Nijmegen’s multicultural amateur community WOW-EFFECT Theater, with members from over 10 different countries, ages ranging from 19 to 40 and different levels of experience, makes a unique addition to the city’s theatre scene.
Founded in 2014, WOW-EFFECT (WE in short), performed several original plays and adaptations in Nijmegen, Arnhem, Utrecht and Kleve (Germany). One of its well-received originals was ‘Home Again’. The play portrayed the real-life stories of interviewed refugees staying in camps in and around Nijmegen.
Their latest project was also based on real-life stories, this time taking place a long time ago. ‘The Lost Boy’, written by Ronald Gabriel Paolillo, brought the story of Peter Pan’s creation on stage. WOW-EFFECT’s founder Tulya Kavaklioglu says, “In the beginning, the idea was simple. Now in our 4th year, I am continuously amazed by the quality of the work our team accomplishes. It is a delight to hear the audience say, “Now I know why you call yourselves the wow-effect” after each performance!”
WE’s culture is centered on diversity and tolerance. People from 10+ countries mean different languages, cultures and the ways in which people communicate. Additionally, there is a wide range of labels WE members identify themselves with: student, mother, bisexual, Muslim, vegan, refugee. Hence, tolerance becomes a requirement to work as a team. In fact, people in WE not only become teammates during a theater project but also dear friends who like to hang out together. This cultural diversity was also the reason why over the years WE attracted several Gender and Diversity students from Rhine-Waal University, from just across the border.
It is not the easiest thing to be an expat, to be so far away from what you are familiar with and trying to establish connections from scratch. Luckily, WE offers expats a safe space to connect and create art together. WE’s member Piyush Sharma, who is from India, says: “I joined the group within a month of my arrival in Nijmegen so this is actually my foundation in Nijmegen. I always relate my times here to the theater group. I always feel that I am a part of it and it’s a part of me.” Chinese Haoyu Yang agrees: “The feeling of being integrated to the community was there from the start.”
There are several ‘Dutchies’ in WE too. Finding a group with such diversity provides unique experiences to Dutch locals in a country no other than their homeland. Anna Geuzebroek says, “I like the atmosphere because it feels like people are more open and more willing to put themselves out there.” Similarly, Jeroen Sol says: “I was immediately introduced to the group and I felt right at home. Everything was very open and informal and people were crazy and I loved it.”
Each year WE opens its doors to anyone and everyone who likes to meet the community through a free acting workshop. Usually held in September-October, these workshops include fun acting and team building exercises, preparing the candidates who wish to join WE’s upcoming project for their journey. If you would like to be one of these people, make sure to visit WOW-EFFECT’s website and register for their upcoming workshop.
Tulya Kavaklioglu is the founder of WOW-EFFECT Theater. She is originally from Turkey and moved to The Netherlands for work. She is currently studying marketing in Apeldoorn and mostly contributes to the backstage work of WOW-EFFECT.