While visiting Finland in a professional capacity, I had the opportunity to tour Helsinki on 26 February 2016 where I had very successful meetings all round. Getting to know a new country is always an adventure and an emotional experience. Finland is familiar to me because of the plays that I have worked on for several years. So, it was wonderful to finally see Finland in reality.
Theatre is a great way to get to know unfamiliar societies and cultures. It acts as a mirror, through which people observe, criticize, reflect upon and laugh at themselves, and through which they reveal their shortcomings and defend their values.
I was introduced to the Finnish mentality through Mika Myllyaho’s work Panic. The play was funny and moving, and I identified with it. Through the Magasin d’Ecriture Théâtrale, an organisation I lead to promote dramatic texts, we had arranged a reading of Myllyaho’s play in Brussels at the Théatre de la Place des Martyrs in 2011. The event was a success. Through that same connection I also met the producers of Nordic Drama Corner, for whom I arranged meetings with local theatre directors. The play was presented again in a translated version at the Théâtre Saint-Georges in 2012.
That same year, the Magasin d’Ecriture Théâtrale partnered with the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux to organise a play reading festival at the Théâtre de Poche and the Royal Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in Brussels. Ten works were selected to participate: Mika Myllyaho’s Paniikki (Panic), Kaaos (Chaos) and Harmonia (Harmony). Pasi Lampela’s Markiisin Unet (The Dreams of the Marquis), Juha Jokela’s Mobile Horror (A Mobile Horror), Laura Ruohonen’s Olga, Yksinen (Island )and Kuningatar K (Queen C), Anna Krogerus’ Rakkaudesta minuun (For Sheer Love of Me) and Reko Lundan’s Teillä Ei Ollut Nimiä (Can you hear the howling?). The festival was a great success.
A number of playwrights were also invited to participate. For the festival, I had staged Myllyaho’s play Kaaos (Chaos), which found a producer in Belgium and which I directed to be performed at the Atelier-Théâtre Jean Vilar. Due to its great success, the play was performed for two consecutive seasons.
The following year, I staged Harmonia (Harmony), the final play in Myllyaho’s trilogy. The work was performed as a whole in Brussels at the Théâtre Poème 2 in 2013. Over the years, I had received several invitations to Finland, but because of my busy schedule the visit was delayed until the spring of 2016. However, I actively acquainted myself with the Finnish scripts that were presented to me.
At last, with the assistance of the director of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, Aleksi Malmberg, the dates for my visit were arranged and I travelled to Finland. Finland reminded me a lot of the images painted by its plays, and my already high expectations were surpassed. After so many years, I was finally able to meet Mika Myllyaho in person. I also received an invitation to the Finnish National Theatre in 2018 in order to create networking opportunities between Finnish and Belgian playwrights.
During my travel, I was able to meet many Finnish theatre professionals and visit some fascinating information centres, agencies and theatres. Finally, we visited Q -teatteri to watch Saara Turunen’s excellent play Tavallisuuden Aave (The Phantom of Normality). Inspired by this work, I am thinking of directing and translating one of Turunen’s plays for the next festival taking place as part of the Magasin d’Eciture Théâtrale.
With a positive mindset and having gained many new perspectives and ideas for the future I returned from a much too short visit to Helsinki.
Blog post of January 2019: In 2018, the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s programme focused on Transition. In 2019, our theme is RE/definitions.
For some years now, I have tried to live my life with this principle in mind: because everything around us is constantly in transition, almost anything can become a reality. By this I mean our fears as well as opportunities, both the positive and negative ways of thinking about the future of our world. Personally, I would like to believe that we are capable of moving towards a better tomorrow, even if reality as filtered through our daily newsfeed often seems to contradict this.
Blog post of December 2018: How did you wake up this morning? Maybe to an alarm on your cell phone? What was your first thought? For many of us it’s “Can I sleep for another half hour?”. And, what was your last thought of the evening? Maybe you thought about whether you could watch just one more episode on your streaming service or whether it was really time for you to go to sleep. In fact, it is likely that these were the first and last risk management decisions of your day. Each of one us makes hundreds of risk management decisions whether we are at home, in our free time, or at work. Do you know the kinds of risks you are taking while navigating the digital world in our everyday life?
Blog post of June 2018: What if the future of music came from the Far North? There is no doubt that Nordic and Finnish musicians play an important role in the international music scene. Every category has a Nordic touch : vocal and instrumental music, metal, traditional and contemporary music, and jazz. Unlike here in the South, there are no fixed boundaries between musical languages in the North. Every musical genre finds its place between tradition and modernity, fusing into a fertile synergy without losing its own character. This is one of the cultural strengths of the Nordic countries.
Blog post of May 2018: For several years, this small international festival has been experimenting with new curatorial practices in a fierce and open way. The festival distinguishes itself by introducing co-curating, by politicising curatorship, and by rethinking the international. Baltic Circle hereby positions itself as a forerunner and is an ideal ground to visit with students who are themselves operating in the field of “expanding curation”. Three students, their tutor (Lara Staal, independent curator and publicist) and artistic director of DAS Theatre Barbara Van Lindt visited the festival and proposed some moments of exchange. In January we invited artistic director of the Festival Satu Herrala to visit us, and engage in a conversation where we reflected upon our visit (and already anticipated a next visit, in the autumn of 2018…)
Blog post of April 2018: Less than two months ago I moved from Tokyo to Brussels, straight into the heart of Europe and the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s great programming for 2018! We have our excellent previous Director Aleksi Malmberg to thank for carrying out the preparations for the start of the year, as well as our amazing team, with whom I now have the privilege of adding new initiatives and ideas to the programme.
Blog post of February 2018: “Okay, so there’s nothing here on the Sami people”, I noticed at the end of an introductory tour of the House of European History. I was visiting the relatively new House of European History at the beginning of February as part of a group of twenty odd individuals involved in the Remembering 1918 programme. Each one of us had the task that day of leading our own public tours of the House of European History. After the introductory tour, we were given a few hours to prepare to offer our own views on the museum’s exhibition which deals with European history.