I was on the RAF (Rapid Art Force) tour from July 26th through August 4th. RAF is an avant-garde, multidisciplinary music collective that consists of artists from various fields, such as music, theatre, circus, dance, and visual art. It has been touring around some unusual, interesting places for site-specific, improvised concerts, mostly during summer.
I’ve performed as a RAF member for a few years now, and it is one of the very special projects, where I learn and enjoy improvisation in extreme circumstances, crossing the borders of art. And I get to do it with highly skilled and generous artists from across the globe. It’s creative collaboration so thrilling and wonderful.
This year’s tour felt especially potent for two reasons. One is professional; a physically intense performance schedule really challenged my stamina and ability to concentrate. 12 concerts in 9 days. Moreover, each concert was at a different place, and the program was also different each time. It was overwhelming. But each place gave me a lot of inspiration for improvisation, and I tried my best to explore all that.
The second reason is personal; I am so grateful to my fellow RAF artists for their friendship during the tour. I often feel like the odd one out in social situations, but never had I felt alone when I was touring with the RAF members. Some of them I’d met for the first time for the tour, and yet they ended up being the ones who celebrated my birthday (August 3rd) in such a beautiful way. I was deeply touched by their kindness and love. It was truly a happy birthday for me.
Now the tour is over, and I’m feeling fatigue and profound growth sizzling inside me. I don’t yet know what the growth would mean in my life, but maybe I don’t have to know… just like in improvisation, I only need to stay present and curious.. and act with courage.
I finished the job as a facilitator for the youth theatre group at Lapinlahden lähde. It was a long-term commitment, a 90-minute of theatre workshop once a week from August 2022 to May 2023, directed towards a group of teenagers with immigrant backgrounds in Helsinki.
On the last day, the teenagers gave me gifts to thank me: “Luxury Fudge,” tea bags, gummy candy, a tea candle, a postcard of Cicely Mary Barker’s artwork, a seashell, and the hand-drawn outfit designs for me and the other facilitator. I was, of course, touched by their gesture, knowing how far they had come since the beginning. The outpour of their enthusiasm continued. They were thanking each other for the little theatre community where everyone learned to have fun together while respecting each other’s talent and differences. … I mean, this is huge for the teenagers, and probably the most important of all is that they wanted to continue. They wanted to keep on being in the community where their uniqueness and creativity can be seen, appreciated, and developed.
Nibbling on the Luxury Fudge, I ponder on the significance of this. Theatre might be one of the most wholesome educational frameworks. You not only learn how to make theatre but also develop a community that functions through creativity, respect, collaboration, and support for one another. And such a community is especially important to minorities, whose existence is often diminished and/or ignored by the majority.
However, there’s an annoying challenge: how to maintain the financial resource for pedagogical expertise to facilitate such an open, compassionate, creatively exciting educational space. More financial support is needed to continue a theatre workshop series for the immigrant youth in Finland. If it can make a marginalised teenager find his/her/their way to be creative, learn to work with others in a respectable way, and grow up to be an amazing human and artist, what a great investment that is for a society. Its worth is not measurable in the currency of money. In fact, I’ve got lovely gifts from talented young people. And they are all friends now and more confident in who they are. Priceless. You cannot get richer than that.
It was a 3-year-long journey, starting from the first meeting at a cafe in Kallio to Saari residency to Inkost in Malmö, Sweden to Rønnebæksholm in Næstved, Denmark to finally Kiasma. I am in deep gratitude to the TTY team for allowing me to be part of this artistic endeavor. The project not only brought me juicy creative challenges and excitement but also embraced me with endearing friendship and love. I was constantly touched and inspired by the collaboration culture we were nurturing together with patience, compassion, and humor. It generated beautiful art, beautiful memories, and beautiful humans. It saddens me to say goodbye to the project, but I am feeling the growing of the creative seeds we had planted in each other’s life throughout the years. So, it’s the end, but it’s not. The seeds will sprout, and we’ll keep growing.. together.
Thank you, and I’ll leave you with my favorite lines from the show:
From July 8th
through the 21st, I worked on an original musical theatre project titled “Deep
2.0” at Silence Residency in a small village called Kaukonen in Kittilä, in
northern Finland. It was for the continuous development of “Deep- the musical,”
a performance about the deep-sea creatures, which was premiered in Vapaan
taiteen tila last year. Silence Residency is run by Silence Festival
(Hiljaisuus festivaali), an annual multidisciplinary performing arts festival. This
2-week residency process culminated in a demo performance for the villagers on
Saturday, July 20th.
group consisted of me as the project leader, Tanja Männistö, Georgie Goater,
Maikki Palm and Elina Sarno (with her 10-month-old son).
A lot of
things happened during the residency, and here are some of my highlights.
of time and light
been to the region of Lapland during summertime. What does it feel like to live
in a remote village where there is no dark night and only daylight all day?—I
arrived there, one of the first things I noticed was the quality of time.
