PLAY MY PLAYS!
Marc-Jan Trapman.


In this page and the pages connected to it, I will introduce you to my theatre work, hoping for some form of co-operation in the future.


Making Theatre in The Netherlands is difficult. Maybe not more difficult than in other countries of the world, but different difficult. An important reason is our language. Only about 15 million people speak Dutch, and in fact they are considered to be too small a market to form the base of a healthy theatre-climate.
The result is that theatre in the Netherlands, insofar it is not straight forward commercial (recently it was proven that big musicals like Cats in a Dutch version can play for about a year) is mainly dependent from grants and that all theatre stages are geared to receive grant-supported productions that are expected to generate financial deficit.
The grant-structure, although relative large amounts of money are given through it, has a quite limiting effect on the currents that can exist within the Dutch Theatre. Grants are given through specialised, semi-governemental bodies, that formerly used to consist of artists.
In the last 10 years, however, the seats of artists in these bodies are gradually taken over by graduates from art-studies at the universities, which means that extremely theoretic art is being supported at the moment. For this fact, the Dutch artists are entirely to blame since they refuse to take part in the intellectual debate on art, partly due to fear, partly because of being spoiled by luxiurious schools and the grant-structure.
An analysis of this phenomenon you will find in my article : "Kwaliteit en Organisatie in de Kunst" ( In Dutch, because it is meant to start a debate between Dutch Artists). My artists union responded to this article, that it considered it to be a 'quite difficult' article, too difficult to be brought in discussion within the union....



The general debate on Art, and especially on Theatre, suffers greatly from the abstinence of real artists. The students and graduates from the Theatre-sciences have degraded the thinking about theatre to a mainly German-influenced cynical and postmodern discourse, that in its turn has selected conforming theatrical performers as the main stage-artists and even permitted dramaturgs to take over entire productions.
I wrote an essay entitled "7 propositions on the theatre science" (in Dutch again) for a meeting of theatre scientists, wich was largely ignored.


The themes in my plays.
My plays, as I have come to understand them in the past years, tell about aspects of responsibility.
This concept turns out to be extremely difficult and complex. It situates itself in the middle of other concepts as there are Freedom, Determination, Right, Understanding, Respect, Judgement, etc., etc.
In my view the thing we understand as responsibility is, as a process of civilisation, coming closer and closer to the individual, but we are not at all prepared for it.
Many of us, in fact, can still not believe that such a thing as responsibility exists at all - considered at the most fundamental level of philosophy.
But we all are raised with an incredible amount of images and concepts that place responsibility away from us: the stars, Politicians, Heroes, all these are the symbols in which we are trained to project our hopes, and the hope of the fulfilment of our dreams. Consequently, we tend to blame them- if things do not go as we would like them to go.
In my plays I look for, I create, paradoxes by using aspects of responsibility that we care about against each other. My hope is, that experiencing these paradoxes will invite the audience to chose for the things they value most in this aspect- realising that some aspects of life, although feeling nice, cannot be preserved if one really wants to assume the consequences of responsibility.



Since many of the ideas and concepts in these areas are mastered during childhood, I feel my plays for children as a very important part of my work.
Children operate in a field of not-yet-fully defined concepts. This makes that their understanding in some fields has broader possibilities than that of adults.
This fact makes that my plays are understood by children in a different way; sometimes I even have the strong feeling that they can only really be understood by children (i.e. The Ogre).
I do not share the romantic view about children as a kind of 'not yet spoiled' human beings. I consider them rather as hard-working individuals, living later in time than I do.
Therefore in essence, they are potentially more adult than me.
For the time being, they are now building their conceptual and emotional work with great relentlessness.
I understand their wish to grow up, and to become a member of the real world as they see it, and I do not see this as the loss of anything. The only thing I am concerned about is that I do share with them rather intuitive insights that for me are paradoxical and enigmatic, in the hope that they can form their concepts in a way that lead to less paradox later-on.
Surely, they will find new paradoxes, but as I am happy that the Greek paradoxes do not baffle me any more, I am sure that the problems we (who feel so adult when we look at them) face today will eventually be as childish to them. As you see, the very concept of adulthood seems to me to implicate a paradox.

