Minna Maaria Virtanen as Rouva Stroganova in Joensuu City Theatre. Photo: Miska Photography

Minna Maaria Virtanen as Rouva Stroganova in Joensuu City Theatre. Photo: Miska Photography

Elokuun puolivälistä saakka olen työskennellyt Joensuun kaupunginteatterin vierailevana ohjaajana. Työn alla on ollut venäläisen Zinaida Dolgovan alunperin marin kielellä kirjoittama komedia, joka Lija Fischerin käännöksessä on saanut nimekseen Rouva Stroganova. Näytelmä saa ensi-iltansa lauantaina 22.9. suurella näyttämöllä. Esitykset jatkuvat tammikuulle saakka. Rouva Stroganova taitaa olla ensimmäinen ohjaukseni perinteisen komedian saralla 🙂

Törmäsin tähän näytelmään marin kielellä Joshkar-Olassa, Marin tasavallassa Venäjällä marraskuussa 2016, kun osallistuin suomalais-ugrilaiselle Majatuli-teatterifestivaalille – ja ihastuin.

* * *

In November 2016 I travelled to Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Republic of Mari El in Russia to work in the jury of Finno-Ugric theatre festival Majatuli. One of the Mari speaking pieces I saw there was a comedy by Zinaida Dolgova. I was so infatuated that I wanted to direct it in Finland. Thanks to the open minded captain of Joensuu City Theatre, Iiristiina Varilo, I got a chance to do it. Another colleague of mine, Lija Fischer, translated the piece, and here I am, in Joensuu, and the premiere of Rouva Stroganova (Mrs Stroganova) is just around the corner, on Saturday 22 September! It will stay in the program until January. To be precise, Rouva Stroganova is my first attempt in directing a traditional comedy.

The working group. Photo:

The working group. Photo: Miska Photography

j j j

Greetings from Republic of Mari El, Russia

A week ago I returned from Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Republic of Mari El. I was there to work in the jury of Finno-Ugric theatre festival Majatuli 12.-19.11.2016 organised by Mari El National Shketan Drama Theatre. The jury had six members and we saw the festival performances and gave feedback to all participating theatres from various Russian republics like Mari El, Komi, Udmurtia, Mordovia, Khanty-Mansia and Karelia. The only “foreign” participant was Finnish Vapaa Vyöhyke -group (brackets because in Finno-Ugric context Finnish is not really foreign). Besides feedback the jury awarded six performances or individual artists with diplomas in the final celebration of the festival.

During my stay I learned some Russian and some Mari language and I think I made some friends. I was really happy to get to know all the members of the prestigious jury, the other lovely people working for the festival and to see all the performances. Some of them were awful, some were good and some I’d like to see visit Finland, or anywhere basically. What made a great impact on me is that besides artistic or entertainment values the performances at the festival had a larger cultural significance. Theatre is a place to keep Finno-Ugric languages alive. Theatre is a life line of identity. Of course theatre is about identity, one may say, but in Western consumer culture one tends to forget (or at least I forget) that identity can also be about belonging to a group and not just an individual thing.

I was also relieved to see Russia with my own eyes in the present new age of Cold War. It isn’t only what they tell you in the news. Russia is much, much more. I received a particularly warm welcome in Yoshkar-Ola and I want to go there again. But I did experience four fishy moments, though, that made me think hard… If you are a Finnish reader, you can read about these thoughts from my report in Esitys Magazine web page.


Actors of Mari El National Shketan Drama Theatre performing folk songs and dances in the opening ceremony of the festival


Feedback from behind a giant name label


Jury member and theatre critic Elena Viktorovna Glebova in Sapaev Mari State Opera and Ballet Theatre


Jury member, critic and director Niyaz Iglamov receiving gifts in Mari Children and Youth Theatre Center


Quick stop at Red Square in Moscow on my way home



j j j