I was too busy trying to prove I had something interesting to say
Freshly graduated from KASK Drama, Colette Goossens and Ferre Vuye juggle their new work life with their personal one, while also organising ToneelScholenFestival together, a festival that curates all masterworks from every Belgian theatre school. With KASK’s Open Day coming up, we walked Campus Bijloke’s long hallway while they opened up about their art education and their graduating experiences. This resulted in a conversation full of laughing and reminiscing, with plenty of space for passionate discussion, disagreement and doubtful thinking out loud.
A typical KASK Drama conversation, if you ask me.
Ferre and Colette. Other than colleagues and classmates, I happen to know you’re also best friends. Can you introduce each other to me?
Colette: This is Ferre Vuye. Born in 99. He is an actor and a theatre maker and a KASK Drama graduate. He has a very childlike imagination and he loves surprises.
Ferre: Next to me sits actress Colette Goossens. She is a person who always speaks very directly from her heart, which is something that resonates in her art as well. She will pull you in the soft thunderstorm of her emotions and thoughts, on scène and off scène.
What is keeping you busy nowadays, as a graduate?
F: I feel like I am in a nice moment in my life. I’m writing my thesis while performing the theatre piece Familie Grr. A good balance, both calm and active.
C: I’m rehearsing for Jonas Baeke’s and Jef Hellemans’ master performance Pinocchio. When I’m done doing that, I have to write stupid emails and documents and curate my personal life. [laughs]
Is graduating and entering the work field different from what you had expected?
C: I will be very brutally honest. For a long time, getting into KASK Drama was an affirmation that I had something worth seeing, and I have to admit that made me a bit arrogant. During those first years, I really thought I would find my place in the work field eventually, without too much hassle. But of course, this wasn’t the case. It’s not just playing and rehearsing, there are so many other things you have to keep in mind.
What is a stereotype of drama school you wish to debunk?
C: Artistic style is defined by a student’s vision, not by a school’s. KASK Drama gets put down a lot as the dancing philosophers. But our school, and every school for that matter, deliver such a wide range of graduates in different styles each year. Our education is not a factory that produces the same products.
F: Agree! If you look at the last bachelor- and masterworks, there is a repertoire piece, an installation, a dance performance, and a documentary, …
Artistic style is defined by a student’s vision, not by a school’s
What then makes KASK Drama, KASK Drama to you?
F: The community of people. It's the constant dialogue that goes on outside of the classroom that helped me grow. This education is often intense and personal, at those moments I felt relieved that there were people around who understood this feeling and whom I can share this experience with.
C: I expected, when I first started here, that we would talk about theatre a lot, learn slapstick, and dance. But we’ve often worked with text as well. I developed a love for playing repertoire and creating repertoire, through KASK. I think it has to do with me not expecting that, and because it was never pushed. There were so many options.
There were enough resources to do your own thing at KASK, and develop and grow your own interests.
C: I think it’s always a matter of choosing your battles. KASK Drama lets you get in touch with so many aspects of theatre-making. But then it’s your job to realise you can’t be everything you want to be and you don’t have to. I realised I don’t like talking about theatre as much as other people do. I like acting. I really thought I was EVERYTHING in the beginning: a dramaturg as well as a writer, a critic, and a director. Maybe that works for some people, but I enjoy my niche corner of acting way more. I’m an actor who sometimes takes on the role of director or writer, but still an actor essentially.
F: I think that a lot of students experience a sort of anger towards their education at some point. Because the input is so overwhelming, I started to think I had to be a certain way. A classic reaction is counterbalancing that: radically doing what you want to do. But from the moment you radically do your own thing, the education’s approach rotates along with you. They trigger you to look for your own path.
They trigger you to look for your own path
You both started your education at 18, fresh out of high school. A lot of other drama students have had different, longer paths leading up to starting here. If you could go back in time, would you still decide to start this training so young?
C: I would definitely think it through a bit more. I was so insecure when starting here, I didn’t know much about theatre. I didn’t even know much about the world, really. It was intimidating to have classmates who had a degree in philosophy or psychology or had years of working experience already. I felt like there was a big knowledge gap between us, which made me insecure. Those first two years, I was way too busy trying to prove I had something interesting to say. I felt really young and childish. Even now, I feel too young to be graduating already.
F: For me, it’s the opposite. Being young gives me peace of mind rather than stress. At a university, I fear I would have lost my spark. Right now I love the idea of having a great amount of time to discover and develop what I like. I don’t come from an artistic background or high school education, I’m proud of my 18-year-old self for making the decision to come here.
I’m proud of my 18-year-old self for making the decision to come here
Did your way of looking at art change throughout your education?
C: I stopped speaking about art in terms of good or bad because those terms are always in comparison to my work: what choices I would or wouldn’t make. I find biassed language a strange phenomenon, especially when it’s between students or teachers of our institution. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t driven to make qualitative work and find out what it means to make something ‘good’.
F: Theatre fascinates me because it’s such a banal ritual. An artist decides to stand in front of 100 people and perform something on which they intensively worked for half a year.
If somebody feels that urge, you have to be a curious spectator.
Theatre fascinates me because it’s such a banal ritual
You are both on the leading board of ToneelScholenFestival, a festival programming all master performances from all Belgian drama schools. Where did the need for an initiative like that come from?
F: It was created to counteract the competitiveness in the work field. It’s very utopic in the way we want to help each other as drama graduates instead of fighting for the few curated performance places.
Is that something you struggle with? The way our theatre world is being curated?
F: A famous anonymous saying goes: there is no one waiting for you, but that doesn't mean nobody wants to listen. There are too few resources for too many people. That notion puts a big emphasis on selecting and choosing: what is quality? What is worth seeing? What will attract an audience? In that selection process, we lose a lot of the variety in work that makes theatre so magical. You also lose a part of the audience, who might like the more niche or old-school work. Something for everyone, nothing for everybody. More work means more diverse target audiences.
I get lost in the long lists of art I want to go see
C: I don’t necessarily agree with the notion of more is more, personally. Because there is such a thing as too much choice. There is an oversupply of art and theatre. I can compare it to the internet: there is so much content to be found that it stresses you or that it numbs you. I get lost in the long list of art I want to go see. I still have to process yesterday’s performance when I’m on my way to another one.
F: - but that has to be celebrated! That there is so much to see! That so many people get to show things! No?
C: To me, the multiplicity is numbing. And I don’t know how to fix that feeling. All I know is that the solution is not in more institutionalisation or stricter curating. I mean, big houses are making 5 performances a year and filling all the CC’s (Cultural Centres) in Belgium. There is no place for beginning artists there, while CC is supposed to be accessible venues!
F: We have an immense amount of CC’s in our small country, I agree that yet, access to these places is not easy from our position.
I still have to process yesterday’s performance when I’m on my way to another one
Is there, lastly, any piece of advice you want to give future drama students?
F: It’s corny, but: surround yourself with people that make you feel safe. The rest will come.
C: Let’s stay corny: embrace your failure. You’ll learn so much more if you allow yourself to fail.
Subbacultcha and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits, featuring some of the interesting alumni and student profiles.