One of the great and most dedicated creators of theater for children
in Denmark has left us. With his death, Jacques Matthiessen leaves
a great imprint – and a great loss.
Through his multifaceted artistic work and commitment, he has left
deep traces not only in Danish children’s theater, but in the work of
many TYA-artists around the world.
Jacques was almost born into theatre for children, as his father was
a renowned puppeteer and artist back in the early days of children’s
theatre at The Little Theatre in Copenhagen.
He began his artistic career as a 17-year-old in 1977 as a dancer
and physical performer and received his education in techniques,
dramaturgy and performing arts with Ann Crosset in Copenhagen,
Etienne Decroux and Yves Lebreton in Paris and later with Teatro
Potlatc and Farfa / Pio di Buodo and Iben Nagel Rasmussen / Odin
Theater in Italy.
Since 1986 he concentrated mainly on directing.
His artistic aesthetics, where a playful approach to language and
movement, combined with intuitive understanding of children’s way
of thinking, made him a coveted stage director.
Through the years he directed a multitude of performances at The
Little Theater and the Marionet Theater in Copenhagen, at the
Theater with Hans Rønne, in his own Passepartout Theater
Production – and a sea of other places.
His international collaborations became unique to our field:
In addition to his Danish background, Jacques had ancestry in both
France and Armenia – and perhaps this was contributing to his
global outlook and interest in intercultural cooperation.
Over many years – but especially within the last 15 years – he
expanded his work as director into almost all corners of the world.
He created projects with performing artists in such diverse places
as Nepal, Burkina Faso, Greenland, Turkey, Lebanon, Lithuania,
Uruguay and China (and many other places).
Jacques went out in the world, and often into the unknown, relying
on his artistic ability and believing in his encounter with people.
From a deep respect for the child and its need for artistic
experience, he inspired the people, he worked with, to create
theater for the little ones.
He was able to work in the intercultural field and create art with a
common human content – and he did so in a way that at the same
time integrated and respected the artistic expression in the culture
he worked in.
Jacques’ network was large, but it was more than a network: He
created close and lasting relationships with the people he worked
with – and he insisted on keeping the relationships alive.
Assisted by ASSITEJ Denmark, he invited many of them to
Denmark during the April Festivals.
During the two large-scale PROSPERO projects in 2015 and 2019,
which he realized together with Karin Ahnfeldt-Rønne under the
auspices of Passepartout’s Theater Productions, Jacques gathered
with great love and care artists from all parts of the world and
brought them to Scandinavia. It was all carried by his spirit:
Meeting as human beings and creating together, allowing
differences in culture to appear as an enrichment.
It created deep bonds and experiences for life.
Jacques was with impressive strength and calm active in
Passepartout Theater Production and ASSITEJ Denmark’s board
until the very last. We enjoyed his rich experience, his open and
unpretentious approach, his insistence on the values that really
matter to our art. He was there – with his composure, his reason
and his humor.
We will miss him greatly – as a colleague, as an inspirer and as a
friend – and we send all our thoughts and deepest sympathy to his
wife and partner Karin and his two sons.
Dirck Backer, on behalf of the board of ASSITEJ Denmark