‘He came and whispered in my ear: ‘What a hot animal. He certainly fucks well?”: who is Marc Verstappen, the director of De Studio?

‘He came and whispered in my ear: ‘What a hot animal. He certainly fucks well?”: who is Marc Verstappen, the director of De Studio?
‘He came and whispered in my ear: ‘What a hot animal. He certainly fucks well?”: who is Marc Verstappen, the director of De Studio?
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Life is but a dream, that’s the name of the text that sends a shockwave through De Studio. Thirty pages long, penned by author and theater maker Julie Cafmeyer. She tells the fictional story of De Rotonde and its director, who creates a toxic climate there with his transgressive behavior. Her column in Saturday’s De Morgen is also about this. Even the less good listener quickly makes the link to De Studio, where Cafmeyer worked as a resident artist for years, and to Marc Verstappen, the general manager who heads it.

Verstappen had been a well-known face in the Antwerp cultural scene for years when in 2012 he founded a new arts center in the buildings of the former Studio Herman Teirlinck, called De Studio. He was the driving force behind Villanella, an arts project for young people, and made a name for himself with the legendary parties he organized as part of the De Nachten arts festival in De Singel. “Events that everyone who wanted to keep their finger on the cultural pulse had to attend,” it says.

A reputation that he seamlessly transplanted to De Studio. The dilapidated building received a thorough facelift. Cinema halls and theater rooms were installed where the young talent that Verstappen recruited could do his thing. And of course all kinds of nightlife events could not be missed. Under Verstappen’s impetus, the Studio became a vibrant place where there was always something happening.

Marc Verstappen, the general manager of De Studio, is currently inactive.Image ID/ Patrick De Roo

Tantric massages

With her story, Cafmeyer shows the other side of the coin. For example, she talks about the tantric massage that Verstappen wanted to give her when she was struggling with neck pain. But that session – at the general manager’s home – took an unexpected turn when Verstappen and his wife suddenly started kissing each other rather ostentatiously during the massage. Cafmeyer also talks about inappropriate sexual comments, intimidation and abuse of power in her text.

All things that sound very familiar to theater maker Sien Vanmaele. As a teenager, she was already involved in Kunstbende, a talent competition organized by Verstappen’s Villanella, and as a recent graduate she was given the opportunity to become one of De Studio’s resident artists. “But the associated business conversations went completely wrong,” she says.

That started during a party in De Studio a few days before the first conversation. “I was there with my male production manager when Marc whispered in my ear: ‘What a hot animal. He fucks really well, right?’ Before the contract meeting itself, Verstappen stretched out on the couch to admire his red-painted nails from there. “When I inquired about what budgets he would provide, he put his tongue between his fingers and made a licking motion before adding: ‘This is all you can get from me.’ I was completely exhausted and – despite the fact that I was well prepared – I was unable to get any accurate answers.”

These are the kinds of comments that Verstappen regularly made, according to a survey among employees and artists. “Marc has a preference for tantric and anal sex and likes to indulge in it,” says Lot Saldien, who worked at De Studio for ten years. “Then he hovered over me, massaged my shoulders and told me about the tantric massage training he had just completed.”

Shrug

Verstappen’s behavior was met with shrugs for years. “That’s just how Marc is, they said,” say the employees and artists we contacted. A certain opportunism also played a role. “When Verstappen believes in a young talent, he does everything he can to put the artist in question on the map,” he said. “He launched a whole generation of artists.”

The Studio Director also appears to have a knack for finding the shortest route to all kinds of subsidy flows. He helps artists with their subsidy files and also knows how to approach the right people at the Antwerp city and provincial government to obtain resources for his Studio.

But now the genie is out of the bottle. What started as a fictional story becomes increasingly concrete through the stories of the women involved. In the meantime, the board of directors decided on Monday evening to temporarily suspend Verstappen. Although, according to the directors, this should not be seen as a sanction. “It is simply the only way to conduct the internal investigation that we want to conduct in complete serenity.”

The directors we contacted all emphasize that they were not aware of the stories that are now emerging. The general manager himself would rather not comment on Cafmeyer’s story for the time being. “Together with the board of directors, I have decided to wait for the internal investigation. That should distinguish fiction from fact.” Verstappen also does not want to elaborate on the testimonies of the other women for the time being.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: whispered ear hot animal certainly fucks Marc Verstappen director Studio

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