This term covers a great variety of cultural activities, from stage plays to opera, revues, musicals and cabaret, to dance and circus acts, whether performed in theater buildings (play houses and music halls) or in the open air. Dutch drama has a long tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. The so-called worldly abele spelen (c. 1350) are among the oldest plays in western Eu rope. Chambers of Rhetoric organized urban festivals during the next centuries. Amsterdam had its first public theater in 1617, which was replaced in 1638 by one designed by Jacob van Campen (it burned down in 1772). Authors of the 17th century such as Joost van den Vondel wrote dramas about topical themes in classical situations. In the period from about 1660 to 1760, French theories influenced Dutch playwrights, as could be noticed in the performances of the Amsterdam fraternity Nil Volentibus Arduum (founded in 1669).
   In the mid-1800s, people began to raise Dutch drama out of the melodrama atmosphere. Asuccessful company at the turn of the 20th century was the idealistic Nederlandsche Toneelvereeniging (Dutch Drama Society), which started in 1893 with Multatuli’s play Vorstenschool [The School for Princes, 1872]. Jewish playwright Herman Heijermans (1864–1924) wrote many plays for this com pany, such as the very popular Op hoop van zegen [1901; translated as The Good Hope, 1928]. Since the 1970s, Dutch drama has changed partly into more consciousness-raising theater. The Netherlands has many professional and amateur theater com panies nowadays. Most of them travel among theaters in all impor tant cities in the country. Three major professional drama companies are the Toneelgroep Amsterdam (founded in 1987 as a merger of the Publiekstheater and Toneelgroep Centrum), the Ro Theater (Rotter dam, 1976), and Het Nationale Toneel (The Hague, 1988, a contin uation of the Haagse Comedie from 1947). Tryater (Leeuwarden, 1965) is the professional Frisian theater company. Some Dutch theater locations are renowned, such as the royal the ater Carre in Amsterdam, which started as a circus theater in 1866. The present location (since 1887) along the River Amstel, became fa mous for its revue company Henri ter Hall in the period 1907–1928; musicals such as My Fair Lady, Cats, and Les Miserables; and shows of cabaret artists such as Toon Hermans (1916–2000) and Andre van Duin (1947– ). The Circus Theater next to the Scheveningen Kurhaus (near The Hague), which also started as a circus in 1904, has become another suitable location for musicals in 1991, through the good ser vices of media tycoon Joop van den Ende (1942– ). The Amsterdam Stopera (finished in 1986 as a combination of an opera hall and the city hall) is the home of the Nederlandse Opera and a few other com panies. This Dutch opera foundation started after World War II. A traveling company is the Nationale Reisopera (Enschede), a 1994 continuation of the opera company Forum founded in 1955. Toni Boltini (1920–2003) created one of Europe’s greatest traveling cir cuses after 1945. Two illustrious and much visited yearly theater events are the Am sterdam Uitmarkt (since 1978) and the partly open-air Oerol Festival on the isle of Terschelling (since 1982). The Theater Instituut Neder land in Amsterdam (started in 1925 as the society Het Toneelmuseum) is the support center and museum for the Dutch performing arts. Drama studies can be pursued at several universities, particu larly those of Amsterdam and Utrecht. Some seven polytechnics also offer theater education.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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