het TheaterFestival

Programme ‘24

Throughout the year, the jury prospects performances, theater, youth, circus and dance productions that will premiere that year. Discussions are held at monthly meetings to arrive at a selection of the most compelling work in May.

Audrey Leboutte

Audrey Leboutte is in charge of artistic coordination at Zinnema, a creation house dedicated to talents from Brussels and its periphery. She is also a founding member of MangooPickle, a collective where she started her career as an artistic programmer and producer, questioning the concepts and power dynamics between artistic spaces and public spaces.


I’m on the jury because….

I am on the jury because I like to share and exchange creations with others that I think challenge certain frames of reference. The disciplines close to my heart are dance, circus and participatory works. These are disciplines where words are often absent but where energy is central.


A compelling performance to me is …

For me, an interesting performance is a creation that makes us vulnerable and stronger at the same time. A piece that surprises us by its precision as well as by its ability to open different avenues for reflection. The pinnacle, in my opinion, is when a performance succeeds in creating a bond with the audience.

Liv Laveyne

Liv Laveyne was active as a performing arts reviewer for De Morgen and other media from 2000 to 2015. From 2011 to 2016, she programmed Jong Theater at TAZ (Theater aan Zee). She co-founded De Grote Post in Ostend in 2012 where she still coordinates the artistic operation and is responsible for the stage programming. She is also part of the editorial staff of Circusmagazine and is circus programmer at TAZ.


I’m on the jury because….

there is no arguing about taste and color, and yet there is nothing more fascinating. Every point of view is different, shaped by culture, time, upbringing, beliefs and experiences. Such a point of view is not a fixed idea but rather your binoculars and magnifying glass on your life and, by extension, the world. And sometimes it is the others who make you discover the details or show you how hold something in a different light. The fact that my passion for circus allows me to sit on the jury, is a fine honor for an art form where the development is in full swing and where, contrary to what should be, all freedom is used.


A compelling performance to me is …

What is impressive performing art, what does it do to my gut, my head, my heart? What makes me think differently, what makes me feel more deeply, what touches me unexpectedly and makes me happily defiant?

Dahlia Pessemiers-Benamar

Dahlia Pessemiers Benamar (°1975) attended cabaret school at the Studio Herman Teirlinck where she graduated in 1998. Since then, Dahlia has appeared as a freelance actress in various theater companies and worked in productions by Arne Sierens, Jellie Schippers, Mannah De Pauw, Luk Perceval and others.

In recent years, she was mainly seen as an actress in Action Zoo Humain productions De Waarheidscommissie (2016-17-18) Amnes(t)ie (2017-18) and Dihya (2019-20) and in the NTGent trilogy The sorrows of Belgium (2022) (Luk Perceval).

In addition to the stage, Dahlia performs both at home and abroad in TV series and films. She can be seen in Zéro Default, Je suis mort mais j’ai des amis, Deadline 14-10, Braided Love, Bullets, De Ridder, De twaalf and others.

As a creator, she is developing a very personal trajectory within musical theater. Dahlia founded Dunia asbl where she developed her first creations, always with a mixed cast and in which she fused different languages and musical genres. Together with several creators, she rewrote Dunia into the new company Silence Radio, working together on inclusive productions with deaf and hearing actors and writers.

I’m on the jury because….

the strength, the playfulness, and the exceptional quality of the Belgian theater landscape never ceases to amaze me. It feels like a necessity to continue to follow this extraordinary cultural field, to co-promote it, and to also expose diverse audiences to work that is often underplayed.


A compelling performance to me is …

an endearingly layered wordless performance for all ages that takes young and old into a world that is brimming with rebellious and authentic theatrical imagery.

Wouter Hillaert

For fifteen years, Wouter Hillaert was a freelance theater critic and cultural journalist for De Morgen and De Standaard. Between 2003 and 2020, he also co-edited cultural magazine rekto:verso. Today he teaches some courses at the Antwerp Conservatory and has been working on a book about theater since 2000. As a concerned citizen he is/was active in Hart boven Hard, State of the Arts, Common Income, Move Your Money, Door to Door, In My Name….


I’m on the jury because….

I watch theater on an almost daily basis and have started to miss it a bit since I left the newspaper. And because nothing can beat a hearty conversation among engaged viewers about what you’ve all seen differently. Reviewing is something you do solo; being on the jury together is the true polyphony on which theater is built. And especially with all sorts of things shifting unnoticed among the performing arts, a jury (selection) is the perfect magnifying glass on performances that (increasingly) too few people have seen. They can celebrate dance and theater again as the best form of yoga for these splintering times.


