Now that I’ve officially brought this news section back up to date, I can talk in greater depth about more recent developments – and even look ahead a little bit. Because here’s the thing. Ever since the world turned upside down last year I’ve been feeling an increasing sense of responsibility and urgency to make sure that this flip-side of the world, whilst still fresh and unspoiled, is designed with great care and empathy. There’s an opportunity for all of us to head in a positive direction, to learn from mistakes we have made and ensure that we don’t just survive as a species but thrive in harmony with the planet we inhabit. In a year that has brought so much uncertainty and despair to so many, I’ve welcomed any initiatives that offer diverse and refreshing perspectives to a narrative of both science and faith, vulnerability and compassion, resilience and defiance.
You can imagine that I was delighted to have been invited as a guest on season 8 of the podcast Catching the Next Wave, hosted by Aga & Łukasz Szóstek. Their aim with the podcast is to investigate and synthesize the different perspectives on leadership and its challenges in tomorrow’s world: from organizational and technological challenges, to social, environmental and personal challenges. The latest season is centered around the theme of intuition and features interviews with people from a very diverse range of backgrounds offering their unique perspectives on it. Aga, Łukasz and I had a very nourishing conversation about the craft and life of an actor, creativity in a broader sense, lifelong learning and much more. It is also the first time I’ve spoken publicly about Gradual, the project that has provided me with an overwhelming sense of purpose. I’ll talk about this in greater detail in time to come, because I’m in this for the long haul. Meanwhile, you can check out the podcast embedded below, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or any other platform of choice.
In what was the second edition of an event that was originally set up as an uplifting response to a pretty grim and unclear outlook on the future of theatre, I gathered a panel of international speakers and performers so that we could all be inspired by historical movements, innovative research, contemporary examples of productions and new community building initiatives, so that any challenges that await creatives and communities can be dealt with an optimistic and defiant response. The future of the theatre experience should come out of an inclusive and exciting scene that will have evolved both naturally as well as with conscious effort. This second event featured conversations about practice-based research exploring compassion-based practices in ensemble actor training, insights on how laboratory theatre at rada has dealt with asynchronous teaching and the ways the theatre scene rejuvenated in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Including the first session, we’ve now had contemporary dance, opera, mime, musical theatre, rock music and stand-up comedy performances, all held virtually.
As one audience member emailed me after the event:
“You were right in your predictions: it was uplifting and much of it very moving. Discussions and positive actions must continue. And then theatre for the ‘new times’ (the repeated phrase had not escaped me) will emerge. I still harbour a hope that it won’t be made up of audio-theatre or zoomed or videoed performances and that we shall come back to performers receiving what the extraordinary dancer from Bern, Ana, described as the “energy of a live audience”. And the audience again being able to smell and feel the buzz of a live performance. How? Well, that’s what meetings like last night’s force us to think about.”
If you’re reading this and you would like to see any of the recordings, please get in touch with me through the contact form.
Commes Des Grands, or ‘Adulting’, has been doing exceptionally well in the festival circuit. Film is teamwork, so I’m flattered and humbled to have been rewarded for my work with 3 Best Supporting Actor awards. Thank you to the members of the jury at the New York International Film Awards, the Independent Shorts Awards and the Indie X Film Fest in Los Angeles for the Outstanding Achievement Award. I’ve also been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category at the Across the Globe film festival in Stockholm, the Indie Short Fest in LA and for best Acting Ensemble at the Indie Shorts Awards in Cannes.
I wasn’t aware of the existence of any of these festivals but I’m more than grateful for the love and support quality independent short films are receiving. The role of Lukas was written for me by Ania Gauer, who I’d met in acting school in 2010, so it feels very full circle for this to be doing so well. Anyways, it was already a joy to have worked with everyone on set, so everything else truly is a bonus. 🙂
On June 15 1815, during the famous Duchess of Richmond’s ball, a note was handed to the Prince of Orange: Napoleon was close by. News circulated quickly and soldiers hastily prepared for the battle of Quatre-Bras, which turned out to be a preliminary engagement to the decisive Battle of Waterloo that occurred two days later. This famous historic event? Re-enacted countless of times due to its significance, this time in the pilot episode of Julian Fellowes’ new show Belgravia that aired its 6 episodes on ITV last year. That prince? Yeah, I’d be playing him.
Quite frankly it was a bit surreal to have been honored to play a part in this series. I was surrounded by the crème de la crème of the British acting industry (and it was really fun to have hung out again with fellow rada graduate Jack Bardoe!) the location shoots, the set design, the costumes, the trailers, everyone in the crew being so incredibly generous and kind… the type of experience I had dreamt about as a young boy. It didn’t hurt to make my mom proud upon imparting the news to her that I would be playing the prince of orange himself, and that’s what we do it all for, don’t we?
Back in contemporary Netherlands a virus was still dominating spirits and facial fashion but the need was there to hold a fourth Stone Soup after two canceled editions in California and Berlin earlier in the year. We’d be clung to the televisions, watching the bi-weekly press conferences of the Dutch government announcing that they would tighten regulations even further. After many months of initiation and organization it was a close call whether we would still be able to hold the event… Thankfully we persevered as a team and didn’t just make this Soup happen in the first place but also made it so very memorable despite the circumstances and safety regulations. It’s astounding, really, to have still played so freely together. I could paint a hundred paintings of all the incredible dinner experiences, enlightening workshops, facilitated conversations and adventurous impromptu experiences that have left a visual imprint in my mind. For now I’ll just do with the pictures… and I’ll be sure to return to the estate in the woods.
As I now wasn’t only working in London anymore, I had been thinking about what the best place of residence would be for me for a while now and in October 2019 I made the intuitive decision to be based primarily in Amsterdam. In hindsight, the timings of this were rather fortunate – this has been a decision made despite any regulations (dare I say limitations) regarding Brexit or familial motivations due to Covid that had later forced many international people out of the country anyways. I’m glad that this agency had serendipitously been kept reserved for me. I’ve certainly experienced differently. After a short stint in Rotterdam, I started out in Amsterdam in February 2020, right before we were all collectively confined to the interior of our houses and laptop screens.
