Student - April 29, 2010

Singing their hearts out for a batsman

Hearty singing resounds from the Cardinal Alfrink primary school in Wageningen this week, as Sempre Sereno rehearses its latest musical.

Director Panda Proosdij (in the purple scarf) gives instructions during a rehearsal of the musical Damn Yankees.
Baseball bats swing to and fro. ‘No, no, no, it was better the way you did it yesterday’, calls Panda van Proosdij, director of the musical Damn Yankees, the cast of which includes students and staff of Wageningen UR. The members of the Musical Society Sempre Sereno are rehearsing all out this week; the show opens mid-May. The atmosphere at the rehearsal is relaxed. ‘My fault’, laughs an actor who momentarily forgets his lines.
 
Why should we go and see it?
‘This musical is very dynamic. Damn Yankees is about a baseball club that keeps on losing. Fan Joe Boyd sells his soul for a better batsman. The story is full of intrigue, but honesty wins through in the end. It is a very dynamic musical. Hans Cassa, our musical director (who teaches at the Rotterdam Conservatorium) saw the show in London and was bowled over. And what’s more, our actors are fantastic.’
 
And yet I hear that you are often dissatisfied.
‘I am quite strict. Sometimes I’m afraid the cast will think, OK, it’s good enough now. No one is allowed to rest on their laurels. Luckily the actors themselves want to go for a perfect production too. They do everything I ask them. Nobody asks why. They have faith that my suggestions fit the play.’
 
How do they get so fanatical?
‘Maybe our strength is in the dynamism; there is a steady influx of fresh people. Every year we get six or seven students from Wageningen University. That keeps the team young, even though we are one of the oldest musical societies in the Netherlands. It could also be the university atmosphere – over half of our members studied in Wageningen. They are all intelligent doers. Fanaticism attracts more fanatics. For a group like this I don’t mind driving from Rotterdam to Wageningen.
 
So you come all the way from Rotterdam?
‘I teach at the Rotterdam Conservatorium. Here I get the chance to think up all the visual side of things. I do the scenery and the costume design, and they are then made by the committees. I’m not the only one who comes a long way. We have people who come from Lathum and Amsterdam. Some try other societies but they come back to Sempre Sereno. Like ex-Environmental Studies student Cleo Smits, who plays Lola. She is very good. I think she could go professional if she wanted to. Cleo has tried out several societies in Amsterdam, but she still came back to us.’
 
Are there international staff or students taking part too?
‘Actor Amélie  Huig comes from Germany. It’s the first time that an international student takes part. I let Amélie speak her lines with a little bit of German now and then. Amélie speaks very good Dutch. Anyway, there is a lot of body language in a musical, and that’s universal. International students are welcome. The main thing is your personal commitment.’
 
Damn Yankees, 19 to 22 May. Info and tickets from www.sempresereno.nl

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