The Rotterdams Wijktheater

The Rotterdams Wijktheater (Rotterdam Community-based Theatre) was founded in 1992. It is a theatre company that, supported by Rotterdam City Council, produces theatre for, by, and with people from the community. The main aim of this community arts organization is to develop original theatre that is accessible, appealing and relevant to non-theatre goers. In order to attract new and culturally excluded audiences RWT presents theatre performances that are based on the stories of their own community, dealing with issues that are relevant to those groups. To date, RWT has created well over 50 original shows, which tour to different neighbourhoods of Rotterdam. On average, the company performs sixty times per year, mostly in schools and community centers, and occasionally in regular theatre venues. Annually, it reaches anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 spectators from all age groups and cultural backgrounds, of which there are many in cosmopolitan Rotterdam. The Rotterdam Community Theatre is living proof that theatre by, for, and with people from the popular neighbourhoods can be alive, interesting, moving, entertaining, and of high artistic quality.

The Rotterdams Wijktheater is run by a small professional staff of theatre and film makers, technicians, producers, and outreach workers. Typically, new productions are based on interviews and improvisations, which are subsequently processed into scripts that is rehearsed over a six month period. The resulting play is performed by community members themselves. Sometimes, projects are commissioned by external organizations, like public health agencies. But more often than not, participants themselves come up with themes like fear, loneliness, addiction, violence in public space, intercultural relations in the community, or tension between parents and teenage children.

The Rotterdams Wijktheater has no permanent company of actors, although some make return appearances. Usually, companies are composed of non-professional actors from the neighbourhood where a particular project is based, written and rehearsed. Participating performers usually have no prior performance experience. In fact, few of them have ever seen live theatre.

Starting in 2001, RWT has also been responsible for organizing biennial and later triennial community arts festivals. This event is called International Community Arts Festival (ICAF), which over the years has grown in importance. It is here that ACTA and RWT became acquainted and laid the basis for COAST.