Performance Schedule:
April 5 - 22, 2001
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
First Floor Theatre

Les Enfants Terribles from Amsterdam, a much-acclaimed Dutch experimental theater company, April 5 to 22 in the American premiere of "Kwame, The Ultimate Love Story," written and performed by Erwin Kokkelkoren, directed by Bert Oele. The play is the most personal and the most political play Oele and Kokkelkoren have done together so far. It concerns the break up of a deep love affair and unravels the conflicting choices couples make in living with a life threatening disease.

Existentialist questions about the meaning of life underlie every play produced by Les Enfants Terribles. "Kwame..." tells the story of a man on holiday in West Africa. The holiday is, in fact, a last farewell to his lover, Kwame, who left him five years earlier to return to the village where he was born. Through the memories of the man in his hotel room, we discover how strong their love was--also how disturbing and different their choices were upon discovering they were both infected with the HIV virus.

Kwame's choice was a life without medication and an early death. ("Life is perfect and heaven is the best place to be.") The man in the hotel room chose to take the medication and to live on by himself, afraid of the future and insecure about the past, wondering if Kwame's love for him was as genuine as he had always thought. ("If you really love someone you die together, you don't run away.") When, five years later, the man visits Kwame's homeland for the first time, he confronts AIDS in the Third World and comes to understand his lover's decision. He learns that while you may have the same illness, the place you call home forces you to make totally different choices.

AIDS is the underlying theme in the play but it's never mentioned once. The focus of the play is the life of the two lovers and the choices they have to make. The result is a performance, austere in its design and deeply humorous in its creative spine, that has a great deal to say to everyone.

Les Enfants Terribles was founded in 1989 by Erwin Kokkelkoren as a vehicle through which to produce and perform his own plays. "Ich Ewiges Kind," a story on the life and work of Egon Schiele, was the company's first work in 1989. By 1992 Les Enfants Terribles was making waves through Dutch theatre and Erwin Kokkelkoren's partner, Bert Oele, joined the troupe as producer and manager. Now Kokkelkoren and Oele are the permanent members of the company and additional cast and crew are employed for each production. Dance, performance and imagery are mixed in most productions.

The troupe made its American debut at La MaMa in June, 1999 with "Tales of a Traveler," a monodrama inspired by Simone de Beauvoir's existentialist novel, "All Men Are Mortal." The play depicted a man's thoughts in the hour before his 500th birthday, when he has the option of dying or living another 500 years. The New York Times (D.J.R. Bruckner) reflected on how the protagonist, played by writer/performer Kokkelkoren, was--after twenty generations or so--"somewhat less than free to choose" his fate, citing this as an underlying theme in de Beauvoir's novel. With the "unspoken suggestion" that Mr. Kokkelkoren was speaking about AIDS, the message of the play was described as plain: "get to know exactly who you are because--this he does say--'death is the peak of being alone.'"

Erwin Kokkelkoren (author/performer) is an actor, writer and theatremaker who has worked extensively throughout Europe. He emerged in 1984 in "The Power of Theatrical Madness," directed by the Belgian theatremaker Jan Fabre. From 1985 to 1987, he appeared with the well-known Dutch contemporary dance theatre Penta in Rotterdam, starring in five different productions which toured Europe and directing two more. From 1987 until 1992 he worked as an actor in theater (mostly classics), TV dramas and films. He founded Les Enfants Terribles in 1989 as a vehicle for his own plays. Its other productions include "Sight Seeing" (1992) "Knast" (1994) "Chaos" (1995), "Hati-Hati" (1996), "Stil Spel" (1998) and "Zero Tolerance" (1999). He translated "Tales from a Traveler" into English in 1997 and performed it at the Edinburg Festival Fringe, where it was nominated for the Fringe First Award.

Bert Oele (director) made a long-term career in psychiatric health care before switching to a career in the theater. He wrote and directed a number of short movies: "Deep Dream" (1970", "Self-portrait I" (1970), "Tea Time" (1972), "Break" (1980) and "Self-portrait II" 1991. Since 1992 he has been producer and company manager for Les Enfants Terribles, where he has directed six productions.
Kokkelkoren and Oele are both fluent in English (which is common among Dutch people) and enhanced their mastery of the English-speaking stage by studying in New York acting conservatories.

Music is composed by Loes ten Velden. Costume design is by Wim van Vliet and Farida Bouhbouh. Zjuul Burgering appears in a cameo role. Set photos are by Marco van Hal.

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