Technique required playing my plays.
My plays follow the emotions of the characters, because I believe strongly that it is only in the concrete emotions that we can really see and understand (or feel, if you prefer) what moves us.
It is therefore obligatory that all the actors performing my plays understand and play the full extend of the emotions of the characters: all the characters, at every single moment they are on stage.
Although there are a lot of characters in my plays that do terrible things, there are no 'bad' characters: when they are played, they are to be played in such a way that the audience can fully feel along with each of their emotional steps.
This implies understanding, and many times in our society, understanding is felt the same as pardoning.

Exactly this is one of the paradoxes that the concept of responsibility evokes: understanding cannot anymore lead automatically to pardoning. Responsibility requires the capacity to judge, and judging requires understanding, yet judging implies the taking of measures, as a consequence of responsibility.
The effect of my plays has to be that the audience ends up understanding fully as many as three or four contradicting characters in a final situation where they cannot share the same existence any more. The actors playing my plays have the responsibility while acting, to defend their characters with all the emotion, intelligence and love they possess, to reach this situation. It is the audience's responsibility to solve the problem for themselves, by its own feelings about right and wrong. Only in this way it can understand that true responsibility means that many times it will be necessary to judge those who have become friends. True responsibility often means that we cannot flee for sadness, it means the loss of freedom: another paradox.



The plays therefore are of a complicated nature. They do not have one main character, but more. And even the not-so-important characters have scenes in which they loose their supporting aspect. The fact that this is considered as a problem is not only theatrical. Also in real life we are confronted too much with stories in which our understanding of only one character is totally preconceived. Therefor we do not know better - but exactly this is one of the reasons that we cannot combine the understanding of people with a (human) final judgement. 

In The Netherlands we have a Company that develops a technique of acting that complies with these needs, Sonnevanck. The origin of this technique is the French company "Théâtre du Soleil", which in turn seeks its roots in Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Indian classical forms of theatre, as well as in the Commedia dell'Arte- although this form of theatre had to be reinvented after its extinction in Europe.
The technical requirements to the actor in this form of theatre are very high, but probably this will be always the case for any actor in any technique trying in to comply with the need to solve the problems that these plays involve. 
To play my plays.
Of course, as I writer, I advocate my plays to be played. Some plays I have written I do no longer consider up to my standards of this moment, although I still love them very much. They will eventually be rewritten when I am old enough to have the patience for it. My newest plays I still feel as too risky: I am not yet sure enough about what they mean, or if they will work.
But some of them I would like very much to get around, and therefore I have included a couple of synopsis in this site.
Whenever you feel like trying one, please contact me.
In such a case I imagine, we will find a way to talk about the way you intend to play it, about the form of theatre that your company creates, and to find out if my plays and your identity fit.
I will then be happy to assist in making you familiar with the play, and to help with translations as much as possible.
However, I must stress, that I will be very critical of the translations. I love my language, and I expect any translation to be as beautiful in its own language as it was in mine- or more so.
This can of course be a problem for languages I am not familiar with, but I am sure that we'll find a way around this problem.
I do not use word-puns. Therefore my plays must in principle not be impossible to translate.
On the other hand, I do use rhythm and I will insist on the translations also being rhythmic, in a way that the rhythm corresponds with the emotion of the characters, and with the meaning of the words.
Only when a translation is to my satisfaction, you will be given the permission to play it. It is, by the way, my conviction that only then a company, considering a production, will be able to judge the play and decide to play it at all.
Concluding, I would like to stress the fact that the translation will take time, and that therefore any need for fast production will probably be incompatible with the use of my work.
I hope that this rather gloomy observation will not stop you from reading the next short storylines, or at least to put them in a place were you would be able to find them, whenever you feel like it.
Finally I must tell you that I am not the sort of writer who likes to sit in ivory towers or in the dark dungeons of cynical intellectualism. Therefor, also if you have no intentions at all of playing me, whenever you pass in Amsterdam and would like to talk about or to disagree with anything I have put to you, please contact me! I hope I will be able then to grab a drink somewhere with you, and talků