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Pauline van Antwerpen  

1001 Faces

What do evolutionary biologist and trend watcher Fiona James, Flemish dyke Fabienne van Gent and cultural historian Joanna de Vries M.A. have in common? They have all been created by cabaret performer Pauline van Antwerpen! Clients such as Shell, Rabobank, UWV, Akzo Nobel, Houthoff Buruma and various ministries have invited her to be hidden speaker at corporate events in order to bring important issues into the limelight in a funny and refreshing, tailor-made manner. Often she is so credible that audiences simply cannot believe that their guest speaker was ‘merely’ one of Pauline’s characters! “After a rather technical speech about Dutch Culture and Innovation at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, I was asked to lecture highly-gifted students at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. They thought that my character actually existed…”

Little Red Riding Hood

Having studied classical and light music at music school, Pauline van Antwerpen was destined to take to the stage as singer and musician. That career was not to be. Literally and figuratively, just like in the fairytale – the Utrecht dialect version of Little Red Riding Hood (“Roadkáááppie”) was one of the creations she took to the stage as a cabaret artist. The Concertgebouw became law firm Houthoff Buruma, chemical giant Akzo Nobel and the Ministry of Finance, where she playfully gets staff involved in important corporate issues, or presents them with an entertaining mirror in order to put topical social issues into a different perspective. During the kick-off of the Roze Netwerk [Pink Network] at benefits agency UWV, Pauline recently addressed staff as the Belgian dyke Fabienne van Gent, complete with racy Flemish accent, in order to point out the advantages of the network; the act had a sequel during National UWV Roze Netwerk Day on 27 May 2010. During a speech at Goudappel Coffeng (traffic and transportation advisors) evolutionary biologist and trend watcher Fiona James compared the company’s solutions to the transportation concepts that were adopted by ants millions of years ago. This original approach was rewarded with extra-loud applause when Fiona James dropped her mask and revealed herself to be hidden speaker Pauline van Antwerpen – once again, everyone in the audience had been taken in!

Act with Impact

Nevertheless, Pauline van Antwerpen’s guise generally consists of no more than a regional dialect, a foreign accent or an academic title. Plus meticulous preparation through extensive research, obviously. She spent a day working alongside customs officials, for instance, and for another act she even attended a gall bladder operation so that she could later speak as an authority on the matter at a hospital without arousing suspicion. It’s testimony to Pauline’s professionalism. In her own words: “If people within an organisation need to be inspired to change in one way or another, then first they need a change of perspective. I provide that other perspective by being both familiar and refreshing. A title instils confidence and guarantees credibility. The accent is for fun, but it enables me to be an outsider, too. People find it interesting to look at their own culture through the eyes of a stranger and the tactic makes them more receptive to what I have to say. Playing a role gives me the freedom to choose from all possible points of view and unlike real quantum physicists and evolutionary biologists, I am not impeded by an abundance of knowledge. I concentrate only on those aspects that reinforce the cause. My approach is therefore always determined by the message that my client wants to get across, although I do like to throw in my own insights.”

Pauline finds her work as hidden speaker closely related to cabaret, which once formed the basis for her career as imitator of scientists, trend watchers – even nuns. As witty exponent of that last vocation she hilariously but always credibly presented a book by communication advisor and media coach Pauline van Aken. The experienced guest speaker feels that her mission is only fully accomplished when her audience believes and learns something from her. An act with impact – as she herself succinctly describes it.

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