A compelling performance to me is …

a performance that does something you don’t expect, when you never thought or knew it was possible. In a field where the sale of work is becoming increasingly predictable, inventiveness is now a higher good. Also performances that have something to say about things that have been given nuanced thought or that are boldly blurted out. A skewed perspective on humanity, art or the world (or our own image of it) is never to be despised. The rest is hard work, a touch of unprecedented skill and sheer unpredictability. You can’t order surprise.

Wim Van Parijs

Wim Van Parijs has been working at the Westrand cultural center in Dilbeek for 29 years, mainly as a theater programmer. Before that he also worked in Westrand as a programmer of children’s and youth theater. Wim was once president of the Signaalprijs (Flemish youth theater prize) and member of the Hans Snoek jury.

I’m on the jury because….

I like to get my ideas clear in dialogue and debate. That makes a jury a challenging place for me to deepen my viewing experience. It also allows me to sharpen my choices as a theater programmer.


A compelling performance to me is …

What does that word even mean? What importance should be created? Does the theater have dormant interests? Fortunately there is the Van Dale which declares that it simply means “interesting,” but then again that doesn’t match my gut feeling. Surely it must also be important in some way, something that is compelling? So I note what is important to me: a performance of interest can be; a performance that is exceptionally well made, where all the elements or characters make sense, reinforce each other, give meaning, in short a performance that excels. A performance can also be interesting precisely because it thoroughly questions the medium, by deliberately making the same characters inaccurate and exploring new forms. Or a performance that is relevant in another way, for example, because it manages to convince a (different) audience, brings in a different cultural background,… In any case, the important thing is that it convinces me, takes me away, touches me emotionally, challenges me intellectually, in short that it changes me.

Emilie Kabongo

Kunstenfestivaldesarts public worker Emilie Kabongo has a love for all things art. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, she switched to the master’s degree in Cultural Studies, which already allowed her to work with deBuren and Beursschouwburg for the development of a series called WeObject. She has also done internships at the Mahmoud Darwich Chair, Bozar and is still active with the further development of her own projects such as WeObject a platform that deals with the theme of decolonization.


I’m on the jury because….

I believe that culture has the power to subject society to deep scrutiny and, in doing so, can also shake it up. Culture can question some norms and values, can make them negotiable and even has the potential to bring about change. I believe that if we want to be a critical and progressive society, culture has a prominent role to play in this. Therefore, being a juror for a cultural institution such as het TheaterFestival is a great opportunity. Hopefully in this way there is a chance for an always innovative cultural scene.


A compelling performance to me is …

one that is both accessible, critical and entertaining. Of course the intellectual part is important but I also believe that to have impact with a performance its accessibility is not to be overlooked.

Filip Tielens

Filip Tielens works as head of culture and media for De Standaard, where he coordinated coverage of the performing arts in recent years. He is founder of the multimedia production house De Zendelingen and closely follows (youth) theater, dance and circus.


I’m on the jury because….

because I follow the performing arts very closely and would like – out of an irrepressible missionary urge – to attract as many audiences as possible to the performances that are dear to me or that I consider important for the development of the theater. And also because I would like to make the jury selection even broader, younger and more diverse.


A compelling performance to me is …

for me is a performance where I leave the theater differently than I entered it. Because the performance made me think, because it made me feel something, or because it allowed stories or worldviews that at first glance may be far away from me to communicate with my own little life. But just as much because an artist is trying something new, because form and content are connected in an inseparable way, or because an artist can make the here and now of being together in the theater rhyme with the world outside and the time we share together. Or all at the same time.

Charlotte De Somviele

Charlotte coordinates performing arts coverage at De Standaard and is co-editor-in-chief of Etcetera, performing arts magazine.


I’m on the jury because….

reviewers often write in a vacuum. Talking about a performance is something else entirely. For me, going to theater always implies questioning yourself as a viewer: your poetics, your references, your social position and vision of the role of art in a society. It is precisely these different points of view that surface during the jury interviews. There is no obvious view of theater and that forces you to put your experience into words very precisely.


A compelling performance to me is …

a performance that disrupts. Theater for me is a source of meaning, a guide through life, a way to better understand humankind and the system. Craft is at most a condition, never a goal.