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75 years with the Theatre, Film and Television Designers Union

Text by Heta Reitala

The Finnish scenographers have been ideally positioned to celebrate their union’s milestone years every now and then since its foundation – and have done so too. The Union of Finnish Stage Designers (Suomen Lavastustaiteilijain Liitto), a precursor of the current LP, was founded in March 1943 and registered in May the same year. An unofficial union had actually been created in 1928 already to improve the position of set design and set designers and to raise awareness of the field. It, however, was not a registered one and did not collect membership fees.

The initiative for founding the early union had come in 1928 from Uuno Eskola, an artist working as a set designer for the Tampere Theatre at the time. According to meeting notes from those times, the need for such a union and its tasks were some of the subjects of thought so various sources have suggested 1928 as one possibility for the foundation year of the Union. On the other hand, according to the papers stored in the archives of Matti Warén, the set designer at the National Theatre, the actual constitutive meeting took place on January8, 1930 under the name of Suomen Näyttämöasettajain Liitto (a slightly dated term perhaps best translated as the Union of Finnish Set Designers).

Even though this union had no official status, promotion of union matters began instantly. The minutes of a meeting held in Helsinki on March 1, 1930 make mention of a letter sent in the name of the Union of Finnish Stage Designers (in this very form already) to the directors and boards of management of theatres. The questions raised in the letter include the need for contracts of employment, putting an end to the duty to perform as an actor, and the possibility for study trips. All theatre set designers were, however, not under the acting duty.

The stimulus for cooperation between set designers had been sparked by the numerous set decoration competitions and exhibitions organized since 1923 that often included foreign entrants too. The theatre director and journalist Jalmari Lahdensuo, the driving force behind the exhibitions, was also the secretary of the Association of Finnish Theatres. When the Union of Finnish Stage Designers was officially founded in 1943, it took over the exhibition activities and included them in its agenda along with minimum wages and re-organization of training. The Union had been asked to take a stand in the training question by the Ateneum art museum which served as the school for pictorial artists at the time.

The stimulus for cooperation between set designers had been sparked by the numerous set decoration competitions and exhibitions organized since 1923

Matti Warén kept the idea of compiling a manual especially on domestic Finnish materials under consideration for a long time at union meetings and in his writings. The manual was to include pictures of architecture, interiors, object history, and people and was thus intended to be of use for set and costume designers; gathering information was a laborious effort at the time. Several early set designers also created costumes for the plays that they worked on.

Apart from actual labour issues, the Union – both in its unofficial and in its registered form – had a major impact as a discussion forum for set designers active in various parts of the country. Increasing awareness and understanding among journalists and the wider audiences as to the field and thereby adding to its appreciation was one of their shared objectives. This was promoted not only with the press reviews written by members but also with exhibitions. The Union organized its first own exhibition in Tampere in April 1944 apparently in connection with the Theatre Festival (“Teatteripäivät”) event.

Martti Tuukka (see the Wikipedia article), the first chairperson of the Union in 1943–45, had a long career as a set designer at the Finnish National Opera for example. He had previously worked at the Tampere Theatre and with the film director/producer Erkki Karu in the Suomi-Filmi motion picture company since its foundation in 1919. He was followed as chairperson by Matti Warén who held the post all the way until 1954. Kaarle Haapanen, another founding member of the Union, chaired it in 1954–56.

The journey from the work contracts in the early days to the scenographers’ nation-wide contracts of employment was a long one and full of twist and turns. Before the era of collective agreements, work obligations and remuneration were subject to a wide variety of practices and an individual artist was in a weak position against of employers. For example, the actress and costume designer Liisi Tandefelt has told that her contract with the Tampere Workers’ Theatre in the 1960s included several acting roles apart from creating costumes for six productions and designing two interior sets.

A professional esprit de corps was not taken for granted by everybody in the 1970s

The decisive steps towards improved working conditions were taken when the 1960s turned into the 70s. The set designers’ first collective agreement was concluded with the Finnish Broadcasting Company in 1967. Another one was entered into with the MTV television company in 1970 and, finally, one was signed with theatres on December 31, 1973. The negotiations with theatres took place under the direction of the Finnish Theatre Workers’ Union (Suomen Teatterityöntekijäin Yhteisjärjestö, STY) which, now known as the Trade Union for Theatre and Media (Theatre- ja mediatyöntekijöiden liitto, Teme), had only been set up a month and a half before as an umbrella organization for the theatre workers’ various unions. The idea was expressly to unite the forces of the different unions for added weight in negotiations. The Union of Finnish Stage Designers was one of its four founders.

An understanding about the agreements on costume designers was reached a few years after the contracts with set designers were entered into. Most of them had made it a habit to report their current wages to the union as basis for collective bargaining. A professional esprit de corps was, however, not taken for granted by everybody in the 1970s. A major battle was also fought for the freelancers’ collective agreements, with the honour for this being due to the set and costume designer Pekka Ojamaa (Theatre Museum).

