After a series of conflicts, theater maker Rick Engelkes leaves the much-discussed musical production about William of Orange. It is unclear what consequences this will have for the theater spectacle in Delft, which cost many millions but has still not gotten off the ground. Engelkes’ former business partner would prefer to continue.
Hanneke van Houwelingen, Theresia Schouten
Engelkes resigned from the management of the musical production last Wednesday. This is evident from documents from the Chamber of Commerce, which viewed this site. The theater company, which operates under the name Waterfront Entertainment, is now only registered in the name of his business partner and ex-brother-in-law Pierre Karsten, with whom Engelkes ended up in a legal battle last year.
The two argued, among other things, about the repayment of 3.7 million euros. The theater company had received more than 4 million euros from the government during corona times, but had to repay a large part of it after recalculation. That money has still not been refunded. The conflict became so heated that at one point the two business partners only communicated through their lawyers. At the beginning of October, Engelkes informed this site that he no longer wanted to work with his business partner, even if that meant his own departure. “I can no longer be in the same company with him. We have different morals,” he said. Six days ago, Engelkes actually left Waterfront Entertainment.
Engelkes is the inventor of William of Orange the Musical and has been thinking about this idea for about ten years. Initially, the performance was supposed to be shown for the first time in 2020 in a new theater to be built on the outskirts of Delft. The theater maker, who broke through in the 1990s as Doctor Simon in Good times Bad Times, saw this musical as his life’s work. The theater spectacle about the murdered prince had to be even grander and more spectacular than the musical Soldier of Orangecomplete with a rotating stage, lighting and animation techniques, lifelike battles and live horses on stage.
Despite the grand plans, the project never got off the ground. The premiere was postponed time and time again, partly due to the corona pandemic and major sponsors who withdrew.
Corona millions not yet repaid
In the summer of 2022, Engelkes and Karsten became controversial. Other colleagues from the theater world questioned the 4.3 million euros in corona support that the two had received. They received the money for the lost income from their ticket sales from the subsidy provider Fonds Podiumkunsten. But how could they get millions of euros for a performance that had never been performed? In fact, there wasn’t even a theater built in Delft yet. After recalculation by the Performing Arts Fund, Waterfront Entertainment had to repay 3.7 million euros of the 4.3 million euros.
The two then became embroiled in a dispute over reimbursement. Some of the money would have already been spent. Last month there seemed to be a breakthrough in the conflict. A reimbursement arrangement was made with the Performing Arts Fund. A press release from Waterfront Entertainment, which came out today, states that ‘a substantial amount has been refunded’. However, according to the Performing Arts Fund, there is not yet a cent in their account. The first 2.2 million euros must be repaid before December 1.
Now that Engelkes has resigned, Karsten is the sole shareholder of the theater company. He still hopes to get the theater production about William of Orange off the ground and aims for a premiere in September 2025. Last month he held discussions with a group of wealthy Delft residents. They would be willing to pump millions of euros into the theater company to revive the production. In an earlier conversation with this site, Karsten said that at least 20 million euros are needed to make such a restart. In a joint press release today, Engelkes and Karsten announced that they ‘have a substantial difference of opinion’. Engelkes will probably be involved as a ‘creative advisor’ at a later stage.
The website of the theater spectacle (www.willemvanoranjedemusical.nl) has been taken offline.
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