Sonntag, 01. August 2021

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Theatrical Landscape of Finland

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Theatrical Landscape of Finland
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Pastime for a whole nation

by Jukka-Pekka Pajunen

Finland, a country in the northern corner of Europe, is a hot spot for theatre fanatics. A considerable amount of the 5,3 Mio citizens claim theatre to be their pastime. About 4 Mio tickets for theatre, dance and opera performances are sold per year. There are 60 performances to choose from in the area around Helsinki alone during a busy season every week, which displays just how many performances there are.

The theatre network is spread across the whole country and enables all inhabitants of the sparsely populated country to enjoy professional theatre in their home province. Theatre belongs along with libraries, orchestras and museums to the cultural services offered by the local communities. The strongest focus on theatre lies in the southern cities: Helsinki has 15 theatres, the largest of which have at least two stages, in Tampere there are six and in Turku five. Both the local and the national theatres have a permanent staff. The artistic part of it consists of an ensemble, bound stage directors, stage and costume designers as well as dramaturges. Freelance groups also strive to employ small ensembles, which are made up of guest actors. The ensembles allow a repertoire system, whilst a large part of the freelance scene perform en suite.

Statutory subsidisation
The financing of the theatre network has been the same for centuries: the commune pays 40 per cent of the costs, the state covers 30 per cent and the theatres cover the remaining 30 per cent with the profits of tickets. This division affects 45 theatres, six of which perform for the Swedish speaking minority of the population. The state subsidisation is statutory, a peculiarity in Finland, which has had a law that has supported theatres and orchestras since 1993. The subsidisation of the national theatre is dealt with separately: The 51 professional groups of the freelance scene are excluded from the regular government subsidisation. They have to bring in over 50 per cent of their budget and have to get the rest of the money from the government, communes and other sponsors. Solely commercial theatres that manage completely without government money hardly exist in Finland. They almost only produce music theatre and simple comedies.