The 2023 Cultural Fund Prize has been awarded to Female Economy. The theater collective, under the artistic direction of Adelheid Roosen and Ola Mafaalani, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
According to Cathelijne Broers, director of the Cultural Fund, until recently the Prince Bernard Cultural Fund Prize, Female Economy is “a close-knit, creative and unique theater collective that really gives meaning to the word connection, by bringing people from everywhere together in unexpected places and as a participant or to involve audiences in fantastic performances”.
The Cultural Fund Prize amounts to one hundred thousand euros, making it the largest prize for an organization or person that is important for culture and nature in the Netherlands. The money is intended for a project that matches the work of the winner. The Cultural Fund’s advisory committee calls Female Economy “a cultural and positive counterpoint to the current polarization.”
‘On the back of Adelheid Roosen’s scooter’
At Female Economy, Adelheid Roosen initiated, among other things, the groundbreaking and highly praised Neighborhood Safaris, where visitors were guided by actors in working-class neighborhoods and visited local residents who talked about their lives. There were neighborhood safaris in Amsterdam Slotermeer, the Bijlmer, Utrecht Ondiep and around an asylum center in Utrecht Overvecht. The concept was also implemented abroad and received with praise. “The Neighborhood Safari is love,” wrote NRC: “A magical feeling of community and connection is created: with residents, with guides and among the participants themselves.”
Roosen conveyed the same philosophy with the innovative and successful concept of the WijkJury, in which untrained theatergoers visit performances together for a season and choose a favorite. There are now approximately fifteen District Juries in the Netherlands.
The company was also responsible for the theater hit Veiled monologues, which was performed in eight countries in theaters, community centers, residential centers and in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2015. In No More Without You (2015), a liberated daughter (Nazmiye Oral) enters into a taboo-breaking conversation with her traditional Islamic mother. The company recently created the theater ritual Women in Bath (2022) and the movie Doulas of the City (2021).
Speaking about the doulas, Roosen formulated her vision on theater NRC: “I call it the feminine economy: work that is necessary for the functioning of a society, but that remains invisible because it is often unpaid. While it is important that those people are seen and heard.” And that is what Roosen does in her work: letting those people shine in full force. For her, the arts are an optimal place to tell their stories: “You don’t have to use a classic play as a metaphor. Everything that is going on now is drama enough.”
In 2012, Female Economy and Roosen already received an oeuvre prize in the theater, the Proscenium Prize, for their essential contribution to the theater climate. It was said of the company that it had acquired “an indispensable place” within the Dutch theater system.