Theatre Series “Tale Of The Century”: How Do You Trace The History of the Nation?

Theatre Series “Tale Of The Century”: How Do You Trace The History of the Nation?
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018, The Estonian Association of Performing Arts Institutions is bringing the century-long story of the Republic of Estonia to the stage. All productions will be created in cooperation between at least two theatre companies–one big and one small–bringing together 24 organizations within the project. In terms of themes, we have divided the century into decades as well as added a piece about the future–hence 13 new theatre pieces will be created under the aegis of the comprehensive production project.

Preparations for the series have already been going on for a few years. We chose to leave it to chance which theatre companies get paired up into creative duos, so each partnership was decided by draw. The grand draw between theatre companies took place three years ago and in addition to assigning each to a creative partner, it also allotted a decade to every pair for inspiration. Indeed, precisely for inspiration, since we do not presume theatres to take a factually accurate approach to history. Thus, stories are in the process of being born, some of which stem from a particular event or person associated with that decade–others, however, weave mystifications of history with a very authentic sense of the age. Our interpretations of the decades also have a place for reflections of global events of the time in our cultural sphere. In any case, the plans being conceived by the theatre companies promise a remarkably multi-faceted and playful approach to times gone by and times yet ahead, while the series as a whole will undoubtedly add new and intriguing angles to our current perception of history.

The productions in the Tale Of The Century series will premiere between August 2017 and July 2018 in chronological order, offering theatre buffs the opportunity to see them in the “right order” should they so wish. Nevertheless, each production will be an independent artistic piece, able to be enjoyed as a standalone performance without having seen any of the others in the series. The productions in the Tale Of The Century series will remain in the repertoire of each theatre company for an extended time. The whole series can be seen all together at the Tale Of The Century theatre marathon at the Drama Festival in Tartu, in September 2018.

Playing through the history of the republic, the project is, in a way, making history itself–it is, beyond doubt, the largest production ever undertaken in Estonian theatre, both in terms of the number of participants and the time frame. Furthermore, the time allowed for delving into the work–from the planning stages up until the opening nights–is unprecedented, giving reason to expect remarkably well-matured artistic results. The production series also creates a raft of original scripts and music.

First and foremost, for us, the primary value of the Tale Of The Century project lies in the cooperation between theatre companies, which is why the project was planned as a series of collaborative stage productions. Sure, theatre companies work together from time to time independently of this particular project, however, most often such collaborations are undertaken with kindred spirits–creatives with a similar artistic palate. Our plan was far more ambitious than that: we wanted to encourage cooperation between theatre companies that differ in both their institutional framework and creative creed–in other words, between those who would otherwise probably never meet in an artistic collaboration. Naturally, it meant taking a fairly big gamble, however by today, with all the creative pairs working together in a substantial way, one may make the observation that the loudest shrieks of joy tend to emanate from those rehearsal rooms that have become meeting places for seemingly opposite creative methods. Clearly, the chance to discover new means of expression through a field they were not familiar with on a daily working basis has inspired the participants. Thus, thanks to the Tale Of The Century project, it is about to become a reality that a performing arts center focused on alternative forms of theatre and lacking a permanent company will produce an opera on the stage of the national opera house, or that a repertory company based in the capital city that almost never puts on performances outside its home venue will be on wheels for months, touring their co-production in small communities all around the country where professional theatre productions are rarely seen.

We hope that one day when the Tale Of The Century has become history itself, people will speak of the influence that inspiring collaboration between theatre companies had on Estonian theatre. And we hope that as a result of this project, Estonian theatre will reach a more resolute understanding that one is able to expand one’s world infinitely if one can maintain a curiosity not merely towards personal self-expression but towards the wider world and others operating in the theatre field.

Estonian National Opera + Kanuti Gildi SAAL Estonian History. A Nation Born Of Shock. Photo Credit: Pille Riin Pettai

To keep up with news and developments of the Tale Of The Century series, visit its homepage and its Facebook page.

Article translated by Kaur Sinissaar.

This article was originally published in Estonian Theatre newspaper in summer 2017 and has been reposted with permission.

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Monika Larini

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