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Samovarteateret, Norway: The Northernmost Professional Theatre In The World

By Anna Robb

In Russian, Samovar means self-boiling. It is warm, beautiful to look at, something that you can fill up, draw from, and it is constantly simmering. Just as we believe a theatre should be, hence the name; Samovarteateret, or The Samovar Theatre.

In this special TheatreArtLife feature, Isak Kvammen, tells us about the northernmost professional theatre in the worldIn Isak’s words:

Samovarteateret in Kirkenes, Norway, is the northernmost professional theatre in the world, and was established by Bente S. Andersen on the border between east and west, here in Kirkenes in 1990. Samovarteateret has 8 permanent employees and engages between 15 and 35 performers every year in different productions and projects.

The theatre has, since its inception, focused on our geographical location and the international borders that surround us. The theatre developed new drama, and more than 50 productions with artists from over 15 countries, with up to 8 languages on the stage at the same time.

Samovarteateret works locally, nationally and internationally. The performances tour in Norway, The High North, and Europe. The geographical location, extensive network, solid experience, and brand-new theatre building make Samovarteateret a natural power centre for the performing arts in the Northern areas.

It is important to us to convey histories from this border area, give them an art form and lift them up on to the stage.

We have experienced that our performances, built on our histories from our region, have an international appeal. It has led us further into the world, to other border regions such as the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Baltic States.

For over 20 years Samovarteateret has developed new written drama, aiming to create performances that focus on, or questions, the present time. The theatre’s repertoire is influenced by local, national and international politics, as well as the society around us and stories of real people. Samovarteateret is known for its strong community involvement.

Through the experience of devising and creating drama, Bente S. Andersen and Samovarteateret have developed a unique Samovar-method: a distinctive way to create and produce performances.

Each performance starts with different forms of research and scenic exploration before the director and playwright cooperate on developing the text and the script.

The result is a performance where different cultures, visual scenic expressions, text, movement, music, and multilingualism is merged into a whole.

In addition to having a professional theatre, we also have an educational programme for children. The educational programme is organized through Sør-Varanger Kulturskole (Art school), who buys educational services from Samovarteateret. We oversee planning, conducting and administrating the teaching and performances. The educational programme has between 50 and 60 students between the ages of 6 to 18.

Samovarteateret is also behind the International Children’s and Youth Theatre Festival which was organized in Kirkenes every other year between 1994 and 2002, as well as in 2010. The theatre focuses on children and young people having their own meeting places to cultivate the interest in theatre and performing arts. The festival had between 200 and 350 participants each year, from Norway, Russia, Finland, and Sweden.

Samovarteateret is one of northern Norway’s most prominent and important participants when it comes to cooperation with Russia and theatre as an art form. During the ministerial meeting in Arkhangelsk last week, Samovarteateret received the Barents Cultural Scholarship of 10 000 euros for the project Vannveien til Petrozavodsk (The waterway to Petrozavodsk).  Former foreign minister Børge Brende and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov were both present at the award ceremony.

This project is going to explore the southern part of the Barents region – Karelia, via the waterway. We are planning to travel by boat from St. Petersburg to the Onega lake, which will end up in Petrozavodsk at The Karelian National Theatre and The Karelian Puppet Theatre. Here, the cast will have a workshop with the Russian performers where they will work with the themes water, friendship and travel between the borders.

Samovarteateret is now working on its next show Lost in the Horizon. This is a project we have been working on for several years. For a theatre that has always been concerned with the “significance of borders for humanity,” the increased border development in Europe began our exploration of the Schengen border’s extremes in the north and south.

In this process, we have done a lot of research and had several practical workshops.

We wish to collaborate with artists, researchers, philosophers and social debaters in the various places. Through a practical workshop led by Samovarteateret, we will explore the term “horizons” as seen from this specific border area, this culture, and contemporary issues right here.

Then the local partners will continue their work in their own region. The work must end in one type of display format; scenic, exhibition, movie, picture, text or some other art form.

We have engaged several playwrights from different places along the Schengen border. They will help to write different texts based on this statement viewed from its perspective and its geographical location.

We have chosen to let the following statement be the theme and subject for the production: The horizon is the point where dream meets reality.

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