First suitors appear for Theatre NO99 building in Tallinn

Last Wednesday, Theatre NO99 abruptly announced that it would be closing its doors, with its final performances scheduled for November and December. The theatre will be vacating a large building at the Central Tallinn address of Sakala 3, interest in which has been expressed by Sakala Skene, a new open centre for the performing arts and theatre education.

Sakala Skene is a new brand uniting Polygon Theatre and Polygon Threatre School, Old Baskin's Theatre, and Theatre KELM. The trio, represented by Tamur Tohver, Aarne Valmis and Karl Koppelmaa, admitted in a letter sent to the Ministry of Culture that their primary unifying concern right now is a lack of space.

"This negatively affects both our substantive activity, the increase of audience habits as well as our sustainable economic management in increasing quantitative competition (including subsidised state theatre)," the letter said.

Tohver, Valmis and Koppelmaa noted that Open Space (Vaba Lava), which was meant to solve small theatres' accommodation crisis, has by now very much justified itself in connection with international and one-off projects, but when it comes to small domestic Estonian theatres, in the past ten years it has in no way eased their activity.

Sakala Skene, which is eyeing to take over the building soon to be vacated by NO99, would serve as an international centre for the performing arts and theatre education that would create synergy between various interest and age groups in society as well as increase Estonia's value internationally.

"The trio has three channels of output: a weekly repertoire, a theatre school for all ages, a research institute of theatre and publich short-term personal development courses for anyone interested," the letter read. "The building would be open to everyone, hosting first and foremost Estonian and foreign small theatres but also university theatre and fiilm students, Polygon Theatre School (which operates in Tallinn, Tartu, Haapsalu, Antsla and Põlva, with 270 students) and other school theatre troupes from Estonia."

The authors of the letter find that a new legal body does not need to be established in order to realise this solution; a multilateral operational agreement should suffice.

"Financially speaking, the building and its maintenance would remain the state's responsibility (including in terms of ownership)," the letter read. "The subsidising of the activity of NO99, which disbanded for various reasons, and the nonprofit Kell 10 is more than welcome to be redistributed among the key [organisations] operating in the building."

Tohver, Valmis and Koppelmaa wrote that the contributions of Old Baskin's Theatre are helping more quality theatre reach its broad audiences, and this would be in a sense a symbolic means of thanking the Baskin family.

TeaterNO99 on 31 October announced that it would be closing its doors. The theatre published a letter confirming that it would cease activity in January 2019. Director Tiit Ojasoo, the founder of the theatre, noted at the time that the decision was artistically and not financially motivated.

The right of superficies to the building at Sakala 3 is held by Vanalinna Teatrimaja, a foundation established by the state via the Ministry of Culture, the City of Tallinn and SEB Bank.

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