Franz Marijnen


August 13, 2022

Franz Marijnen (4 April 1943 – 3 August 2022) was a Belgian stage director. At the beginning of his career he made the work of the Polish theater reformer Jerzy Grotowski known in the Netherlands and Belgium. He then emigrated to the United States, where he founded the experimental company Camera Obscura. From the second half of the 1970s he was again working in Europe. The pinnacle of his career was situated in the last decades of the twentieth century, when he was artistic director of several large city theaters in the Netherlands and Belgium, including the Ro Theater (Rotterdam) and the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (Brussels).


Marijnen studied directing at the RITCS (Higher National Institute for Theater and Culture Dissemination) in Brussels. During his studies he already started directing for the Mechels Miniatuur Teater. In 1966 he made Edward Albee's The Story of the Zoo there, which received positive reviews. In 1966 Marijnen met the Polish theater innovator Jerzy Grotowski during a workshop in Brussels. In 1967 Marijnen went to Poland to do an internship at Grotowski's Theaterlaboratorium. He was inspired by his vision of theatre, in which the actor and his physical presence on stage were central. Marijnen published an extensive report on the workshop in the theater magazine Windroos, which was later repeated in Grotowski's book Naar een poor theater (1968). When Marijnen returned to Belgium in 1969, he tried to apply Grotowski's methodology through workshops at various Flemish and Dutch companies. Classically trained actors, however, were not open to it. An experiment with players from the Dutch Comedie in Amsterdam led to a fiasco. In 1971 Franz Marijnen moved to the United States in search of a different environment in which to successfully process his experiences with the Theater Laboratory. His stay in the US led to several teaching assignments and in 1973 he founded his own theater company, Camera Obscura. Back in Europe he became the first director (from 1977 to 1983) of the Rotterdam Ro Theater. At the Ro Theater and later as a freelance director with, among others, the NNT and NTGent, he made large-scale productions such as Wasteland (Rotterdam, 1980) and Bataille Bataille (Groningen, 1992). Grotowski's methodology continued to serve as a starting point. This made Franz Marijnen one of the few who succeeded in making large-scale productions with a clear experimental character. In 1993 Marijnen became intendant of the Royal Flemish Theater in Brussels. He made productions of classical repertoire pieces such as Koning Lear (1987) and Oedipus/In Kolonos (1994). He also attracted audiences from French-speaking Brussels. He made every effort to give Arab culture a place in the KVS. After seven years as director, he resigned in 2000, partly due to the company's financial problems. He then joined the National Theater in The Hague. Marijnen got a new start there, with productions such as Glenn Gould (2008) and Pier Paolo Pasolini - P.P.P. (2010). Since 2012, he has been directing again in Mechelen at 't Arsenaal, the former Mechels Miniature Teater. There he made Scarlatti in early 2014, a project with an international cast. Franz Marijnen died peacefully in the presence of his children in a family atmosphere in Bonheiden and was 79 years old.

Theater work (selection)

1966 The Story of the Zoo (Zoo-Story, Edward Albee). Mechels Miniature Theatre. 1968 Saved (Edward Bond). Mechels Miniature Theatre. 1970 Learn to Learn / Measure for Measure (William Shakespeare). The Dutch Comedy. 1973 Oracles (Andy Wolk, after Oedipus of Sophocles). Camera obscura. Yerma (Federico Garcia Lorca). Dutch Theater Ghent 1975 Grimm! (Group project, based on the life and work of the Brothers Grimm). Schauspielhaus Hamburg. 1980 Wasteland (Si