Interests: Hospital Volunteering and the Theatre

Viviane Corthals, legal secretary at Hogan & Hartson, has two interests that she is passionate about: her volunteering work with children in hospital and the theatre. Brussels Legal found out about the connection between these two apparently-unrelated interests.

BL: Which interest started first?

VC: My first interest was the theatre. I started when I was at school and was able to qualify as a professional actress. But I had to stop when my personal circumstances changed.

For many years now I have done a variety of theatre activities: in addition to acting, I also direct and design theatrical sets and costumes.

BL: Front and back-stage activities must keep you busy. Do you do all these activities with one organisation?

VC: Over the years I have worked with different theatre and artistic groups, particularly in Flanders. For some organisations I'll do a particular activity, such as scenery or costume design.

But a lot of my theatre activities centre around a non-profit organisation I am involved with. It has the slightly-strange title of 'Blue Bill and the Uebermensch'. There are about 10 people in our group.

We perform a variety of works in varied styles; sometimes Flemish dialogue with English-language songs, sometimes well-known works, sometimes unknown productions.

Because we do not have our own building we perform in community centres around Brussels and Flanders.

The style of some productions is quite 'interactive'; audience members are sitting behind tables with their drinks while the actors are performing around them. By its nature, this type of production sometimes requires quick improvisation on our part. Sometimes members of the audience are unaware that they are taking part in the performance!

BL: Your other interest concerns helping children in hospital. When and why did that interest begin?

VC: It started last year when I was visiting a friend's child in hospital. I was shocked to see other children there all alone. It seemed like they were forgotten; isolated from the world outside.

I feel strongly that everyone should have a fair start in life. I was shaken by how unfair their start in life is.

I was determined to do something about it and so volunteered to spend time with the children. Initially the hospital was wary as in the past some volunteers quickly built relationships with the children and then dropped out, causing difficulty for the children and the hospital.

I had some interviews with the hospital staff and in the process I have started to learn about the psychology of children's development.

Currently I spend time with the children every Saturday between 2-5 pm.

BL: And you use your theatre experience with the children?

VC: Yes, they are a variety of ages (between 3-16 years old) and so have very different needs.

With most children I start by asking them to tell me a story. We then start to act it out. Doing this gives the children an opportunity to express themselves. Some things do not change: little girls want to be princesses, but boys today prefer to be 'cool guys', not princes!

Sometimes the children like to play games or do handcrafts instead. I see what the child wants.

BL: Do you plan to do more activities with the children?

VC: I would love to be able to take the children on trips outside the hospital, like a visit to the zoo. It is extremely important that they do not lose contact with the outside world. Another idea is to get children's celebrities to visit the children in hospital.

But these activities cost money and so I am looking to raise funds. My law firm is interested in helping.

BL: Will your interest in the theatre help your activities with the children in hospital?

VC: I have had one idea, but I am not sure when it will take place. I would like to write a monologue based on the book 'Mammie Rose' by E.E. Schmidt. The book deals with a woman who helps children in hospital and her conversations with a little boy that is dying. It is a moving but also humorous story.

Ideally, I would like to perform this monologue in small theatres. The money raised can be used to do activities with the children outside the hospital.

BL: Good luck and thank you for your time.

Author: Brussels Legal ©
Published: 13 April 2006
Location: Brussels Legal/Archive/Interests & Hobbies 
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