Eva Soenens

Eva is a theatre teacher and director, loves reading, is not afraid of swimming in ice-cold lakes and breathes "all things theatre".

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Are there certain themes that particularly fascinate you as a creator?

I am and always will be in love with human's clumsy attempts to communicate with each other. Another topic that keeps coming back in what I make is the way our memories work and sometimes deceives us (and the beauty of that deception). To find solace or to hold on to something, people try to fabricate a story of their own lives.

But language is also often a starting point for me. I have a great love for the rhythm of language: the stammering, stuttering, musical, pinging ... as an amplifier of the content of a text. I like to work with texts that are somewhat abstract or poetic, and therefore do not immediately have a clear story. It is fascinating to turn them into something theatrical or everyday and to take up the challenge to let the players come to emotion through that musicality.

What do you do in case of an 'artist block', when you lack inspiration?

A lot of reading and writing in books, taking notes, scribbling, ... If I experience an 'error' in my head, I can go through those notes and things will start up again. Everything I do is stolen. It's not like I have sudden hunches sitting behind my desk or anything. I get my impulses out of books, exhibits, music ... and those impulses set things in motion.

For example, my scene images are often a direct reflection of an image I've seen somewhere else. Or my characters are stolen from the way I saw someone walking down the street. Sometimes I eavesdrop on a phone conversation in public, or I study people's postures. There is beauty to be found in all ordinary things. Especially loneliness and people looking for connection - often involving those clumsy attempts - those things catch my eye. The train, for example, is the perfect place for a little voyeurism.

I also recommend taking a boring student job at an insurance office. Out of sheer boredom I wrote down every conversation I heard. One banal and hilarious dialogue after another emerged. It went from "Our Nico, I think he's gay" to "The one next door, he always throws water on our cat. But this time we got them back" to "A couch like that really does make a big difference in your life." Genius. I haven't done anything with it yet, but those pages of "insurance office characters" are all set for the next piece I might make.

Dare to make yourself uncomfortable.

If you had to choose, would you choose directing, teaching or performing?

Definitely not performing! (laughs) I think I would choose directing. Although one can hardly exist without the other two. When I teach, I always have to hold myself back a little, to keep the didactic process intact. As a director I can get completely absorbed by the process. Then again, teaching also provides a lot of input and offers a wonderful space for experiments. But I will always need directing. It is so nice to engage in a process where the performers know "I am here to create something together with others, not just for the benefit of my own process."

When is a course successful for you as a teacher?  

When I see people surprise themselves. When they are like "wow, I didn't know I would dare to do that". When they are able to leave all their prefixed ideas about theatre behind, and just let everything happen. Teaching is also sharing my love for theater. My classes are always a bit of an ode to theater, with which I hope to show my students the endless possibilities of what can happen on the stage.

Is there a WISPER course you would like to take yourself? 

Contemporary dance! My goal for this year was to dance more. Or polyphonic singing. Or writing. Ok, obviously I want to do everything.

Suppose you are given unlimited resources to organize the course of your dreams. What does it look like? 

I'm not a fan of unlimited resources. I prefer limitations to get my creativity flowing. But if I must: a live band with a sense of theatricality, who has a very good sense of the sounds that are needed in the right setting and at the right moment. And then working together towards a presentation through improvisation. Or making silent theater in the Norwegian mountains, among the fjords, with a text by Jon Fosse. But that's another story. (laughs)

Sometimes I sit in public and eavesdrop on a phone conversation or study people's postures. There is beauty to be found in all ordinary things.

You teach both beginners and advanced acting classes. Do you take a very different approach to these as a teacher?

With the beginners I start from acting skills. Each lesson we try out a completely different way of acting, but acting skills and daring to put yourself out there are really the starting point. I try to keep this very low profile, beginners need accessibility and freedom.

In the advanced course, I start with different texts, which offer different playing possibilities. I usually use texts I have been wanting to work with for a while myself. With advanced students, the way I work is a little more open, so I can flow a bit more with the group I get in front of me.

What is the best creative advice you’ve ever heard?

Dare to make yourself uncomfortable.

And it's been said a hundred times, but "everything has already been done”. It's just up to you to put those existing fragments together and in that way it automatically becomes your own thing.

And in theatre: use those performers. Those living people on the floor, that's the greatest gift. They can have a good day or a bad day, slip up, react to each other, accidentally do something wonderful on the floor ... And there's your new material to work with.

Do you have a theatrical tip for us?

I hear 'One song' by Miet Warlop should be quite the experience. And less theatrical, but also wonderful: 'The remembered soldier' by Anjet Daanje. A novel about memories with a phenomenal plot. I would really love to talk about it, but no one I know has read it ... So I am open to a book club. Read it and call me, please!

Want to know more after reading this interview?

To the workshops with Eva To Eva's instagram
Eva Soenens
Written on Tue 9 April '24