The reasons for going back to Amsterdam were twofold. I had felt that there was incredibly opportunity for immersive theatre work in the Netherlands – truly an untapped market – and I was asked to help out with the early stages of an ambitious immersive project called ‘Hotel Wonderland‘. After many creative sparring sessions it culminated in setting up and facilitating an intimate creative workshop to continue developing the artistic vision for it. Secondly, my work on ‘Gradual’, a tool for intentional learning within communities, was starting to take shape more and more. When my partner and co-founder Philo van Kemenade moved back to Amsterdam from Bratislava I realized that now would be a good time to give this project the attention and dedication it deserved.
In the meantime, the world moved online. “Zoom” became a new verb and “how are you faring” a conversation starter. Though financially and emotionally things were rather distressing, I loved seeing how the world could collectively change course: people and companies massively reinvented themselves. Innovation became the norm. I started an initiative to bring my international network of affected artists and theatre-makers together for a panel discussion and called it “(an optimistic look) On the Future of Theatre”, which featured 3 speakers and 3 performers. It was warmly received and showed me how connection and the nerves that come with live performing do not need to be any less real when inspired virtually.
I also practiced my teaching-bone when I was invited by Andrew Lacanienta, PhD to give a guest lecture at the California Polytechnic State University on ‘The Theatre in Experience Design’. It really helped me to construct my years of thoughts and research on this together and it blew me away when it dawned on me that by teaching something that was still in its infancy, I may have indirectly influenced the future of it by coloring it with my own personal perspective. What a superpower it is to learn and to teach.
..and then I moved out of London. And then I started new work. And then, casually, a pandemic took over the world, and then I was another year and a half behind on my not-so-regular upkeep of this section of the website. It’s not as if I’ve exactly sat still and nothing has happened though. Far from it. So without further ado, let’s take this opportunity to go back a bit.
In the perfectly innocent summer of 2019 (yes, I’m so far behind that I’m taking us back even before the historic 2020) I was invited to co-create a new Stone Soup, this time as a fellow initiator. It has taught me a lot about democratizing organizational values and I’m happy to have explored leadership from a more behind the scenes perspective. We rented out a beautiful castle in Limburg, the Netherlands and co-created with 40 artists, entrepreneurs, facilitators and researchers to come to an adventurous Stone Soup Netherlands ’19.
At the end of that summer, I ventured onward to Poland. Not just to attend a magical wedding, but also to join the faculty and community of that year’s body of the College of Extraordinary Experiences. I attended as a volunteer and received an invite due to my past theatrical experiences, which meant that I could help create immersive characters (in the form of fantastical goblins) for the enjoyment of the other participants… and myself, of course. The theme of the 2019 edition of the College was “Call to the Wild”, so as we learned more about the fabrics of experience design we explored our relationship with nature and sustainable development. Together with Leon Simmonds, an artist and magician I befriended, we built a learning arch with the intention for people to learn together as a calling to the wild.
That whole week was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Zamek Czocha, the location with the castle where it was held, was so unbelievably inspirational and the people that attended were incredible – so I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it. Describing it as ‘Hogwarts in real life’ would only partly begin to do it justice.
After an incredible communal creative experience in Paris I was very pleased to be invited again to join a wonderful group of international artists, creators and designers for the “Experience Design Challenge”, this time in Berlin. Okay, so we had one of the most inspiring venues I’ve ever attended at our disposal (Monopol, a former distillery in typical Berlin underground fashion) but limited time and resources and a completely new group of colleagues with different working vocabularies and backgrounds was bound to lead to unmitigated disaster, right? Yeah, you’d think. If there’s one thing I keep learning is that it’s easy to underestimate the power of a shared passion or the communal tendency towards openness and curiosity, because I have once again seen the evidence to believe in the superiority of the team over the ego. Or maybe it had all to do with the soothing effects of a scorching Summer temperature (we’re still in 2019, July). I don’t know.
Where at the Parisian challenge I was most struck by the realization that ‘everybody is an actor’, I was also given the opportunity to employ my training in a different way: that of facilitating a smooth co-creation process with people from different backgrounds in a team of 10, which remains a challenge in the truest sense of the word. This time, I got to further practice that muscle. Every morning, I got to lead our group of 30 into a selection of ‘warm-up games’ to get us all into the right mood. I found this to be quite scary, as I was one of the few, if not only, professionally trained actors around and I wasn’t sure how well these exercises stemming from my training in theatre would be received by people from more corporate backgrounds. Thankfully, I had no reason to worry. Once again: everybody is an actor.
I could get into further detail about the experiences we’ve ended up cooking up together, and how well it was received by the audience in attendance – but I’ll leave it up to your imagination. Sometimes, you just had to be there. I’m sure the Berlin magical toothbrush-wielding wood-fairy’s would agree with such a, well, profound statement.
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I didn’t exactly choose the ‘easy route’ by navigating a career path away from the motherland (twice). No worthwhile undertaking is easy, you could say, and I’ve certainly dealt with my fair share of sacrifices and challenges along the way – so when opportunities arise that are direct long-term effects of early seed-planting and risk-taking it’s immensely gratifying and affirming.
Changing locations within England, I’ve had my last filming days for Belgravia, the new Julian Fellowes’ period drama tv-adaptation of his book of the same name. It features a stellar cast and was a very exciting project to being involved with. I’m sure I would not have had the opportunity to even audition had I not decided to study and work in London three years prior. More on this later.
