Why is Pyynikin kesäteatteri so special?
Imagine for a moment watching a play about war. Halfway through a battle scene a military aeroplane flies over the set and fires at the actors in an army tank tumbling across the set, a rugged battlefield. Now imagine a high society play, in which a large old passenger steamship puffs gently across the water to the stage set and a group of actors disembarks in a flurry of bygone decadence – gentlemen in exquisitely tailored suits walking with canes and elegant ladies with lace gloves and exuberant hats with lush feathers and netting.
This sounds like a theatre utopia, wherein space and budget are unlimited and the director’s every whimsical wish is facilitated. This is no utopia however, this is history. Pyynikin kesäteatteri has indeed used a steamship, tank and aeroplane in past shows, and not merely as static parts of the set. In all fairness these are things that would not be possible in a conventional theatre. Pyynikin kesäteatteri is a unique outdoor theatre where the verdant lakeside greenery provides a stunning backdrop to the stage action.
Another thing that makes Pyynikin Kesäteatteri so inimitable is the revolving auditorium which turns 360 degrees. Built half a century ago, it is the oldest revolving auditorium of its kind in the world which remains in continuous use today.
Pyynikin kesäteatteri is a theatre with limitless possibilities for creative directors, although there are certainly challenges to be overcome working in outdoor conditions.
Tampereen Kesäteatteri (Tampere Summer Theatre) was founded in 1948 by two visionary actors, Yrjö Kostermaa and Toivo Mäkelä. In 1955 Tampereen Teatterikerho (Tampere Theatre Society) took over the running and administration of the theatre and its name was changed to Pyynikin kesäteatteri (The Pyynikki Summer Theatre).
Pyynikin kesäteatteri has over the years built a reputation as a vibrant and dynamic theatre and has contributed a great deal to Tampere’s rich and varied theatre heritage. Pyynikin kesäteatteri has attracted some of Finland’s finest theatre practitioners and some of its shows have made theatre history. The most legendary production was Väinö Linna’s “Tuntematon Sotilas” (The Unknown Soldier), a poignant story of the Finnish Winter War which resonates deeply with the Finnish national psyche. The production ran for nine summers (372 performances) and was seen by 348,854 theatre goers, including President Urho Kekkonen, who came to see the production every summer. “Tuntematon Sotilas” and Linna’s historical trilogy “Täällä Pohjan Tähden Alla” (Under the North Star) – which has also been performed at Pyynikin Kesäteatteri – are cornerstones of Finnish literature.
The revolving auditorium was designed by architect Reijo Ojanen and its building was completed in 1959. So well was it built that it didn’t need renovation until 1995. Ten years later in 2005 a roof structure was added. The roof provides protection for the audience from the changeable weather, although the actors perform under open skies, come rain or shine. Only a handful of performances have had to be cancelled in the past and on those occasions it has taken violent thunderstorms or hail to keep indomitable Finnish actors from performing. Today the auditorium seats 836 people and the summer season’s shows are sold out far in advance year after year. A total of 3.1 million theatre goers have enjoyed performances at Pyynikin kesäteatteri.
Since 2001 Pyynikin Kesäteatteri has been a foundation of which Mr. Jari Nieminen is Executive Director. The theatre continues to deliver a diverse repertoire of Finnish drama, classics from playwrights from around the world, new writing, comedy and musical theatre. Pyynikin kesäteatteri has in recent years also extended it’s season into the autumn, adding atmospheric concerts and stunning flame theatre performances to it’s broad range of theatrical offerings.
The lives of many generations of Tampere residents have in some way been touched by this remarkable theatre and the people of Tampere are, rightly, proud of this thriving theatrical rarity in their hometown.
Pyynikin Kesäteatteri and you…
Don’t be discouraged from attending a performance at Pyynikin kesäteatteri due to the language barrier – theatre is a universal language after all and watching a show at Pyynikin kesäteatteri is guaranteed to be a memorable experience. So do by all means see the schedule and buy tickets for 2015.