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Five interviews with involved students

Adelheid Roosen

Artists in Residence (AIR) at the Academy of Theatre and Dance, Adelheid Roosen and Zina Platform are collaborating with students from no less than five of the courses offered by the school. This extraordinary collaboration with students from Production & Stage Management, Theatre Directing, the School for Drama & Contemporary Music Theatre, Theatre in Education and the Mime School forms part of the forthcoming edition of the WijkSafari (‘Urban safari’) project in North Amsterdam.

Wijksafari (Urban Safari)

In a WijkSafari, theatre practitioners move into a neighbourhood and embed themselves in the lives of local residents in order to collect personal stories that they use to create theatre. In the ten weeks that they live and work together, students go from being visitors to becoming family members. The encounters this generates form the basis for series of site-specific playlets that the audience sees while exploring the neighbourhood.

The Academy of Theatre and Dance is keen to offer more educational programmes that introduce students to new forms of theatre; that venture off the beaten track; and that highlight the value of place, city and community. Working with Adelheid and Zina on WijkSafari in North Amsterdam is going to be a wonderful opportunity to inform this practice. It will offer the ideal context for fifty students from different years and disciplines to work together and take shared responsibility for the academy’s connection with North Amsterdam’s local population. And we at the school believe it is crucial that the individual experiences of the students and teachers taking part in this WijkSafari feed into the courses and programmes at the Academy of Theatre and Dance, and help us establish a long-lasting relationship with that part of the city.

Adelheid Roosen’s first meeting with all the students involved in the project took place on 8 September 2016 at the DAS Graduate School in Amsterdam.

Adelheid describes the research as follows: ‘It all starts with ringing doorbells: literally getting on our bikes and going from door to door in the neighbourhood – which for the purpose of this project is our playing field. We’ll be taking tea in the mosque and coffee at the local barber. We’ll ask questions out of genuine interest, and without preconceived ideas: ‘How do you keep your hair so nice? Where were your parents born? Did you ever have your heart broken? How do you deal with setbacks?’ We will re-map the neighbourhood: Who actually lives here? Where do they come from? How do they spend their days? Which parts do they avoid out of fear? Who is the pride of the neighbourhood? The goal is to create meaningful encounters between students and residents and use the results to create theatre productions. We won’t remain outsiders as we do this; we’ll allow ourselves to experience and wrestle with the same shyness as the local residents.’

WijSafari performed from 5 June to 2 July 2017. Previous editions of the WijkSafari have taken place in Amsterdam’s Slotermeer district (2012), in the Utrecht neighbourhood that connects Overvecht, Zuilen and Ondiep (2013), in Mexico City’s Tepito district (2014 and 2015), and in Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighbourhood (2015).


Adelheid Roosen is a Dutch theatre practitioner, actor, drama teacher and writer. In her theatre and film productions she often engages with controversial subjects such as honour killings, domestic violence, sexuality in the Muslim world, her own mother’s experience of Alzheimer’s. Nothing is, or must be allowed to remain, taboo.  Inspired by her experiences researching, writing and directing a trilogy about Muslim immigrants (1997–2006), Roosen developed a method through which theatre practitioners are ‘adopted’ by the local residents of a neighbourhood for a period of two weeks to ensure the formation of deep and genuine relationships with the ‘other’ and allow the artists to collect material based on real life experiences. The method has since taken root in both the national and international theatre world.

Roosen was awarded the 2009 Amsterdam Prize for her boundary-breaking contributions to the arts in Amsterdam. She has also won a Golden Calf film award and has twice won the Proscenium Prize. The Humanist Association of the Netherlands awarded her the Van Praag Prize for being ‘a tireless advocate of a world that gives solidarity a new chance.’ She has been affiliated with the Amsterdam University of the Arts for almost three decades as a drama teacher.


Want to read more?

Five interviews with involved students