A few weeks later in the summer I ventured towards the idyllic region of Sarreguimines in France, on the border with Germany to shoot Comme des Grands. I was pitched the story for this film in Paris two years prior by Ania Gauer, who has developed into a more than competent writer-director-producer of her own right after we studied acting at Stella Adler together in New York City all those years ago. She flattered me by saying she was writing the role of Lukas specifically for me, and I have enjoyed conversations about the story and the character in the two years that followed. The shoot itself then was very effortless and also just quite nourishing to be working together with Ania as proper grown-ups, comme des grands, with a nice added bonus that I got some French representation out of it – Agence Marceline Lenoir (AML). Featuring Pauline Chalamet and Dylan Raffin, the film should come out sometime this year.
Alright, it’s 2020 now, Gunnar. Let’s make this news-feed actually news-worthy again. Let’s start with what we’ve missed.
In June last year, I played Benedick in a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Not(h)ing at the Cockpit Theatre in London. During the English Renaissance, ‘noting’ (meaning rumour or overhearing) sounded very similar to ‘nothing’, used in the title of the play. It’s through noting that Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into professing their love for each other and by founding his belief on nothing, Claudio is tricked into refusing to marry Hero. This word play has inspired the unusual title for this production, Much Ado About Not(h)ing, the use of the parenthesis indicating that the ‘h’ in the word ‘nothing’ can be retained or deleted: noting or nothing.
I had a great time playing Benedick. It’s a role that allows for a lot of physical comedy and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to dive into the more choreographed and musical elements of the play as well, having sung a few solo songs and duets with Tamsin Lynes, who played Beatrice. What made this production extra special was it’s risky move to integrate an added, contemporary layer – mobile devices were an integral element of the performance. Inviting audience members to choose between viewing the performance presented by the actors onstage or the digital performance that they can access through Facebook on their mobile phones (or a little of both), thus it actively immersed the audience in the dilemma this production endeavoured to explore. It meant that pre-show and during set times on stage (and the little time I spent off-stage in between costume changes) I was interacting with the audience directly on my phone, which added a level of complexity I enjoyed taking on as a challenge. The play was received with mixed reviews, however, as was my performance (on the same first preview night, two reviewers singled out my performance both positively and negatively, which I found quite amusing) – but I’m glad I got to work with a cast and crew dedicated to taking chances on this timeless play.
I’m a little behind on the upkeep of my duties to keep this news page up to date, so here goes. Quite a bit to talk about.
Firstly, in February – I was cast as both leading characters RAF pilot and adventurer Kirk Blazer and evil mastermind Lord Welton in the first staged reading of Spirit of the Pharaoh, a new, exciting graphic novel by Simon Furman and Terry Jervis. I’ve helped with their promotion at my very first Comic-Con, as well – and hope to stay involved in the future feature film adaptation.
Taking a trip back to the Motherland, I was very excited to be on stage for the first time since I left my hometown Deventer over 9 years ago (the local newspaper even called it a ‘home game’, haha!) I was invited to join as a performer for an edition of Uitgelezen Verhalen in the idyllic Theater Bouwkunde, where three actors and a musician make literature come alive through performance. I ended up reading / performing a short story from Robert Coover: ‘Going for a Beer‘, and a short story from Mensje van Keulen in Dutch. Thanks to Pieter van Scherpenberg for inviting me.
Finally, perfectly timed for a double work-trip to the Netherlands, I joined the team of Sherlocked for an immersive, completely interactive theatre show called The Grande Investment Ball in castle Wittenburg in Wassenaar. In collaboration with the Amsterdam tech conference ‘The Next Web’, we facilitated a theatrical interactive show where the Duke of Tech and his P.A. (call me Sasha) hosted an afternoon where we brought 200+ participants and budding entrepreneurs in contact with actual investors. Very cool to see how theatre and performance can evolve into a more corporate atmosphere.
There’s lots of work coming up, as well. I’m currently in rehearsals for a production of Much Ado About Nothing in London, have been shooting an exciting TV-show I can’t yet talk about, and have got work in Berlin and France coming up. Just riding on the momentum, baby..
Fresh out of Poland and other travels through Europe, I’ve come to an important realisation: it’s that everybody is an actor.
We are all actors.
Let me rephrase – we are all characters of our own design.
They say much of a person’s twenties is spent discovering and building one’s place and function in society. This comes with lots of trial and error: careers are made or radically altered, new momentum followed and secret passions pursued, existential crises developed and resolved.. I don’t think I’d be terribly out of place if I say that your twenties has as much potential for inconsequential debauchery as it does for the often undesirable meeting of responsibility and expectation (i.e. the dreaded maturity). This whole process, at whatever pace it is enforced, is essentially by design. Whether it is led consciously or by circumstance we make choices on a daily basis that manifest new realities to both our own character and the people around us, thereby gifting our present – the only thing we can truly give – to life itself. ‘All the world’s a stage’, Shakespeare once wrote, and I’ve only recently come to understand the true significance of this..
I’ll try my best to explain it. On November 25th, 2018 I found myself in an ordinary room in a not-so-ordinary warehouse theatre in Paris, France, aggressively scratching my head, sniffing for food trails and sporadically trying to lick my own arse while jumping around a group of strangers who, surprisingly quicker than expected, opened themselves up to engaging with me. Before they knew it, they started to pet me, let me lie in their laps and even played fetch with me. I was playing Ruff Ruff, a wicked, rancid dog set in a world inspired by the Brothers Grimm story Hansel and Gretel and also one of my creative contributions to the design and creation event ‘The Grimm Experience’, led by 40 international artists. For the duration of that specific (and physically quite exhaustive) performance it was beyond amazing for me to witness the audience overcoming their initial fear for me to drop their daily masks and in a suspended moment of disbelief let themselves play with me. As a dog. Even more notable were those who were actively sitting on their impulses to touch me, leading me to believe that actually – it wasn’t me acting in this scenario but them, upholding the preferred behavioural societal standard.
The whole show and devising process leading up to it has brought about wonderful bouts of creativity and lessons on utilisation of space, (and for me personally.. how to overcome the challenge of improvising for a French audience, with French co-stars, without actually mastering the language..).
