25. syyskuuta 2013

Why is my old theatre school in Helsinki shutting it's doors?

Salla Lintonen
Actress, Drama Instructor (BA)

Why is my old theatre school in Helsinki shutting it's doors?

I feel sad and disappointed after some bad news from Finland: my theatre school from which I graduated in 2009 will be closed. Money is the official reason, but I think values are the real one. The school is a part of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, and I have also recently seen news of how they have more than enough money. Is everything (including culture and education) more and more about financial profit in Finland, do the people who have power forget that the well-being of it's people is essential for a successfull country?

Drama instructors that graduate from my school are working in schools, prisons, hospitals, theatres, after-school activities, museums, art centers... They are working with children, elderly, youth, adults that are in difficulties... They can work with everyone. They teach, they ask questions, they encourage, they empower, they facilitate, they start conversations, they act, they direct, they create, they invent.

There is a very unique culture politics in Lyon. It has enabled a fruitful contract between the city and many cultural establishments, theatre and dance companies, performing art associations, etc. They will get money from the city, and in return they have to create projects that involve the citizens of Lyon in their activities. The priority of these projects is to reach those who have less access to culture, for example people who live in sub-urbs with lots of social problems and poorness. What a perfect environment for a drama instructor!

My studies have given me a fantastic base to work in this political and cultural atmosphere. Yet nothing like my school exists here in France. Most french actors will sooner or later give a workshop or two - or even weekly theatre courses - but they don't usually learn how to do that in school. Their studies often include only artistic work, that is, acting. That makes sense, since they are actors.

As an actress and drama instructor my identity is wider and more complex. I am able to step in front of a group of nurse students and use improvisation theatre to give them tools to face a human being, to listen, to adapt, to be themselves, in other words: help them in their work. I can direct a workshop about identity for teenagers by using techniques of forum theatre and process drama.

My studies also developped my artistic capacities. I acted, I improvised, I sang, I learnt Alexander technique, I danced, I directed, I wrote. And I gave workshops. Lots of workshops. I went out in the world. I went outside the walls of our school to work with the elderly, I danced on the street, I worked with teenagers at a school. I went to England through Erasmus and acted, made choreographies and created performances with my fellow students.

Now I work in France as an actress. I also work as a drama instructor, even though the term doesn't really exist here. In Finland it does - still. But for how long? I cannot do much from here, but I beg you to speak out for drama instructors and their precious education. Don't hesitate to contact Metropolia, politicians, the media! I firmly believe that Finland needs us now, more then some people apparently realise.

Art is vital and those who can share it widely and make people participate in artistic activities are worth more than money. And certainly more than they will save at Metropolia by shutting down my old school.

In Lyon, 24th september 2013

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