Playing a part

I remember it all very well, even though it is many decades ago. I was 19 years old, a student. Me and my friend K. went to many cultural events together: we saw famous short movies during lunch time as well as performances by the LAK theater, that was housed in the stately building that stood on the most famous canal in town. There we saw The Man with the Flower in his Mouth, written by Pirandello, starring students Rob E. and Peter X. That was, I think, the first time that I heard about the Nobel Price Winner Pirandello, whose plays I would later read (all of them) and see on stage (several of them).

One day K. and I went to an audition that was held in the attic where the LAK theater resided. The floor was filled with young students,who were expectantly waiting for their turn. When I was called, I had to sit in front of all of them and read some sentences. Of course, I do not remember which text I had to read, perhaps I did not know it at that time either. What I do remember, however, is the magic that grabbed me as I started speaking and that cast a spell over the audience. A very strange experience.

I received the news that I was chosen to be part of the comedy De Verwarde Jalousy, written by W.G. Van Focquenbroch (1640-1670) who had been inspired by Moliere’s Sganarelle. As well as the character ( of the student) in Ionesco’s The Lesson, together with Rob E., who was at the time one of the the inspirators of the LAK theater.

I got the script of Focquenbroch’s play, read my part with awe and did not know exactly how to proceed. I had little experience with drama; ballet I was more familiar with. At the first rehearsal, I had a difficult time. Everybody seemed to know how to read their parts, but the intonation of the rhymed verse had to be explained to me line by line. Another thing that happened and that bothered me a lot was the attitude of a young woman, who was not in our play but had starred in other productions. She was nasty to me, f.e. she was always looking at me angrily. Because there were a lot of people around, I soon forgot about her.

The regular rehearsals were hard work, but at the same time I liked it very much. More and more, the part grew on me. My friend K. was involved in making the scenery: pretty 17th century style facades. They had openings in them through which the actors peeped her heads, when they were not performing. A very inventive idea.

The play was a huge success. We went to Wageningen to take part in the Stutofes contest, a nationwide event for amateur students, and won a prize. Later, in the summer, we also went to Zagreb (Yugoslavia) to perform at a festival.

I had heard some rumours that it was Rob who had chosen me, because he wanted to make a pass at me (or so it was said). This explained the nasty conduct of the girl, as she felt rejected by him. And indeed Rob and I did saw each for a while, but as I was a bit terrified of him (he was older than me) and also secretly in love with someone else, it soon ended. Not long after that he got engaged with the girl who had the leading part in Focqenbroch. A much better choice, I think. Hundreds of people came to their lavish engagement party that was held at outside of her father’s factory, which is famous for their household oils (and peanut butter). Later I found out that the engagement was called off.

One day Peter X. came to visit me in my father’s bookshop where I worked and after some small talk, he suddenly bluntly said: “You know, you can’t act at all”. I knew then that I wasn’t going to star in the Ionesco play.

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