The historical time of Estonian theatre

In the 1980s stage director Merle Karusoo stated: today all Estonian theatre practitioners are nicely lined up on the historical arena of Estonian theatre, by the 21-st century there will be an accumulation, then a natural selection so that some styles and their representatives go down in the annals of theatre history.

We have reached a crucial point: who will stayon the scene? Who will disappear behind the wings? The uniqueness of the moment is amplified by the social context — for how long will theatre preserve its somewhat privileged status while new and more innovative media and art forms compete with it? What are the chances of Estonian theatre in a situation where more quality services, including culture, are "imported" from other parts of the world?

Here, the Stranger of Estonian theatre — the Salesman, the new mythological hero, is exposed and, whether we like it or not, we have to get used to the idea that art is also an article for sale and theatremaking involves big investment. The question is how to preserve a constructive element, mutual understanding and motivated decisions in this dialogue between Artist and Salesman. We have experienced how easy it is to close down a theatre (Tartu Children's Theatre), there have been proposals to merge theatres, to replace state-funded theatres by one-project troupes, to change the system of theatre funding. These proposals would all bring mainly economic, rather than artistic benefits.

The uniqueness of the moment makes the theatre historian's work complicated. Instead of recording individual names and titles we need to analyse broader movements, tendencies and methods. Or, in other words, what is needed is the concept of history writing. Because this is what the centenarian Estonian theatre deserves.

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