Amateur theatre in the Faroe Islands
by Alessandra Agosti
collaboration and translation
by Silvia Bagnara Milan
In the Faroe islands, the destination of this new trip to discover the great family of Amateurs in the world, theatre has a great social role.
In this small archipelago – less than 50 thousand inhabitans, more or less as Mantua – in the Atlantic Ocean, situated midway among Scotland, Norway and Iceland, but tied to Denmark, the theatre is a true tool to bring people together, defending the national and cultural identity and, at the same time, opening up to the rest of the world.
We have talked about this with Noomi Reinert, president of Meginfelag Áhugaleikara Føroya (MÁF), member of AITA/IATA, the world-wide federation of Amateur Theatre, of which italian F.i.t.a. is a member too.
What does Amateur Theatre represent inside a reality such as yours? In particular, is it felt more as a way of trasmission of the local culture (even at a linguistic level) or as a cultural and development (in its wide sense) instrument?
There is the daily way of living involving work, household and family. And, then there is theatre. To the amateur actors and theatre people around the stage, these two ways of living are combined which requires a great deal of will, since you need to find that extra energy and time that is necessary for creating plays. This is the way of living for many members within the amateur theatre organisations, and although the tough demands, the yearly plays have such a value to the small societies, that there is, to these members, no other way of living.
The society of which our Theatre is a part of is so compact, that there is a strong tie between the creating part and the need for it to be maintained. I would therefore say, that the Amateur Theatre is a very important factor towards the cultural development in the Faroese Society.
If you were asked to trace a sketch of your average-amateur-actor, which would be his/her main characteristics? Sex, age, education…
An average-amateur-actor would be a 30 year-old man who you would not think of as being an actor in the daily life. An, so to speak, ordinary type of person, that you would not notice as something out of the normal in the streets. Most likely he would have some job within the health sector being used to work with people, or some form of craftsman. This latter type is often brought inside of the theatre because of their crafting skills from the beginning. Obviously, this character has some form of liking in getting attention and has often some form of humor that provides him with just that.
It is a funny thing. When we provide seminars of various kinds, the majority of participants are women. But, when it comes to putting up plays, we find men being more willing to put themselves out there on stage while many of these same women participate around the stage with the off-stage chores.
And your public, who does it consist of?
The Amateur Theatre is very well liked and has a very wide audience. Given, that our population is small, the active members of the Amateur Actors are quite few or is partly circulating around the same people, we see the same actors on the stage year by year. This does not to seem to be a problem though, as some of the organisations organize drama-school-projects for children and youngster in order to commit newcomers.
Which genre of drama is more common among your members: local authors, great international classics...? Do people privilege a classical or contemporary approach when speaking of style and direction?
We see a very clear difference in the choices of the Amateur Theatres and the Professional Theatres. The Professional Theatres feel obligated to put up artistically challenging plays that either moves or touches some relevant issues in the society. The Amateur Theatres, on the other hand, choose plays solely for entertaining. Looking at the trend of setups the past many years, you see the Farces being the top choices. Both old Farces such as the ones by Dario Fo and other ones that are either known from Theatres around us or written in the Faroes.
How do you succeed in financing your activity? By self-financing, or can you rely on state support, or private sponsors?
MÁF, the organization for Amateur Theatre of the Faroe Islands, is working under the Ministry of Education with the purpose of administrating financial supports for the Theatre Organizations, that are members of MÁF. The Theatres are also given financial support from local municipalities and in various ways from private sponsors as well, and as earlier mentioned, the great urgency from the local people is seen in the proceeds of the sale of tickets.
In your annual calendar, which are the most important moments?
In our small country, we have three Amateur Theatres, that are consistent in putting up plays, striving to do so every year. These setups are big events per se and absolutely important moments.
Adding to these, MÁF is arranging various seminars depending on the need from the Theatres, which are also something to look forward to. For these, we often find instructors from abroad in attempt to bring in some new inspiration.
Every other year, the Faroese Amateur Organization is collaborating with the Icelandic on a short-play Festival. We take turns to host the festival and bring several theatre-groups with us. This is something, that is of great value for the organizations and for the amateur theatre as well.
Do you think amateur theatre could benefit from a larger and more frequent communication among different realities, at a european level, but not only? If yes, in which fields would you suggest to take action with more energy (for example, cultural-exchange for young beople, scripts translations and circulation, videos about the many different national realities..)?
Amateur Theatre is special. It is a world of theatre held alive from spirited people doing it out of love for theatre. It is at the same time being held alive from people with limited time and energy which makes it fragile. It is important for us, being responsible for amateur theatre, to maintain the spirit thriving. I believe that the best way of doing that is to work together and to collaborate in any way we can. For two years ago, I participated with 20 youngsters in a project involving groups from the whole of Scandinavia, working over a year on a setup together and touring through Scandinavia putting it up. This took a lot of work and needed great financial support, but was extremely rewarding for the actors, who have, in several cases, stayed in touch and taken seminars together and are supporting each other sharing ideas etc. in other projects.
For us, as an amateur theatre organization coming from a very small populated country, it is of great importance, to have work-relations with other organizations, given, that we would need the inspiration. At the same time, we are certain that our culture would bring in interesting aspects in collaborations with other European cultures.
Personally, I am advocating strongly for any kind of collaboration, all from daily communication to long-termed-shaped projects.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to work on a local script and having a group from a completely different culture interpreted it and putting it up and see how it turned out? With today’s technology, this is an example, easily figured out.
I can steadily say, that there is great will for cooperations to be found in the faroese amateur theatre.
Pics are taken from the facebook profile of Màf, or of free use.