© Anne Reitsma

Looking ahead with Geesje Prins, head of programming

“Amare will be a lively and animated theatre that opens early, closes late, and keeps surprising its audience” - Geesje Prins

What can we expect to see on Amare’s stages after it opens? At the end of 2020, Head of programming Geesje Prins and her colleagues are already working hard to prepare the programme from September 2021 on. Prins looks ahead with us and tells us more about the cornerstones of Amare’s programme, the many spots for public performances in Amare and the opening programme for the 2021-2022 season.

“I recently had a look inside Amare for the first time in quite a while, and it was amazing,” Prins begins. Friday 3 September 2021, the day of Amare’s opening, is doubly underlined in her diary. “It was great to be able to personally experience whether the halls and other spaces will suit the programmes we have in mind. I can’t wait till next year, when visitors also get to experience a new level of goosebumps.” 

The Corona crisis and Amare
We live in strange times, due to the Corona crisis. “Luckily, this season we have been able to receive some visitors in Zuiderstrandtheater and Nieuwe Kerk,” says Prins. “Albeit with smaller audiences and adjusted programmes. We are constantly adapting our programming and we are grateful to our visitors for their flexibility and patience in view of the inevitable programme changes in these times. At the same time, artists, groups and venues are increasingly under financial pressure. ‘It’s a hard knock life,’ as Little Orphan Annie would put it. Meanwhile, we are working extremely hard to prepare Amare’s opening season.” 

Will that still be in a 1.5-meter setting? “That’s a scenario we are taking into account,” Prins responds. “It’s a question of switching between different scenarios. The vaccine can’t get here soon enough! Meanwhile, we will continue to put on performances and concerts to offer beauty and comfort in these trying times.”

The roots of Zuiderstrandtheater
Since the laying of its foundation stone in June 2017, the Amare building has risen like a phoenix on Spui. But its true foundations lie deeper. “We’re taking Zuiderstrandtheater’s strong roots, which lie in music and dance, and bringing them with us to the city,” Prins continues. “We will continue to present dance, all styles of music, opera, musical theatre, circus, cabaret and spectacular shows. For adults, but also for the youngest audiences. We will launch programmes with local communities and celebrate cultural holidays and festivals exuberantly. And of course there will be more than enough room for our co-residents at Amare: the Residentie Orkest, Nederlands Dans Theater and the musical treasure hoard that comes with the Royal Conservatoire.” 

A home for the whole of The Hague 
The fact that the core of Amare’s programme consists of disciplines in which language does not form a barrier is highly opportune in this international city. Recently, Prins read Maud Vanhauwaert’s Het stad in mij, about her years as poet laureate of Antwerp, in which she wrote that she felt like someone who had “just washed up” on Antwerp’s shore. And that “if there is one thing that connects people in a city as massively diverse as Antwerp, it is exactly that collective feeling of having washed up there. Being at home in that rootlessness, together.” This motivates Prins – herself a resident of The Hague for three years – even more strongly to turn Amare into a home for all residents of The Hague, like a kind of shelter in this city on the sea. 

Den Haag, city of dance, in Amare
In the area of dance, Amare shines a big, bright spotlight on all major Dutch companies. “Internationally, we add to the top-level quality and beauty offered by Nederlands Dans Theater and the outstanding companies that Holland Dance Festival invites from all over the world,” Prins states. “We like to choose voices that supplement or contrast and create exciting crossovers. An example is the programme contributions by REDO, winner of the Golden Swan award for the best dance performance, reaching number one in the Community Top 100 this year, and an international breakdancer. He will be organising jam sessions with live music at the opening festival in November 2021, in collaboration with Haags Hiphophuis and Koninklijk Conservatorium.

“We are also working to bring Rite of the Spring, Yang Liping’s latest production, to Amare.” In China, her homeland, Liping is a superstar, a builder of bridges between East and West whose signature style blends martial arts and acrobatics with traditional Chinese and modern dance. Another name on Amare’s wish list is Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a trailblazer in the world of modern dance: it’s been too many years since she last visited The Hague, city of dance. “Her shows bring music and dance together in very clever ways.” 