Sometime around the summer of 2018 (I’m posting late), I received an obscure invitation which was subliminally also a mysterious call to adventure. I was asked to join something that ended up being irrevocably, positively transformational.
It was called Stone Soup. Inspired by the old Portuguese folk story, it was part summer camp, part idealistic festival and part spiritual retreat – the perfect antidote to a (less attractive) side of the entertainment industry that has made me question my aspirations of being an actor of late. In here, I was the only actor present, and joined a group of 36 talented chefs, quantum physicists, entrepreneurs, architects, designers, educators and other intimidatingly intelligent craftspeople in a dreamlike forest in West Poland. Our aim? Work towards a shared intention, which in our case was to create and share experiences with each other in whatever form. Every meal, workshop or get-together had an accompanying experience designed by its facilitators, giving me next to a hell of a time also a new understanding of experience design, the term for the new medium currently informing immersive theatre and other types of contemporary entertainment.
A village with its own democracy quickly ensued and started to encompass hubs of creativity, even a synecdoche of a “New World” in which I got to stand at the portal and act as Morpheus himself, gleefully initiating the abductees of the Old World into a bubble of possibility and positivity.
The reason I’m adding this as a singular news post and not some hippie social media essay is because this specific event has so directly influenced my perception of the notions of ‘performers’ and ‘audience’ that it has led into an important new chapter in my working life. If the rest of this chapter is as promising as its beginning.. I’m in for an exciting time.
Ending the run of ‘On Having No Head’ at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, it was time for some new work – so when an offer to join Flashpoint Collective on their new production came along, it didn’t take long to say yes. In the works was a newly translated version of the 1895 play ‘Anna-Liisa’ by Finland’s national treasure Minna Canth, to be performed as a staged reading at the Rada Fest in July, making it a UK premiere of the piece. I was cast as Johannes, Anna-Liisa’s fiancé and rival of local farmhand Mikko.
It was fascinating territory to delve into. One of the aspects the play touches on is the take on conventional hierarchies of late 19th century Northern European families, and though to modern standards it may come across as criticism at times (which makes it tempting to politicize the writing), it actually assumes no pretense or bias towards any of its characters, which only goes to show how far we’ve come. As anyone, Johannes has some flaws, such as his ways of assuming status over someone else or his tendency to rash decision-making that I needed to understand psychologically first before I could make them my own, but ultimately, he is no more than a product of his own time and age. How can you fault someone who is so very passionately in love? The more I studied him, the more I grew to appreciate his honesty, vulnerability, his passion for love and focus on security. Though it required a tremendous amount of research and imaginative work to fully interpret someone of a 19th century time-frame and setting truthfully, Johannes is just a young man with very human wants and needs, capable of both love and envy. It’s here that I found the things I could relate to. That always needs to be at the core of it all.
The production had a big ensemble cast of 12, 3 musicians and a fantastic crew orchestrating the whole affair. Glad to have been involved.
Still feeling every bit of the spectacular high coming from the rich and productive year of study at RADA, I effervescently continued my pursuit towards naked artistry with newfound authenticity, negating any signs of the inevitable ‘productivity withdrawal symptoms’ along the way. Even before I proudly accepted my Kings College diploma at a humbling graduation ceremony (having dropped out of high school prematurely, it was kind of a big deal), I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed a continuous streak of work.
In November, I was cast in the role of the Dutch deliveryman for a commercial for American home-security brand Ring. Coming straight out of a world of academia and physical theatre, it was fascinating to dive back into the commercial world. The ad is currently airing on Dutch TV-networks.
Only a few days after, I was invited to participate on a very special “Piano and Poetry” evening at the concert hall of the Royal College of Music. While the whole arrangement was being live-streamed, I co-hosted and performed some Russian Futurist Poetry, an excerpt of Gedali from Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel and a radio play style enactment of The Bedbug by Vladimir Mayakovsky, playing the Party Representative – all alongside a few absurdly gifted piano players playing Prokofiev, Medtner, Beethoven and Shostakovich.
Finally, continuing the research and development of On Having No Head, we were invited to make use of the beautiful theatre space of the LPAC in Lincoln, culminating in a three week stay in North-England and a final showing and performance at the Newvolutions festival. A true collaborative devising process, we turned quite text-heavy material into something much more physically symbolic, and in the process I made an important discovery. Sometimes, tackling difficult subject material (like mental health and societal conformity, in this case) really deserves a creative approach that transcends the limitations of the verbal language. After some excellent audience feedback at Q&A’s afterwards we were led to believe that this was certainly worth the undertaking.
If there’s anything l learned from my year at RADA, is that in the end, it’s all about the work.
In 1961, English philosopher, writer, mystic and spiritual teacher Douglas Edison Harding first published his book ‘On Having No Head, Zen and the rediscovery of the Obvious’. With this, he basically issued a universal invitation to live ‘without a head’, i.e. to simply stop and take a look to see beyond manifested forms, and look into the very foundation of what we perceive as “reality”. I wasn’t yet familiar with this concept of headlessness, but after being cast as the characterization of the author in writer/director Alina Hughes’ smart, insightful and whimsical stage dramatization of the book I quickly learned that Douglas Harding had garnered a huge fanbase over the years, among whom David Bowie, who has described it as one of his all-time favorite books.
It isn’t hard to see why. It took me some time, but once it clicks.. it’s hard to let Mr. Harding’s words go. Throughout rehearsals we explored the many ways in which one can ‘prove’ the human body does not, in fact, have a head on top of its shoulders. To play alongside Rada-colleague Luke Wilson as my Rational Self was definitely a blessing, because we soon discovered that the play was much more than just a fun educational trip through Harding’s spiritual teachings: in the end, we experienced a quite thorough exploration of society’s conformities and the paradoxes of mental health. It all culminated into a final showing at the Bloomsbury Festival for the ‘New Wave’ program, which showcased new writing, and was received with an average 4 star rating from the sold-out audience. The play is currently pending funding for more research and further development.
In the pipeline are already some new projects, so let’s hope I get to return to this!
