama and the memory of the political German playwright Carl Zuckmayer.

The scholarship is addressed to playwrights living in Europe who have already written at least one theatre play that has been staged already. The working scholarship is intended to enable them to write a play on a socially relevant, European topic with financial security. 

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