People tend to feel busy and tense mentally in the city and more relaxed and
slower in the countryside. That was certainly the case in Kaukonen. Without any
strict schedule to follow or any store to go to nearby, the villagers seem to
own their time. No rush. Everyone moves leisurely and minds his or her own
business in the formidable quietude of northern nature. Wild reindeers and
rabbits paid frequent visits in the backyard of the house we were staying at.
It’s just part of the everyday scenery in the village.
And the light. In sync with the languidness of time, the light felt soft and slow on my skin. It continued on and on, permeating the mind of the whole village and its air. This peculiar quality of light and the lack of darkness started to disorient me shortly after I arrived. Even though my bedroom had nice curtains to shut out the light during the night, my mind was feeling the impact in a subtle way; It was very hard to feel the passage of time since the shade of light never really changed throughout the day. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the early morning before everyone else in the house woke up. I would walk into the living room and sit by the window. Clear white light pierced through to embrace the table where I would work for an hour or so by myself. A sparrow would rest on the windowsill and watch me curiously. The quietest, most comforting time I had when I was there.
together different pieces of a puzzle
In terms of the work we did during the residency, my primary responsibility as the leader was to create a dramaturgical and musical structure for the ideas and expressions generated by the working group members. I was also directing the show and performing in it, too. A lot of stuff to do, but it was my attempt to fuse the collaborative process and my artistic autonomy somehow.
As much as
I was holding the big key to determine how the piece was formed, the artistic
contributions of other members were also very crucial. Each of us had a
different background in performing arts. Tanja has been working in youth
theatre and is also a visual artist, Georgie and Maikki are well-versed in the
contemporary dance field, and Elina has done a lot of puppetry and object
theatre work. I wanted each one’s expertise to be integrated into the show as
well as their ideas.
The way I
approached the developmental process was somewhat like putting together a
jigsaw puzzle with no premeditated design. First, each one brings in her own
story, idea, text, a movement phrase or whatever is related to the deep-sea
creatures and the themes of the piece. The fragments of their artistic input become
the unique pieces of a metaphysical puzzle. I look at the pieces and start
putting them together in various ways to see if any image for a story appears.
When it does, I compose music and lyrics to go with it. Then I propose the song
to the working group, and we try to specify the theatrical language to best
convey the story in relation to all the other pieces of the puzzle and the
performing space. The process repeats itself until I could sense an overall
(On the side note, it was a strange coincident that Maikki and Georgie took to actual jigsaw puzzle during the residency. When not in rehearsal, they would spend hours staring and putting together pieces on a table.. just like I was doing in my mind 😊 )
For the first week, there were only Maikki, Georgie and me. We focused mostly on movement and choreographic aspects of the show. What kind of physicality do deep sea creatures have? How can we express the quality of waves and the flow of water with the body? How does “depth,” “time” and “pressure” manifest in the body? etc. We would spend hours in the space to explore those questions. Simultaneously, I was composing songs and suggesting some theatre exercises and stories for Maikki and Georgie’s deep-sea creature characters. It was a demanding week, to say the least.
Tanja, Elina and Elina’s baby joined us for the second week. It was a tight schedule alright, and oh boy, it was even more demanding than the first week. They had only three and a half days to absorb all the work that had been done before they came, to make their own characters (in the case of Elina, to make puppets), and to learn the songs. And we got to rehearse the whole show only a few times before the demo. Concurrently we were also building the performing space and rigging and adjusting lights. Once again it was almost a miracle that we made it to the demo.
had her baby who needed her constant attention. We decided that the baby would
be a part of the show somehow since Elina couldn’t really leave his side at any
moment. Then the baby became another piece of the puzzle on a whole new level
to me. Along with the lack of time, the baby was something that was outside of
my control. I had to adjust to and adapt what was there and available to make
the most of it for the story.
But in the end, those pieces that were relatively unpredictable made the final image of the puzzle more unique and special than I could ever imagine.
birthday party of the Ojanperäs
One big element at the residency was the interaction with the villagers. We were very lucky to be staying at a beautiful house managed by one of them, the Ojanperä family. The Ojanperäs has been a kind supporter of the Silence festival and its activities for many years. They not only provide accommodations for the visiting artists, but also are genuinely curious about and willing to get to know the artists and their works. Throughout our stay, they helped us with transportation to the city, baked delicious pastries for us, fixed our car, gave the baby feeding chair and bed for Elina’s baby, let us use their sauna and grill freely, etc. Some of us became quite close to the family and got involved in their personal lives as well.
