Flanders says farewell to actor Dora Van der Groen


The legendary stage, TV and film actor and drama teacher Dora Van der Groen passed away at on Sunday at the age of 88

“She believed in you 200%”

The Flemish actor, stage director and drama teacher Dora Van der Groen, famous for her many film and TV roles, has died at the age of 88. Van der Groen had been living in Geel, Antwerp province, in a home for people with dementia.

Van der Groen was born in Antwerp. Her father was a cellist with Opera Flanders, but she leaned towards theatre and, at 19, became one of Herman Teirlinck’s first drama students, a name now synonymous with the Antwerp drama school.

During her career, Van der Groen was in more than 100 film, TV and stage productions. In her many years on the stage, she played numerous memorable roles, including Lady Macbeth and Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (beside her former husband, Wies Andersen).

Van der Groen was also the director of the drama department of the former Koninklijk Vlaams Conservatorium in Antwerp for many years, where she defined her philosophy as “the five Ps – personality, poetry, pleasure, pain and perversion – all tied up with a ribbon of humour”.

Her best-known TV work was in popular series such as Wij, heren van Zichem (We, the Men from Zichem) and Terug naar Oosterdonk (Back to Oosterdonk, pictured). She was hailed for her performance in the 2001 film Pauline en Paulette, in which she played the mentally handicapped Pauline.

“This leading lady lifted theatre and film to a higher level, as a teacher and as a director,” said Flemish culture minister Sven Gatz. “For many Flemish viewers she was a compass – the warm, sympathetic and trusted wife, mother and grandmother in many films, TV series and plays.”

“If she believed in someone, she believed in them 200% and made sure they had every possible chance,” said director Ivo Van Hove, who taught at her department. “In the beginning she told me I should go abroad, and now I’m working in New York. She’s the one who pushed me towards that.”

“She could be very strict, but she gave everything to her work,” said stage and TV actor Tania Van der Sanden (In de Gloria). “I was always a bit afraid during her classes, but the things she taught me I’m still using to this day.”

The city of Antwerp has opened a condolences book in Van der Groen’s memory at city hall.

Photo: Elisabeth Broekaert/VRT