Rakastajat Theatre is a bold, ambitious and innovative promoter and producer of vibrant performing arts events: theatre, music and festivals.
Rakastajat Theatre is a professional theatre company based in Pori. For the first 30 years, from 1991 to 2021, the theatre was the only independent professional theatre company in the Satakunta region. In 2022 Rakastajat was approved for the Ministry of Education and Culture's State subsidy. Before that Rakastajat had received funding mainly from the Arts Council, which is a more precarious funding system.
Rakastajat started as a small theatre company, performing, for example, in Poriginal Gallery and outdoor venues. Over the years, Rakastajat has grown into a significant local and national theatre operator and international festival organiser. Nowadays Rakastajat is a vibrant theatre with a strong presence in the city.
We in Rakastajat Theatre believe in equality on all levels. We strive to be easily approachable and accessible, offering substantially reduced tickets for students and unemployed, for example and sometimes even free tickets. Our shows aspire to entertain, enlighten as well as challenge. We have a number of outreach programmes and are keen to strengthen our connection with local residents and the community. We want to reach diverse, new audiences and promote inclusion. We find it our responsibility to do our best to generate change in society by tackling topical themes and addressing sensitive topics. We also follow the guidelines for safer space.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Actors Hilkka Ollikanen, Angelika Meusel and Kai Tanner as well as set and costume designer Lizz Santos founded the company in 1991 with the aim to provide the people of Satakunta with brave, artistically uncompromising, intense and thought-provoking theatre – with a pinch of humour added to the pot. The theatre is named after its first show, Harold Pinter’s 'The Lover' (in Finnish Rakastaja) which had its premiere in Poriginal Gallery on December 12th 1991. During our first years we produced plays by Beckett, Berkoff, Orton and Strindberg, for example. Then little by little we started mainly commissioning our own shows, working with prominent Finnish writers and directors.
FINDING OUR OWN PERFORMANCE SPACES
After six years of being a “nomad” we finally found our own space in spring 1997 in Valtakatu 22, a protected building.The building had housed the first brewery in Pori, a dyeing-mill and a dressmaker’s, for example. The renovated venue, today known as Studio Hilkka, was renamed after the theatre’s late founding member, Hilkka Ollikainen, who passed away in 2002. The studio has seating for 60-100 people and the café-restaurant an additional 40.
Kehräämö (Spinnery), set in the historical Pori Cotton Mill, Puuvilla compound, was launched in 2009. Operating at the heart of Puuvilla, Kehräämö is a unique, atmospheric and accessible venue for theatre, touring shows, music gigs and stand up. We operate our own bar and restaurant in the venue. In addition, Kehräämö is also a sought-after venue for corporate events, weddings, workshops, seminars, conferences and all kinds of other events are organised in Kehräämö, from small parties to large events (70–400 people).
INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIONS AND CO-PRODUCTIONS
We have produced three international co-productions, one with La Muestra Alternativa Festival from Spain, Martillo, in 1994, one. La Terra Incognita, with Triangulo Producciones from Madrid, Spain and Co-Motion theatre Company from Ireland, in 1995. The last co-production was Coming up Roses with Bewley’s Café Theatre in 2005.
We have worked closely with Irish artists and companies. They have, for example, been invited to perform at our Outlaw§ International Festival and actor, writer, director, singer Karen Egan was part of our ensemble for almost five years. We have also introduced some new Irish writing to the Finnish audiences over the years, for example Iseult Golden’s, David Horan’s and Carmel Stephens’ Tick my Box in 2006, Karen Egan’s Kippis or Sex, Love, Death and Other Small Matters in 2015 and Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem in 2016.
PORI OUTLAW§ THEATRE FESTIVAL
In the year 2000 Rakastajat launched the annual International Theatre Festival for Independent theatre companies, Lain§uojattomat/ Pori Outlaw§ Theatre Festival and produced it for 23 years. The festival very quickly became firmly rooted in Pori, however, and the city was established as the heart of the festival. The name of the festival, Outlaw§, refers to the status of independent theatre companies outside of the statutory funding directed to institutional theatres. The last festival organised by Rakastajat took place in June 2022 after which KokoTeatteri from Helsinki took the administrative responsibility for the festival and the festival moved to Iisalmi.
The festival tradition will still remain in Pori, however, since a new Outdoor Arts festival will be launched in the summer 2024 in collaboration with Hatfair from Winchester, Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network, and TADAA festival from Estonia.
Rakastajat Theatre and the Theatre festival The Outlaw§ have received several recognitions over the years for their long-term work in benefit of the field independent theatres in Finland. Here are some of them:
- 2019, Finland Award – for The Outlaw§ Theatre Festival, Ministry of Education and Culture
- 2019, Theatre Act of the Year – The Outlaw§ Theatre Festival, Theatre Centre of Finland
- 2016, Pride of Pori Prize – Junior Chamber of Commerce, Pori
- 2016, Theatre Coup of the Year – Angelika Meusel, Theatre Centre of Finland.
- 2016, Pioneer of Anti-discrimination, diploma, Red Cross, Satakunta
- 2015, Wizard Award, Theatre Information Centre, TINFO
- 2015, Diploma of Excellence, Pori tutuksi ry.
- 2008, Pori Award, The City of Pori