“Clay To Flesh was intense for all the right reasons. Fearless performances and a brave show full of ingenuity by Rada’s Theatre lab.“, “Raw, exposing, thought-provoking show”, “a beautiful piece of provocative theatre.“, “Mesmerised, astonished, delighted, shocked, troubled, happy, exhausted, thrilled: Clay to Flesh, the MA Graduate Piece. Theatre at its absolute best. Saw it by accident and completely bowled over.”
It’s difficult to predict when all the puzzle pieces will fall into place, if ever. All you can do is contribute to the best of your ability and hopefully, if the team you’re working with is assembled correctly, something magical will come out. If the audience’s reception was to be believed, something special had certainly been born out of the conclusion of my year at Rada. The amalgamation of four terms of exploration and application of a wide range of theatre and performance practices – Clay To Flesh served as the manifestation of a long creative collaboration between our company and dynamic theatre director Simona Gonella. Under the umbrella of the ancient Pentateuch, we set out to express our humanity and our connection with the origins, with Nature, the invention of sin, and our struggle with the world at large, truth and the inevitable frailty of words. Using all theatrical means available, from puppetry to technology and from physical theatre to immersive interaction – we invited the audience to take an entomological perspective as we ambitiously re-interpreted the pivotal tales of our origins to dissect the flaws and virtues of the human race.
I played a variety of roles and contributed various philosophical angles to the material, which has taught me the difference between performing as an actor, a character and a person on stage, sometimes at the same time. And with that, I ended my very full year as a student at Rada. It’s been a wild ride, and it’s hard to put into words the life-changing effect it’s had on me. There’s no time for a break, though, because I have since been cast as the lead in a new show which allows me to continue exploring theatre from a more philosophical perspective. I am one lucky boy.
Upholding the professional standard that is required of a Masters student at RADA is never an easy feat. It has without a doubt been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had in both my theatrical and personal life (actually, they’ve kind of merged to become one and the same) but are therefore also the most tangibly rewarding. Though I am currently nearing the end of rehearsals for our end of the year show, Clay To Flesh, it’s almost easy to forget what has passed during the third term of the curriculum. After many literal blood, sweat and teardrops, we’ve come out of a pretty intense set of modules.
For example, our company has worked thoroughly on a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, employing the physical techniques of Vsevolod Meyerhold, in which I played Helena. In other classes, using passages from the Bible, we experimented with the practices of Jerzy Grotowski, whose notion of ‘poor theatre’ revolutionized theatre as we’ve come to know it today. It’s certainly opened many doors for me. We’ve written a variety of scripts, including a short devised play loosely based on the well-known fairytale The Three Pigs, which we related to current affairs on immigration and refugees, I’ve co-written a short play called Surrogacy, and another one called Therapist. Outside of that, I’ve been busy with assessed choral singing and Stanislavski-based improvisation modules, where I delved into the character of a young imprisoned boy convicted of murder. It’s been.. an educational few months.
Normally I wouldn’t simply use somebody’s name as the title of a news-post, but the exception here is more than warranted. Throughout Europe and beyond, Jan Fabre, the performance artist and theatre director, is inextricably linked with a modern ethos and practice in acting-training and unconventional theatrical styles. His reputation more than preceded him so our company met him and his team with great honor and excitement to start training together.
We ended with a production of Je Suis Sang (I Am Blood), a medieval fairy tale showing us the boundaries of physical limitations, often utilizing apocalyptic and grotesque images to take the audience on a very specific and poetic journey. It is safe to say it was unlike anything I’ve ever done but can wholeheartedly say it has made me grow as an artist in spades, and was quite moved by the audience’s reception of the show afterwards. If this is the standard I’ll continue to work in, I’ll gladly accept those bruised ribs and tortured limbs.
Add this to the collection of absolutely unforgettable experiences. A dream I didn’t know I had came true after our ensemble got to perform Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound in a 2400 year-old Odeon theatre in Messene, Greece for the Ancient Messene Festival. Before being welcomed by a packed theatre and the sight of the mountain of Aphrodite in the background, I will particularly cherish the moments leading up to the performance: walking barefeet through grassy mountain meadows with white flowers everywhere, then down the steps feeling like a gladiator about to enter the arena.. definitely a very different experience than the type of theatrical entrance I’m accustomed to. Once on stage, we were welcomed by an amazing energy – fresh air, unbelievable acoustics and the bright April sun descended on our bare bodies as we started telling this ancient but very resonant story of Prometheus and his divine companions.
I had been passionate about this play upon first reading it, so the opportunity to play Prometheus was something I took with great responsibility and gratitude. After extensive dramaturgical research and exhaustive physical training, we had built a show that was constantly re-inventive, utilizing sticks and our bodies and voices to an extent I hadn’t deemed possible before. There is a moment in the play where I was brought high into the auditorium, only to look down and share with the audience how Prometheus has essentially created humanity itself by stealing the holy fire from Olympus. It’s the type of performance that doesn’t really work in a rehearsal space; it only starts to ‘click’ with actual audience interaction.
After multiple great lunches and an unexpectedly warm aftermath (we were treated like kings and celebrities by the local youth) we got to do the show again in the town centre’s open theatre. Here, I was particularly touched by the buzz it generated in the village – I remember seeing many more audience members by the end than we had started out performing for. Even the law enforcement agents took a break to see this story unfold about the greatest thief of them all.
Let me tell you, the Greeks had it figured out.
When you’re involved in an intense program like the MA Lab at Rada, there ain’t much time to breathe. It’s filled to the brim with classes, rehearsals and performances. Over the last few months I’ve had to sacrifice many hours of sleep so that I could fully commit to my crazy schedule. In February, our company put on an ensemble production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children, in which I played the Chaplain among two other soldiers. It was a demanding but fantastic experience.
