InSPE interprets story of ‘most scary, but most loving family’

| Rense Kuipers

International Student Productions Enschede, InSPE for short, will perform the musical The Addams Family in the Almelo Theater Hotel on June 1st and 3rd. Four people involved talk about the project and the perils behind the scenes of the ‘overgrown amateur group’.

Photo by: Hung Nguyen
During a recent rehearsal.

With a few weeks to go until the three big shows in Almelo, the last stretch remains. But how much of a strain that is, depends on who you ask within InSPE. Director Robert Middelburg says he is ‘reasonably relaxed’. ‘A former teacher of mine once said: a good director should be able to sit back in the last month. I try to stick to that as best I can. But of course we went through it a few times including a dress rehearsal. If it goes wrong then, it will go right during the actual show.’

Colossal production

‘For me, most of the stress is in learning the dance steps’, adds actor Jan Boerman. ‘In some cases, we started doing that a few weeks ago, those I have yet to master. But I am sure that will be fine.’ Board member and actress Debbie Waninge is also comfortable. ‘Financially, it is looking good and ticket sales are going well. Of course, we hope to have sold-out shows. Students often decide at the last minute whether to go, so a final sprint would be nice.’ Fellow director and ‘chief of the orchestra’ Ray Wegewijs looks somewhat dishevelled, with hands covered in black paint – he just finished painting set pieces. ‘It will be tight to get it all done. Fortunately, I did just reel in the last missing orchestra member.’

It may seem as whimsical and student-like, but looks can be deceiving. One and a half year ago, the students already started choosing a piece to perform and setting up the production. Then, the search for the cast and crew started; more than seventy in total, with the almost twenty cultural associations that the UT has as the cradle. The productions of InSPE are colossal in scope and variety, ranging from a vocal coach to volunteers – often housemates – and from a costume committee to a 25-piece orchestra.


Moreover, the strength of InSPE lies in its diversity, those involved say. Because of InSPE’s roots, most of them come from the UT culture associations. ‘In addition, we have students from ArtEZ, Saxion and friends from other universities’, Waninge tells. ‘We come from all kinds of different backgrounds and everyone helps each other, that is the great thing. Someone recently gave a crash course in music theory. And if our choreographer cannot be there, someone else takes over that task.’ ‘Everyone is welcome to participate’, Wegewijs adds. ‘You really do not have to be a good musician, dancer or actor. I am the living example that there is plenty of room for personal development.’

There is another example that shows that accessibility is so highly valued. During one of the three performances there are two sign interpreters and a sign dancer, who perform live during the dialogues and music. It also says something about the professional approach of the students. ‘The bar is set high’, Boerman says. ‘Despite the fact that we are amateurs, we approach such a production with attention and discipline.’ ‘We recently visited the Theaterhotel in Almelo’, Wegewijs adds. ‘There, we were told: you are not a professional group, but you ask questions we do not even get from the professionals. I think that is apt for InSPE, that duality. We are an overgrown amateur group.’

‘Scary, but loving family’

This overgrown amateur group this time ventures into its own rendition of the musical The Addams Family, after previous performances of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. ‘A creation by Charles Addams, as a counter-reaction to the so-called nuclear family, the more conventional family’, director Middelburg explains. ‘The Addams Family is the complete opposite. It is the most scary, but also the most loving and warm-hearted family you can imagine. The moment daughter Wednesday falls madly in love with Lucas, a boy from such a nuclear family, the relationships within both families are put on edge.’

The resounding success of the Netflix series Wednesday was not the reason to stage this musical, they say. ‘We had already made the choice before the series came out’, says Wegewijs. ‘But the fact that the series became so popular is a very nice side effect.’

Raise the bar

What InSPE hopes to unleash in the pubic? ‘At least that they walk away with some sort of feeling after the show. Whether it is an existential question or a smile, I don’t care. As long as it unleashes something’, Middelburg says. ‘Perhaps people will start thinking more consciously about their own prejudices’, Boerman adds. ‘You can think the Addams family is strange, but you can also look at it differently. This is their definition of normal.’

‘Regardless of the content, I hope we raise the bar for people’, Waninge says. ‘We are students who jumped into this project and are simply performing it. My mother sometimes says that being in a choir sounds like a lot of fun. But then she does not take the leap. I hope we can show you that a lot is possible if you just do it.’

InSPE’s The Addams Family Musical will premiere on June 1st and 3rd in Theaterhotel Almelo. Tickets are available here.

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