Oostblok: theatre center in Oost. Now with open air screenings.Published 16 Jun 2016 at 12:18 by Liedewij Loorbach
There are few cultural locations as endearing as Oostblok. With small funds and a great number of volunteers and creativity, they are working hard to creating a bustling and buzzing theatre center. The storm that rampaged through the cultural landscape a few years back had an equal effect on small theatres. When to dust settled in 2014, two organisations in Amsterdam Oost joined – Muiderpoort Theater and Pleintheater – to form Oostblok. In the Sajetplein building, a new team took it upon themselves to put this spot on the map. Managing director Anne Houwing (29) instigated a new direction, together with artistic leader Marijke Schermer: the selection should be more professional. The amount of performances should grow and so should the audiences.
Whoever enters the theatre (tall people, mind your head), first need to descend on some steps, as the theatre is partially underground. To the right, you’ll find toilets and a small spot for the ticket office, where Houwing sits at times when necessary. To the left is the cafe, where volunteers stand behind the bar and Halbe beer is served on tap. If you go straight on through the narrow corridor, with walls which have survived quite a few confrontations with decorations, you’ll find the theatre space to your right. A smile square, with a tribune that seats eighty. During kids performances, 20 extra children can sit on the floor.
When Oostblok just started, there were approximately 60 performances per year, programmed by Oostblok themselves. Now there are about 100. And the amount of shows that sell out in the Sajetplein is also forever growing. Thanks to the neighbourhood in transition and larger numbers of culturally intrigued residents, but also tenacious marketing campaigns. There isn’t a single school in Oost that doesn’t bare folders of their youth performances.
Serving at the food bank
“We’d love to have programmes on each weekend in Oostblok,” Anne tells me, who is a full-time employee. “So that you know that there’s always something to do.” Oostblok sees it as its job to get Easteners to their theatere. An inventive way to get new publics: giving away tickets at the Food Bank. “Everyone should be able to attend theatre, we think,” says marketeer Matthia Jansen (28). “I have my own stand then, after the fruit.”
Oostblok also seeks for audiences outside of their own building. “Bringing people in contact with culture and theatre, that’s what it’s about. That’s why we want to keep doing more location performances,” says Anne. “At least three times a year. That performance should preferably be on in Oost for a few weeks, so that new audiences get the opportunity to attend.” Locations for the next performances: Flevopark during TF jong (part of the Nederlands Theater Festival) with the youth performance Kiemkracht, and next year in Betondorp, where an adaptation of Werther Nieland by Gerard Reve will be performed. But first, it’s time for film screenings in the open air, on the square of Oostblok. Accessible to the entire neighbourhood (the Halbe beers that support culture are available inside at the bar). On Friday 24 June, We Are Public members can get hold of a pair of headphones to watch and listen to Glengarry Glen Ross and an introduction by We Are Public film curator Basje Boer, as well as Carnage on Friday 1 July.