One day I
found out that the last Saturday of our residency period would coincide with
the birthday party for two of the Ojanperä family members. So, it was no
brainer for me to decide that we should do a demo performance on that day, not
only to show our work to the villagers but also to express gratitude for their
incredible generosity and support. Once the demo date and time were set, all my
focus went to putting together a good show.
pressure and workload were real and challenging, as I mentioned in the previous
section. But I was aware and weirdly excited that it was just a part of my
creative process. I only learn from it.
pay-off came on the day of the demo. The Ojanperäs brought a group of kids and
adults who were attending the birthday party after the demo. Also, thanks to my
working group members’ consistent interaction with the villagers and
advertising in person and on social media, the audience turnout was amazing. We
got the full house. The demo itself went well as well. The kids in the audience
were very engaged in what was happening in front of their eyes. They laughed
and screamed throughout the show… so much so that it was hard for me to hear
myself singing sometimes. The adults seemed more subdued compared to the kids,
but no body left in the middle of it. So, I gathered that they were also
interested in what we performed.
director, I saw a lot of things for which I would have liked more time to
develop in the demo. But making a show for the audience helped me see where it
needs more work and how we can proceed from now on. Meeting the audience with
the work was also a part of the creative process, a very important one in my
After the demo, some of us joined the birthday celebration with the Ojanperäs. Later in the day I heard that one of the family members said, “Your demo was the biggest birthday gift!” I took a sigh of relief and felt the meaning of what we had accomplished during the residency.
from Reidar Särestöniemi
In the midst of the intensive work schedule, some of us took one afternoon off to visit Särestöniemi Museum. I didn’t know anything about the artist Reidar Särestöniemi (1925–1981) before the visit. I was pleasantly surprised once I stepped into the estate of the museum. It was filled with his colorful, vibrant, and yet gentle art encased in beautiful wooden houses and in harmony with the surrounding nature. It was a wholesome, warm experience of getting to know the artist not only through his art works but also through his living space and the nature to which he was deeply connected. Smelling the aroma of the wood, feeling the soft air on the skin, seeing the colors of his painting reaching out to us, listening to the flow of the river nearby, and tasting the history etched in the space.. I was quite inspired and replenished.
didn’t directly influence our work, aesthetically speaking. However, his life
and attitude towards art definitely helped me regroup mine. One of his quotes resonated
with me especially:
”Maalauksissani on vain minä itse. Niissä on minun onneni ja
tuskani, minun täyttymätön kaipuuni, koko minun elämäni.”
paintings are only me. In them are my happiness, my pain, my unfulfilled
longing, and my whole life.)
finishing this essay, I would like to thank my working group for their work,
patience and creativity. It’s obvious, but I need to reiterate; I could not
have done this without you all. I always learn a tremendous amount about
collaboration and myself as an artist in working with you. Thank you!
not least, my deepest gratitude goes to the staff at Silence Festival,
especially the managing director Joonas Martikainen who arranged the
practicality of the residency for us in a very humane, considerate way. We felt
immediately at home when he welcomed us at the train station and drove us
around Rovaniemi and Kittilä to give a personalized tour of the area. We had a
very special experience thanks to you.
I’m thrilled to announce an up-coming workshop I’m leading. It deals with the themes that have been at the core of my artistic life: connection and presence. I believe and know that they transform the way we communicate with one another in a theatrical space. So, let’s practice together, shall we? 😊 The details are below. Register early. Hope to see you there!
The Body of Presence- corporeal inquiry into the mysterious core of performing arts
Date and Time:
20.9 (Fri) 18:00-21:00
21.9 (Sat) 10:00-17:00 (including 1h
22.9 (Sun) 10:00-17:00 (including 1h
Place: Teatteri metamorfoosi / Point Fixe (Suvilahdenkatu 10 A 408, 00500 Helsinki
DESCRIPTION “Presence” is necessary for a performer on the stage. It is something that gives substance and depth to the experience of the audience. And yet, presence is one of the most elusive, hard-to-grasp concepts if we try to define exactly what it is. And it is often mixed with the natural talent and ability of the performer; it’s a matter of having it or not having it.
In this workshop, however, we approach
presence as a practicable element in physical training. Is there any
corporeal focal point(s) that contributes to stronger presence? If so, how can
we improve or develop them with our bodies? We will be using two methods
(Suzuki Method and Viewpoints) as the main tool to investigate what it takes
for a performer to be present on the stage. Also Hino Method will be used as
a supplementary tool to investigate the body itself. The
participants will gain personalized embodied knowledge about presence that is
applicable to their respective fields.
Previous experience in those methods
is recommended but not necessary. Wear movable clothing. Bring water
Brief description of the methods
Viewpoints is an improvisational technique of movement originated by an
American choreographer Mary Overlie and later adapted to theatre by Anne
Bogart, Tina Landau, and SITI Company. The technique provides inspiring and yet
practical vocabulary to investigate and explore time and space in a
performative setting and allows ensemble performing to happen quickly and
Suzuki Method of Actor Training is a
physical training system for actors founded and developed by a Japanese theatre
director Tadashi Suzuki (1939- ) and his company Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT).
This rigorous method brings better concentration, breath control, and energy
production to those who practice it. Its ultimate purpose is to restore the
innate expressivity in the performer’s body.
Hino Method is a physical training method developed by a Japanese martial arts master Akira Hino (1948- ). The method is rooted in in Hino’s study of the essence of Japanese classic martial arts. It is about developing the body to its full potential without relying on muscle strength and refining bodily intelligence.