After our Suzuki and Laban training, some serious transformational animal work (I have been studying the tiger and the stork rigorously), singing practice and contextual theatre history education, we were enlightened by the world of Commedia D’ell Arte and even produced an adapted dark clown, yes, show of The Revenger’s Tragedy, in which I played Gloriana, the embodiment of the skull of the dead girlfriend. It took me a while to get it too.
Throughout this all we have been working on devising our own production of Prometheus Bound. It’s safe to say that I am currently rediscovering my place within the performance arts and how I can be of added value to it. I have come to love ensemble driven physical theatre work and am looking forward to how it might inform my future artistic choices. Couldn’t be more grateful for this wonderful experience.
So far my time at RADA during the course’s first term can be described as intensely demanding; both physically and mentally it’s challenged and inspired me in so many ways it’s going to be hard to keep count of the experiences during such a full and rich year. It’s already allowed me to bridge fears and academically see the international historical context of what I have decided to design my life around. It’s without a doubt an incredible opportunity to re-examine and broaden my skills in this truly experimental and highly collaborative framework, overseen by such an accomplished faculty.
The overall aim, of course, is continuous growth and development and already I have seen the fruits of working on, for example, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, in which I played the character of Nils Krogstad. Or building a character for a Drag Race, in which I ‘played’ Barbara Boobidybabbidy to the sweet tunes of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. The emphasis throughout the year, though, is on devised and ensemble work as we are advancing our understanding of performance but also of writing and directing.
The 15 of us have worked together to devise a Christmas Carol and countless physical theatre pieces, and next term we’ll begin to start working on Prometheus Bound which we’ll take to Greece. What an adventure!
Over the summer I had the pleasure of briefly joining the brilliant team of Sherlocked Mystery Experiences in their efforts to rekindle a sense of magic in the world. If you’re reading this and you’re wondering what exactly a ‘mystery experience’ would entail, I highly recommend diving into it headfirst without doing too much research prior to it. The concept started out as an ‘escape room’, in which the audience is locked into a room and has to find its own way out but over time has developed into something so much more intricate and spectacular it wouldn’t do the concept any good if I’d spoil the fun here by talking about it in great detail (and my engagements with it). Let’s just say that working as a presenter, host and character actor in such an interactive, intelligent and magical environment was something completely new to me but I’ve learned a lot about the many ways theatre can be interpreted into an engaging conversation with an audience.
From one magical setting to the other, I have now moved to London to do a bit of my own detective work at another very, very special place – I have officially started my post-graduate master studies at the MA Theatre Lab at RADA. More on that later!
On the verge of a continuing trend in political chaos and socioeconomic disruptions we felt it was very important to put up a play that deals with the consequences of ethnic cleansing and a resistance to globalization. Borderlands, written by Mona Z. Smith, had its European premiere last weekend and a brief theatrical run in Amsterdam and I’m proud to say it was a success. The audience seemed to really respond to the staged terrors of war and how one’s identity is revolved around it. I played Marko, a soldier with a secret, and was oftentimes personally taken aback by my own emotions as we simulated the horrors of an unjust and senseless war and what it unleashes in people. I learned how to play the accordeon for this production and also got to play a wanderer and a cameraman for the regime. One of the more difficult plays I’ve done, but in the end, certainly one of the most gratifying.
What makes for a good memory? Is it the unexpected or adventurous element, the narrative of the story we repeatedly mentally tell ourselves to remember certain moments or people by? I don’t know, but thanks to a few recent developments in my acting life I can definitely say that I’ve come a bit closer to a deeper understanding of the value of positive memories. When filmmaker Bart Schrijver pitched me a rough idea for a film, I knew I wanted to be involved. An old man relives key moments with his wife when he watches a re-enactment of his life. The film, made and shown at the 48 Hour Film Festival Amsterdam, won 5 awards and became runner-up best film. As a supporting character, I played the stage manager.
On the same day as the film had its premiere I found out about some other good news. Over the last months I’ve been in the process of auditioning for the MA Theatre Lab program at RADA or the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. It’s been intensive, very physically and mentally challenging work but I can officially announce that I’ve been offered a place at their program. That means I’ll be moving to London come September.
How about that for some good memories?
Yes, I’m very pleased to announce that the short film ‘twentysomething’, in which I played the role of Rob has been accepted into the 16th Beverly Hills Film Festival, with a US premiere screening in the super iconic Chinese Theatre on Hollywood boulevard. That means that I’ve now officially had my Hollywood film debut! Hooray to the brilliant team behind the film, helmed by director Avital Siegel and producer Evan Metzold. The movie turned out great and was well received, check out the teaser here!
I also got asked to play the lead in a commercial for a new coffeebrand. When it comes to the queste to better coffee in the workplace I couldn’t refuse to help – so I got to smash a few plastic coffee cups and rile up my fellow workers for a true coffee revolution. Fun shoot indeed!
First things first – For the ‘Amsterdammertje van het jaar’ (little Amsterdammer of the year) competition I was asked to narrate the announcement video of the nominees. I hope to come with an official voice-over reel soon now that I’ve gotten some recordings under my belt.
What I’m more excited about, though, are a few new initiatives set in motion that will help a lot of people to keep training their crafts even when the opportunities to do so are scarce. In January I started with both an Actor’s Lab and a Writer’s Lab – both under the supervision of the team at Orange Tea – and last week I got to work at a film lab of sorts with the Schrijver siblings in which we made a short film about two tough young men in the dressing room before it is revealed they are dressing up as drag queens.
I also auditioned for a new stage production to be put up this July – it’s called Borderlands and is written by Mona Z. Smith. I’ll be playing the character of Marko, a soldier with a secret, among two other ensemble characters.
It’s that I did some other fun work (like recording a commercial voice-over for an exciting start-up company) because the thrill that usually comes with theater was replaced primarily by sheer angst and fear during the process of writing and performing a new short play. For another edition of Fact to Fiction I decided to write a play about feminism and named it appropriately; ‘A Short Play About Feminism – a play about feminism’. It’s been an increasingly hot issue this year so I figured that talking about it from a man’s perspective could be fun and insightful source material for a creative outlet like playwriting. The experimental, abstract play, focused around a broken-hearted young Boy who is confronted with the ghost of a Feminist Woman, saw a narrator addressing the audience, vicious rapping to a 90’s Hip Hop beat, and some pretty thorough practicing on how to pronounce the word ‘Feminism’. Though scary, I’m glad I got to do it.
