Toneelspelersgezelschap STAN was founded by four actors who graduated together from the Antwerp Conservatoire in 1989. Jolente De Keersmaeker, Damiaan De Schrijver, Waas Gramser and Frank Vercruyssen did not wish to join any existing companies, in which they seemed to perceive only an excessive aestheticism, unworldly formal experiments and the hand of (all too) authoritative directors. They wanted to place the emphasis on themselves, as actors, on their own abilities and manifest failings. They wished to blow up the illusion and to focus on pure acting – if necessary in mutual contradiction –, on a highly personal and rigorous commitment to the character and the story he/she has to tell. After a few productions Waas Gramser (currently with Comp. Marius) left the group and Sara De Roo joined it. Thomas Walgrave became its regular scenographer.
Two keywords characterise Tg STAN: ‘actor-oriented’ and ‘undogmatic’. The undogmatic aspect is reflected in the name – S(top) T(hinking) A(bout) N(ames) – as well as in the repertoire. This is a hybrid collection of texts, invariably expressing social criticism, in which Cocteau and Anouilh stand side by side with Chekhov, Bernhard next to Ibsen, and comedies by Wilde or Shaw next to essays by Diderot. This diversity does not reflect the wish to offer something to suit all tastes, but rather a deliberate and purposeful attitude towards repertory building.
For STAN the actor is the keystone. Although the company works without a director and refuses to harmonise – or perhaps because of this headstrong attitude – the best STAN performances have a powerful unity. The actors’ pleasure in their work makes the sparks fly, while communicating forceful social or even political statements without ever moralising.
To maintain the group's vitality each of its four members frequently create performances with other artists or companies. Such collaborations take place on a regular basis with Dito'Dito (now part of KVS in Brussels), Maatschappij Discordia (NL), Dood Paard (NL), Compagnie de Koe (B) and Rosas (B).
Their confrontational working method also prompts them to acquaint the most diverse audiences (preferably foreign ones, too) with their work, sometimes in several languages. In addition to the original, Dutch, version a great number of their pieces are also performed in English and/or French. This offered a new sounding board to the group: when performing in another language the words acquire a different meaning.
Moreover they created several plays in a foreign language and in another country: Point Blank
(2005) and Nora
(2012) were made in Lisbon (P) and One 2 Life
(1996) in Oakland, California (USA) – all of them in English. Les Antigones
, created in Toulouse (F) in 2001, was STAN's first such venture in French. Then followed L'avantage du doute
, both in 2005 at Théâtre de la Bastille in Paris (FR). More recently Mademoiselle Else
(2012), après la répétition
and scènes de la vie conjugale
(2013) were created.
Over the past 15 years, eleven of STAN's performances were selected to be part of the Flemish-Dutch ‘Theaterfestival’. Both in 1999 (My dinner with André
) and 2003 (Vraagzucht
) the company was awarded First Prize in this competition. Since 2000 STAN has participated almost every year in the Paris ‘Festival d'Automne’ – in 2005 with no fewer than five different performances.