- An Interview with Thea Doelwijt
This interview took place in Amsterdam on April 11, 1988.
When you say that you write about matters of Suriname as opposed to writing immigrant theater, would you be more specific and tell us what you mean by immigrant theater as opposed to writing about Suriname?
The first things immigrants in Holland write about is their new situation, dealing with how to survive in this country and the things they meet, trying to live here, wanting to live here. They have to live here, they want to live here, they have chosen to live here and then they meet another society and they try to survive in it, try to feel their way in it. They meet a lot of problems and they try to write, to make plays about their new situation. I try to show Holland what it is for Surinamese people, who have left their country. I did two plays in Holland and one was for children, a special children’s play; that was the last play I could do in Suriname. And I tried to do it again in Holland, because I thought it very important for the children of immigrants, especially the Surinamese children, to look at a story of another country without too many problems. And I liked the fairy tale thing, also very much inspired by Suriname. Then I had to do it with young people—I wanted to do it with young people—about eighteen, twenty, twenty-five, but we’ve been living here for a long time—some were born here, some came when they were very small—and when I tried to do the Surinamese play, they couldn’t understand everything I wanted them to do. They did not have the feeling, the smell, the right movements; they didn’t know how to walk in the bush, they couldn’t imagine how, they didn’t know how to walk; it was very difficult for them to do that in the improvisations we did. So I had to rewrite the story. I had to start in Holland; otherwise I couldn’t even make it possible for the actors, who had lived too long in Holland. That was the children’s play, Roy Mi Boy.
The other was a play called A Fat Black Woman Like Me and was based on one act plays by a Suriname doctor, a woman doctor, Sophie Redmond. She is quite well known and famous in Suriname as a doctor in the 1940s and 1950s, who also wrote plays, giving information and inspiration—some kind of folk theater—and teaching her people things about the circumstances in Suriname. One of the plays was about how to vote. This was the first time when elections started in Suriname. So the Surinamese people liked that I put in one program the plays of the Surinamese doctor, Sophie Redmond, and I also made a link to the situation today. We did the play in Dutch, and we did it in English too, one time, and sometimes we used the Surinamese language, and then always followed by a translation in Dutch. And that was why the Dutch people also liked the program. It was very gay, a lot of laughing and hilarity, and all kinds of very typical Surinamese ways of how women are dealing with their men. I try to bring the plays and stories of Suriname to the people of Suriname here and also to the Dutch people, to let them all feel that there are also very good and happy people, people just like you and me and not only those in a difficult situation, an immigrant’s situation, with a lot of problems. And [End Page 611] I don’t say that all immigrants who are writing here always talk about problems, but that is one of the things that, of course, you tell about if you are an immigrant.
My last play was Iris, a monologue by a Surinamese actress, Orsyla Meinzak, who died just last year, for whom I wrote a monologue about getting old in Holland, about leaving Suriname because of the political situation...