The evening also saw me performing a monologue on the comparisons of love and terror, written by Kristine Johanson, and had me in a play about the true evil intentions of Elon Musk. Oh, to be an actor..
“Some really strong performances including the live voice interaction. Polished, chic, stylish.”, “Funny as fuck!”, “So sublime I thought I died and went to Sci-Fi Rom-Com theatre heaven.”. As can be seen here, the audience was overwhelmingly positive about our play Strange Divide, so it didn’t come as a surprise that they voted the show to a 4th place audience favourite out of over 80 shows playing at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival. We had a nearly perfect sold-out run, as well, so needless to say it was definitely a bit of a success.
One of the two characters I played was Dr. Jung (see below), a programmed virtual psychotherapist designed to give sound advice to humans in an ever so confusing future age. I based him on existing phenomena like Apple’s Siri and Dr. Kawashima and couldn’t have had a more fun time physicalizing a character so reliant on personal creativity. Thanks again to Orange Tea for casting me in such a fun and thought-provoking play!
When it comes to being bi-lingual in Amsterdam, I’m definitely at an advantage. Over the last two months I’ve been in rehearsals for Orange Tea’s new original play ‘Strange Divide’ by Esther O’Toole, premiering next month at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival. It’s a really exciting show about both the dangers and promises of the technological age and I can’t wait to start performances.
Also in English; I got the opportunity to put up my best American Salesman voice to do a voice-over for a series of videos for the Aids Fonds, a Dutch charity organization fighting for anyone with HIV and Aids. The videos were made for their online ‘first world problem pills’ campaign, check out their website here if you’d like to support them!
Lastly, I just finished a couple of shooting days for the short film ‘Fiets’, which allowed me to also do some acting in Dutch. The film is about Koen, a guy who lost his bike after a wild night of partying, trying to not only regain possession of his bicycle but also his memories as he ventures through Amsterdam in a penguin suit..
Working under tight deadlines can really get your creative juices flowing but that doesn’t mean that making a film from scratch and delivering a finished product in just 48 hours isn’t absolutely batshit crazy. Thankfully, the team behind ‘At A Place, In A Time – A Lovestory‘, directed by writer/director duo Bart and Teuntje Schrijver, was well equipped with the necessary disregard of sleep-related issues. I’m sure you can imagine why it was therefore all the more rewarding when, after it premiered at the 48 Hour Film Festival Amsterdam, it won THREE awards and was nominated for audience favourite as well! Edited entirely in split-screen fashion, I think it’s safe to say this is the cutest short film I’ve done so far.
Check out the film here!
As if that wasn’t enough short term craziness, I also participated in Orange Tea’s ‘Fact To Fiction’ event. In just a week, along with two fellow ensemble members I wrote, produced and acted in a short play based on current news articles. If anything else, it taught me a lot about collaborative writing and the stress that comes with striving for perfection. Inspired by the premise that all ‘bad news articles’ came true, we set our play in a dystopian future where different factions battle for the few remaining resources. I played Miller, rebel of the desert. The play was well received so who knows if we’ll adapt it to a full length play?
Stay busy, keep growing. It’s been a crowded month – from stage rehearsals and performances to commercial work to a last-minute call-up for another short film. Putting my best British accent into effect – I played one of the James Bond characters in ‘The Abridged James Bond Company’ for Orange Tea. It became somewhat of a crowd-pleaser as the company came back with a vengeance for an evening of tuxes, gadgets, villains and bond girls in their own staged version of a James Bond film. See one of the cast photo’s below to compare the different Mr. Bond’s!
To keep things into perspective I then dived back into the world of commercial acting and did a few sketches for a corporate web commercial for Cisco Systems and I also got cast as the male lead in the romantic short “At a place, in a time – a love story” by the production company It Happened On A Tuesday.
Remember, if you wanna stay updated and you’re into selfies and such (an evolution of humanity, clearly) feel free to follow me on Instagram.
What better way to segue in to 2015’s first (albeit somewhat late) news post than to work with friends! Recently I did a little cameo for Ruwan Heggelman’s short film ‘Snuff’, about the controversial topic of snuff films. Though it wasn’t exactly what you would call light material, I had a great time shooting and working with Ruwan and his crew.
Another friend I’ve worked with recently was Menno van Winden who asked me to model for a picture which I think turned out quite nicely. Why exactly I’m pouring milk out of a vodka bottle? Let’s leave that open to interpretation. Talking about vodkabottles – check out Don’t Forget to Tip, the short film I shot when I played a street poet at Times Square!
Nearing the end of a tumultuous professional and personal year, I’m glad that I got at least one stage production in this year – this time for the Orange Tea Theatre Company who cast me in the short play ‘There’s some karate in this play‘ by Tony DeFeo. Playing Jeff, a young man who can’t take anything seriously in a play that gives new meaning to the word ‘playing’ was indeed one of the most fun acting experiences I’ve had this year. Without further ado,
..and a lot has happened. After a few big and unexpected setbacks I can now announce that I am currently based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and not in New York City anymore. Although I miss the city and its inhabitants, it’s hard not to fall in love with a city that replaces blocks and avenues with romantic canals and old houses. If you’ve ever visited, you’ll understand why this is a city in which I feel I can truly develop as an artist so I’m excited to see how the following year will play out. Naturally, I hope you’ll continue to follow me as the journey continues.
Because I now audition and act speaking (mainly) Dutch, I was very pleased to hear that I was asked to join the Orange Tea Theatre Company, an Amsterdam based theatre company that specializes in the performance of modern plays in the English language. I’m already in rehearsals for a new short play!