Titillating classical music
In respect of classical music, Amare’s programme will continue to supplement the Residentie Orkest’s concerts. “We will for instance be presenting international Baroque orchestras, and choosing orchestras who address social themes in distinctive ways,” Prins explains. “One of the events on the schedule is Aurealis Borealis, a concert about the stunningly beautiful natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights. The effect of the Northern Lights – an item on many people’s bucket list – will literally be made visible in the entire hall. Like at the Omniversum, you’ll be right in the middle of it, while listening to music performed by Norway’s Arctic Philharmonic.

We’re also very much looking forward to the Belgian B’Rock Orchestra’s Passio. It’s a staged production in which the audience sits at long tables, evoking the Last Supper, to be treated to Scarlatti’s impressive St John Passion interwoven with personal stories from refugees. It really gives the Passion a new dimension.”

New opportunities and more intense collaboration
Amare also offers amazing new opportunities. Together with the Royal Conservatoire, Residentie Orkest and Nederlands Dans Theater, the organisation will be moving into Amare. “We can become even stronger in the areas of education, talent development and community arts, and as a centre of culture, we want to actively support artists from the city with creation, presentation and debate,” Prins emphasises. “For example, at Amare’s opening festival in November 2021, the world-famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say will be one of the main artists. He will be performing solo with the Residentie Orkest, holding masterclasses for students at the Royal Conservatoire, and meeting with young children from various music academies in The Hague.”

New pop concert hall for the city
With Amare, The Hague is also getting a new pop concert hall with a capacity of no less than 2500 visitors. “This will allow an entirely new range of Dutch and international bands and performers to visit our city,” says Prins. “That’s something we will be doing together with PAARD concert venue. It’s wonderful to find so much readiness to collaborate in The Hague, and to have the opportunity to learn from PAARD.”

Prins can vividly remember Majel Blonden, PAARD’s director, saying: “Don’t forget about lockers! At pop concerts, people want lockers, not a cloakroom!” This resulted in the last-gasp inclusion of a large number of lockers, which were not provided for originally.

Grand musicals 
The grand theatre hall in Amare is a whole size bigger than the not-inconsiderable Zuiderstrandtheater, with almost 1300 seats. That, too, presents new opportunities. “As Amare, we’ll be even more attractive as a venue for the Theateralliantie’s tours.” The Theateralliantie, or Theatre Alliance, is a collaboration between the Netherlands’ largest theatres, in which they stage noteworthy musicals and musical theatre performances – War Horse, Fiddler on the Roof and Annie, to name but a few examples from recent seasons.

“Soon, the only places where you can see such top performances in the province of Zuid-Holland will be The Hague and Rotterdam. I’m not allowed to say anything about the titles for the 2021-2022 season, but they include a fantastic family musical and a grand music theatre production. I also hope that we’ll be able to bring director Ivo van Hove’s contemporary Broadway remake of West Side Story to The Hague. That would be Amare at the top of its game!”

Breakdance battles and installations in public space
Where many theatres only open shortly before the start of a performance, Amare’s cherry on top is its many public spaces that are open from morning to night. “We want to achieve the department store effect of the past, when people would gather round the windows around Christmas time to marvel at the displays – only indoors rather than outside,” Prins says. “There will be installations for young and old to play with, like a musical playground, for example. We will frequently organise lunch concerts, open rehearsals, dancing lessons, breakdance battles and more, in many cases organised and curated by local partners and communities. The experience we are now gaining with non-standard audience settings, on account of the Corona crisis, will prove useful in this respect.”

Amare also intends to experiment with designating one of the lobbies as a free space: as a large, public rehearsal area based on the inspiring example of Centquatre in Paris, where everyone is welcome to perform their own arts without having to reserve time or space in advance.

Amare’s opening is the dot on the horizon
Corona has put everything into a different perspective, however. “After all, what will the cultural sector be like in September 2021?” Prins wonders out loud. “Will it be a time for celebration at all? But we also see Amare as the positive, or should I say optimistic, dot on the horizon.”

September 2021 will mark Amare’s first open doors. “September, October and November will form the housewarming period,” Prins continues. The opening festival has been scheduled from 19 to 21 November 2021. “That’s when Amare will really put on a show in a big way, with a special focus on families on Sunday.” Naturally, there will be plenty more highlights to follow in the rest of the season.

Once the crisis has been tamed, rollercoaster Amare is going to pull off some daring stunts.

Join the ride!