Along with Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans and Marie Vinck, Thomas Verstraeten (°1986) is a member of the FC Bergman theatre company, which has been affiliated with Toneelhuis since 2013. FC Bergman has created seven large-scale theatre productions to date: Wandelen op de Champs-Elysées met een schildpad om de wereld beter te kunnen bekijken, maar het is moeilijk thee drinken op een ijsschots als iedereen dronken is (2009), 300 el x 50 el x 30 el (2011), Terminator Trilogie (2012), Van den vos (2013), Het land Nod (2015), JR (2018) and The Sheep Song (2021), all of which have been presented in theatres, venues and festivals in Belgium and abroad.
Since September 2022, FC Bergman is part of the collective artistic leadership of Toneelhuis. In coproduction with Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and Teatro Piccolo in Milan, the company is making a new show that premieres in September 2024. Further ahead, coproductions with Ruhr Triennale and Opera Ballet Vlaanderen are in the pipeline. In recognition of 15 years of intense teamwork, FC Bergman is receiving the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale in June 2023.
Apart from his activities with FC Bergman, Thomas Verstraeten has a solo art practice that navigates the border between performing arts and visual art. His projects are ambitious, rooted in urban public space, and reveal his fascination for the wonderful, messy ways in which people organize their lives, singly or collectively. In this art, Verstraeten distils narratives from the hustle and bustle of the city, from its visible and hidden stories and lives. His videos, installations and performances dramatize the ordinary into the extraordinary. In his oeuvre, Thomas Verstraeten points up what we take for granted, and makes the temporary tangible.
Throughout the years, projects Pierre Menards paradox, Nocturama (in collaboration with Benjamin Verdonck), The parade of men, women and those who look from a long way off like flies, The fifth season, Familiestraat, Photobooth, 7X7 (in collaboration with Benjamin Verdonck), Zomeracademie in Balen (with Mark Luyten) have been presented and (co)produced by Extra City, Lokaal 01, CC Strombeek, Het Bos, Middelheim Museum, Toneelhuis, detheatermaker, DE SINGEL, Luzerner Theater (CH), Ghent International Festival, CAMPO, Het Team Vlaamse Bouwmeester…
In 2021, in coproduction with DE SINGEL and detheatermaker, Verstraeten made Familiestraat. For this project in the hall of a large factory, he built a full-scale replica of his own street out of wood and cardboard, and then asked 250 people from the neighbourhood to recreate 35 true-life events from the bizarre year of 2020 (the year of the first lockdown). Together with filmmaker Heleen Declercq, he turned this six-hour-long performance into a condensed video that gives an intimate portrayal of the various residents of the street. The Flemish Community acquired this video for its collection in 2023. In 2023, Thomas directed Die Schöpfung at Theater Basel.
Thomas Verstraeten’s visual work has been represented by the Fred & Ferry Gallery (Antwerp) since 2021. His first solo exhibition, Look out the window, what you’re seeing is called history, was shown there in May 2022.
Urban projects planned for the future are with Wiener Festwochen (2024), Piccolo Teatro (Milan, 2025), Opera Ballet Vlaanderen and CAMPO (Gent, 2026), as well as two other projects in Antwerp in collaboration with DE SINGEL and Toneelhuis as part of the European UNLOCK THE CITY! project, including Seefhoek Series in 2023.