Here’s to new beginnings,
Everybody, I am VERY proud to announce that I recently started working with Estelle Lasher of Principal Entertainment NY! This is a top talent management company with a high-profile acting clientele so if anything I have become more driven, more willing to learn and more hard-working than ever to do right by this management and industry. I really connected with the team during the meeting so I can’t wait to continue this collaboration.
I have already started working with new acting coaches who can help me with future auditions for whatever projects may come my way. Good things ahead!
If you’re as big a fan of TED and its videos as me you can probably understand my excitement when I heard that I was selected as one of the 100 New Yorkers to attend the TEDx LowerEastSide event ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Still a strong believer of the synonymity between growth as a human being and growth as an actor; it was a day of incredible inspiration and insights so I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience. The video recordings should be online later this year but until then check out the Event’s website.
In more specific acting related news: see me in Rory Pfotenhauers latest work ‘Private Park’, in which I struggle to find an entrance to a park not available to mere commoners such as myself. Also new is a self created video shot by photographer Kasimir Szekeres called ‘Vignettes‘, a series of portrayals exploring the emotional spectrum. To see this and more of our collaborations check out the updated REEL page.
Well, here’s to more years of work in the United States! I have officially been granted an Artist Visa, giving me the somewhat questionably honorable title of ‘Alien with an Extraordinary Ability’. Obviously, joining the ranks of E.T. and Marvin the Martian comes with great responsibility so I’m excited to see how the coming years will unfold. They just gave away the role of the Doctor, didn’t they?
Also, check out the now online promo for the newly published book ‘A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming’, in which I am featured as a young man on his way to lucidity. Make sure to put on your annotations for the full interactive experience!
It’s probably in my best interest to act as publicist and share some articles that were recently published. A little while ago I was interviewed by playwright and columnist Frank J. Avella for an online NYC magazine about my time spent here in NYC and we talked about the differences between the theatre scene in New York and in the Netherlands among many other things.
Read the interview here!
I also had a great Skype interview with journalist Walter de Boer who wrote an article about me which, for those of you who speak Dutch, could give some insight as to how I came to be here. The article as displayed below was published in a local Dutch newspaper today.
Fresh off the stage – time to explore new avenues as a performer in the city! Almost immediately after the show ended I got cast as a street poet in the short film ‘Don’t Forget To Tip’, written and directed by Gal Nachshon. Shot in a unique improvisatory manner, the film is about how a street poet fights to have his work heard as he competes with other street performers with different creative disciplines. Check out the production photo beneath to see what I was up to.
Talk about childhood fantasies – from lucid dreaming to role-playing magic. ‘An elf, a warrior and a wizard battle an evil necromancer in an enchanted village… while their real-life counterparts face other battles as teenagers in rural America.’
Yes, I am indeed very excited to be returning to the stage as I have been offered the part of the very glamorous and fabulous Felicity Hydrangea Karmikal Onyx Wizard in the new play ‘The dungeons and the dragons’ by playwright Kyle John Schmidt, which will play at the well-known Samuel French OOB Festival. During rehearsals it became evident that one of the things I really like about this play is how it addresses teenage escapism, which has led to many finding comfort in acting, or in this case specifically – pretending to be a wizard.
One reason why I hold my chosen profession in such deep affection is because I love getting cast in such a versatile range of gigs.
After a succesful couple shootingdays by a beautiful lake out of town for ‘twentysomething’ I was approached to audition for an online book promo for a soon to be internationally released book on the topic of lucid dreaming. Being an avid dreamer myself I enthusiastically responded and can now happily announce that I will star in their online campaign as a young boy who, when he learns he is in a dream, starts to fly to ultimately soar the skies in true Superman fashion. Naturally, I really resonate with lucid dreaming because it puts your imagination into practice – which is exactly what I do when I act.
I seem to do well in the short film circuit. I have just wrapped filming a short named ‘And everything stayed the same’, a film about Daniel who is forced to deal with his suicidal tendencies because of the way it affects those around him. Also, after a succesful callback audition, I just got news that I’ve been cast in the ensemble cast of a new short film called ‘Twentysomething’. A film about, you guessed it, what it’s like nowadays to be twentysomething years old and still not really knowing what your calling in life is. Thankfully, I don’t have any such problems..
Recently, I had a very fun photoshoot session with brilliant photographer Mark Veltman who shot some pictures and even a few cool portraits. Here’s a preview!
As the director described it himself: Yung: Amerikan is a short film ‘about skateboarders and rappers and beatmakers and fans of rappers. It’s about the hottest trendsetters in global youth culture and their capability to express themselves in a society that’s broken free of moderation’. Shot and produced under the well known Dogme 95 film movement, I played the part of a young skater and in the process learned a thing or two about the crazy customs of today’s American youth..
Click here to see the film!
Although I can’t speak much to it yet: I got cast to do voice-over work for several characters for a new game of GOLIATH GAMES. The recording session went well and I’m looking forward for the game to come out! In other news I have acted in a short film for talented young director Rory Pfotenhauer called ‘Yung: Amerikan’, a film that shines light on contemporary youth in a unique and refreshing way. I have also started to freelance for a NYC modeling agency. Things are good – I’ll keep you posted!
A new year, a new website!
I would like to welcome all visitors to my new, professional website. Aside from its obvious intent to be utilized for first impressions and business inquiries, this news page is designed to keep you updated on my endeavours as a young, auditioning actor. Over the coming months and who knows how much longer I will personally write these updates as to keep the chronicles of my love life in art as detailed and authentic as possible.
As I’ve come to realize by now that actors are usually marketed as products and not always as the artists behind them, I have to be careful with this – so don’t expect any gritty behind-the-scenes stories or meticulous blogging. After all, I am not planning on jeopardizing the believability of the characters I so aptly try to portray.
Don’t hesitate to check back often to follow me on this crazy journey, and hey, maybe even see me rise from a nobody to a somebody!