Marc Verstappen, director of De Studio, suspended after #MeToo publication (Antwerp)

Marc Verstappen, director of De Studio, suspended after #MeToo publication (Antwerp)
Marc Verstappen, director of De Studio, suspended after #MeToo publication (Antwerp)
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The ball started rolling after a column by Julie Cafmeyer The morning of March 30, 2024. In it she states that she is with Life is but a dream has written a text with a revealing character. “If someone tells you that you are not allowed to write about something, you should actually write about it,” the column says. The text, which appears in its entirety on Cafmeyer’s website, and was also distributed as a free newspaper in bookstores, consists of thirty pages. The main characters are a woman, a theater director and his lackey, all employed in Theater De Rotonde.

The woman describes how, as a new employee, she visits her boss at his home at his invitation and indulges in a massage. Further on, she writes that MeToo will become one of her themes when she is appointed as a columnist at The morning. “It makes the theater director nervous,” it says Life is but a dream.

“It is a time when men like Bart De Pauw and Jan Fabre are publicly accused. I hear vague rumors that the theater director is also receiving complaints. I never had the intention to file a complaint about the massage in his living room. For me that was an adventure, something I had asked for myself, something I have not yet regretted. Will he be afraid of me from then on?”

Julie Cafmeyer is causing a stir with Life is but a dream, a new text that seems to contain MeToo references to her former employer. — © Alexander Meeus

The text also mentions a report to the reporting center for inappropriate behavior that is thwarted by the theater director. When the woman wants to process the situation in a theater piece, the support she initially receives from the theater house comes to nothing.

“I no longer need a room from him, no key, nothing,” Cafmeyer writes Life is but a dream. “I’m not going to beg, I’m not going to adapt my work to him. If I go public with this, will he be done for?” Julie Cafmeyer left De Studio in 2023, after joining the arts center as a resident artist in 2015.

“The story of Life is but a dream takes place around the fictional theater De Rotonde, but for those involved it is recognizable as the arts center De Studio”

Bruno Segers

Chairman of the board of directors of De Studio

Internal research

Two days after Life is but a dream was released during the Easter weekend, the board of directors of De Studio met in an emergency meeting. It was decided that Marc Verstappen, the general manager of De Studio, should temporarily step aside. “The account of Life is but a dream takes place in and around the fictional theater De Rotonde, but for those involved and their environment it is recognizable as the arts center De Studio in Antwerp, to which Julie Cafmeyer was associated for many years,” says Bruno Segers, chairman of the board of directors of The studio.

“This artistic work, in which alleged facts and fiction are told, is particularly critical for De Studio and some of its employees. The board of directors of De Studio takes Julie Cafmeyer’s signal very seriously, but does not wish to comment on the content of this story at this time. It was decided to start an internal investigation, which will also require external assistance. We strive to guarantee a context of trust and respect for all employees. The board of directors therefore asked the general manager of De Studio to temporarily step aside. All this to maintain serenity within the house and to allow him to participate unfettered in the internal investigation. Pending the next steps, the chairman of the board of directors will temporarily take over the day-to-day management, in close consultation with the directors and directors.”

Segers also states that “to date he has never received a complaint against Marc Verstappen. We are now going to decide what is fact in this story and what is fiction. In the meantime, we have also contacted Julie Cafmeyer. We would also like to hear her side of the story.”

“It felt very powerful for me to turn my experiences into an artistic work”

Julie Cafmeyer

Writer Life is but a dream

Julie Cafmeyer responds Life is but a dream fact and fiction are indeed mixed, but I do not wish to clarify this. “For a long time I had the feeling that things happened during my time at De Studio that I was not allowed to talk about, otherwise I didn’t want to get into trouble or be pushed aside. It took me a long time to realize that I can write about the things I didn’t dare to write about. The unraveling of fact and fiction? I leave that to the reader. If I have to explain that, there is no point anymore. I do not wish to comment further on the matter as such. Has Verstappen been temporarily relieved of his position? I don’t want to comment on that either.”

The real enemy

In January 2025 Life is but a dream will also be staged as a theater piece, adds Julie Cafmeyer. “I see many elements in this text to make it a piece. Tragedy, sadness, humor and eroticism: that complexity is interesting. Also the absurdity of how difficult it still is to talk about MeToo . Perhaps the real enemy is not the theater director, but the hysteria that still surrounds the theme.” In the same breath, Cafmeyer also announces a new novel in the fall, The collective breakdown of the Hofmeyer family. “I also play with facts and fiction. The fiction helps me to make things bigger and make my imagination work more.”

Marc Verstappen has taken note of the complications from his holiday address, but does not wish to delve deeper into the matter. “I support the decision of the board of directors to investigate the matter further. Cafmeyer’s text seems very strange to me. Life is but a dream is a story, fiction, and that’s how you get away with anything.”

Tags: Marc Verstappen director Studio suspended MeToo publication Antwerp

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