building. The central house, another monumental building through which a splendid spiral staircase twists and turns, will once again serve as the entrance to such areas as the exhibition rooms.
The Theatre Institute began by displaying costumes and posters. In 1922, a private collection of theatre documents was placed in the hands of a single organisation. For years the Tooneelmuseum toured the city until it was given permanent accommodation on the Herengracht in 1958. Its collection is still growing. New scenery models from large companies are given a place in the archives and imaginative costumes are purchased. A few years ago, for instance, the costumes that were used in Groosland (1989) were acquired. In this National Ballet production, the dancers performed in vast, flesh-coloured outfits. Today the museum presents an overview of the heyday of Dutch popular theatre, from the establishment of the famous Amsterdam ‘Salon des Variétés’ in 1839 to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1940, in two of its large rooms. There is also plenty of space for temporary exhibitions.
In 1993, under the leadership of its current director, Dragan Klaic, the ‘Nederlandse Theater Instituut’, as it was then known, merged with other institutes dedicated to one of the performing arts. Since then, all the performing arts have been combined in the Netherlands Theatre Institute: drama, dance, mime, puppet and object theatre, young people's theatre, opera and theatrical entertainments such as musicals and circuses. From these six categories, one form of theatre is singled out each year. That subject is given special attention in all the Institute's various departments. When the attention turned to puppet and object theatre in 1996, workshops were organised at which foreign puppeteers and theatre professionals talked about their work. The Institute's publishing department, which issues about ten new publications annually, placed special emphasis that year on puppet and object theatre. Thus appeared a biographical portrait of Cilli Wang, the Austrian-Dutch artist who combined cabaret, dance and puppetry into a unique theatrical form. An exhibition of puppet and object theatre was also organised, but was forced to tour as a travelling exhibition because the Institute's museum rooms were still in the process of reconstruction.
Now that the renovation of the buildings on the Herengracht is completed, the focus has turned to the dance. The reason for this choice is that an international conference on dance is scheduled for November 1997.
The Netherlands Theatre Institute fills an important public function. Each year, 10,000 visitors make use of the library, which contains an extensive archive of clippings and a large collection of audio and video recordings, programme booklets and scenery photography. Information may also be requested by telephone about that theatre production fifty years ago of which someone still has such fond memories. For theatre buffs who would like to know more about a particular production that is currently running, the Netherlands Theatre Institute organises Theatre Encounters on a
The Netherlands Theatre Institute in Amsterdam (Photo by Roel Bogaerds).
regular basis. At these events, enthusiasts can come to the auditorium and listen to discussions between journalists and theatre professionals.
In addition, the Institute is eager to act as a forum for practitioners of the performing arts. In this capacity it convenes gatherings at which theatre professionals can share their experiences. The Amsterdam Summer University, for example, affords the Netherlands Theatre Institute a good opportunity to organise workshops for directors and choreographers.
The Institute also offers services in quite a different area. What are the fiscal snags that theatre companies ought to know about while touring abroad? It's a prosaic question, but theatre professionals have to face it sooner or later. For this reason the Institute, working with a tax consultancy, issues a brochure that contains an answer to this question. Next year the Netherlands Theatre Institute will be organising a symposium on the juridical aspects of the stage arts.
In 1996, St Petersburg celebrated Peter the Great's visit to the Netherlands three hundred years earlier (see The Low Countries 1996-97: 275-276). A huge cultural event was organised for the occasion in which the Netherlands Theatre Institute took responsibility for the theatre programme. An anthology of theatre plays was issued as well as a publication about the Dutch theatre. In addition, a number of companies travelled to the Russian seaport to present several productions. The Institute regularly takes advantage of such international cultural events in order to promote Dutch theatre abroad. Among those performing at the Expo in Seville in 1992, for instance, were Toneelgroep Amsterdam with a multi-lingual version of their collage-production Ballet and the company Dogtroep (see The Low Countries 1994-95: 274-275) with one of their spectacular performances.