I walk up the stairs with my heart racing. I have to climb three long storeys to get to the practise room so i’m gasping. I am at the building of CREA*, an old diamond factory now transformed into a creative hub. There is a somewhat industrial-futuristic feel to it from the inside, which i am not used to. The new artistic courses are about to start and there are groups of people cheerfully chatting along the hallway. My heart won’t slow down and it has little to do with stair climbing. It feels like the first day of school today.
I’m still sweating while we begin with the first exercises. In groups of two, we introduce ourselves by asking personal questions. ‘Wait a minute, did you really graduate in theatre?’, he inquires with his eyes wide open. I don’t really feel like answering this question but i stay in good spirit. ‘Oh, i’m just an amateur’, he adds, as if that’s something he needs to excuse himself of. By the end of my first theater class in The Netherlands i finally appease myself. Damn it, I still can do it. I can still act (whatever that means). At this point my entire being smiles.
Four months later we’re playing on stage. It is show day. We start warming-up even before the teacher arrives. Someone takes the lead naturally and proposes a couple of exercises we normally wouldn’t do. Adrenaline is starting to run through our veins and everyone’s sharper than usual. We go through the more challenging scenes. I rehearse my text once more so that i don’t stumble upon sentences nor give the words the wrong emphasis. Emphasis is key in dutch and that adds me extra work, especially because 2,5 years speaking the language is not much to fully master its nuances.
At a certain point my heart starts racing again, i get blurry and i feel a sort of panic emerging. I instinctively go back to the memory of that first class. I focus on the feeling i had when doing the first acting exercise. When i act there are these split seconds in between every sentence said, these pauses in the midst of every minuscule reaction and that is when i am fully aware of the transformational act that is taking place. I revive that moment when my senses were fully awakened and there was this realization i was coming back to life. Right there, when nothing else in the world mattered more than that moment. At that first class i felt everything falling into place, lastly. This is my why and my purpose, i think to myself. Let’s enjoy it.
I experienced the “gewoon doen” mentality once more with this team. Our drama teacher chose a text normally considered too audacious for a non-professional group. None seemed to quail.”Dirty weekend” was a though piece. A woman becomes a serial-killer for being bullied most of her life. Language was harsh and there was psychological violence and fighting scenes throughout. We worked on rythm a lot, how to keep the energy up and the dynamic of the dialogues.
The presentation runs smoothly, despite the normal flaws of a first run. After the show we hug eachother, we immediately go through every unexpected or hilarious moment without even realizing we were screaming, in a thrill. We get drunk afterwards, from alcohol, happiness – or both, depending on each case. What are you doing after this? is a frequently asked question. Some of us will continue on another course at CREA, this time on film-acting or meisner technique. In any case we make plans for the future. Nobody wants to stop here.
*CREA is the cultural organization of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Amsterdam School of Higher Education (HvA). It organizes courses in the field of theatre, music, dance, visual arts, video, photography and literature, amongst other activities. Some of these are organised especially for non Dutch speakers. Might you be interested in their activities, click on http://www.crea.uva.nl/index_en.php.