1973 was something of a setback year and marked a temporary phase of dispersion for the Union of Finnish Stage Designers: 17 set decorators quit it and founded the Union of Finnish Theatre Designers (Suomen Teatterilavastajien Liitto). While they justified the need for the new union in public by the differences between the job descriptions of theatre and TV/film set designers, their reasons for leaving were obviously more complex and partly due to the exacerbated political divides of the 1970s and to related prejudices. The Finnish Theatre Workers’ Union was initially labelled as leftist. These stigmata very soon disappeared as its achievements in trade union politics made themselves felt.

The memberships of the Union of Finnish Theatre Designers remained much less numerous than those of the initial union; even most of the full-time theatre set designers remained with the Union of Finnish Stage Designers. Pekka Heiskanen (Wikipedia), the first chairperson of the new union in 1973–74, had played a significant part in planning training for set designers and in teaching them in the 1960s. The current dichotomy made it more difficult to take part in exhibitions abroad and to apply for grants to do so for example. Finland was represented by Union of Finnish Theatre Designers members only in the international exhibition and competition of the 1975 Prague Quadriennale. The split also had an inevitable effect on personal relationships and thereby on job opportunities among other things.

An account on the various phases of the split is in preparation and will no doubt provide important information on its effects in the field. The Union of Finnish Theatre Designers was later disbanded and some of its members returned to the original union.

The memberships of the Union of Finnish Stage Designers increased at an accelerating rate: there were 64 members in 1965 and already 95 in 1971 and, by 1982, their number had gone up to 126. At present, the Theatre, Film and Television Designers has 267 members. In spite of its original name, the Union is also one for costume designers. The increase in memberships in the 1970s is actually in part due to the fact that the profession of costume designers had begun to expand little by little. It had been a long-standing practice in Finnish theatres that actors, heads of costume department, and, to a certain point, set designers too were in charge of the costumes. The impact of the establishment of professional costume design on the visual look of productions has been nothing short of decisive.

Spreading awareness of the art of scenography and costume design has been one of the established objectives of the Theatre, Film and Television Designers

Lack of expert criticism was recognized as a problem among the highly-trained and experienced artists of the union in the 1920s already. Indeed, spreading awareness of the art of scenography and costume design not only to theatregoers but also to those writing about theatre has been one of the established objectives of the Union and, later on, of the Theatre, Film and Television Designers throughout the years. Attempts have been made to remedy for this disadvantage with exhibitions, press articles, and publications too.

Apart from exhibition catalogues, the Union of Finnish Stage Designers has also published some larger works. The 36-page booklet Lavastus/Finnish Stage Design edited by Jaakko Hurme and released in 1962 presents some of the landmarks of the scenographic art of its era with pictures and words. In 2005, a collection of articles titled Harha on totta. Näkökulmia suomalaiseen lavastustaiteeseen ja pukusuunnitteluun 1900-luvun alusta nykypäivään (True Illusions. Viewpoints to Finnish Stage and Costume Design from the Beginning of the 20th Century to the Present, ed. by Heta Reitala) was published as a commemorative volume of the Union. Its illustrations span a period of nearly 100 years and include 200 pictures of the works by Union members.

Gathering pictures from scenographers and from all of the theatres of the country was a massive undertaking and required years of work. There was also a wish to make an even more widespread use of its results. This is why a collection of about 1,000 slides based on the materials collected for the book was produced in cooperation between the Union, the Theatre Museum, and the Department of Scenography of what was at the time the University of Art and Design Helsinki as a record of a significant sample of Finnish stage design for use in teaching and research. The online exhibition at hand has provided an excellent opportunity to present Union members and the profession to the wider audiences as well in a more comprehensive and more democratic way than before.

Eero Vasara (1956–66), Pekka Heiskanen (1966–71), Jorma Lindfors (1971–73), Måns Hedström (1974–75) (Wikipedia), Reijo Puttonen (1976), Urpo Puisto (1977–78), Asko Apajalahti (1979), Pekka Ojamaa (1980–83), Maija Pekkanen (1984–88), Ensio Suominen (1988–90), Samppa Lahdenperä (1991–95), Pekka Ojamaa, Juhani Pirskanen (1998–99), Timo Martinkauppi (2000–04), Sampo Pyhälä (2004–08), Antti Mattila (2008–14), Anna Sinkkonen (2014–16), Karmo Mende (2016–18), Minna Kauhanen (2018–2019), and Kirsi Manninen (2019­­–) have acted as chairpersons of the Union of Finnish Stage Designers after Tuukka, Warén, and Haapanen.

Sources

Reitala, Heta, “’Alas realismi, eläköön todellisuus!’ Varhaisen modernismin lähtökohtia ja suuntia suomalaisessa lavastustaiteessa”. In: Harha on totta. Näkökulmia suomalaiseen lavastustaiteeseen ja pukusuunnitteluun 1900-luvun alusta nykypäivään. Ed. Heta Reitala. Atena kustannus. Jyväskylä 2005.
Stegars, Rolf, “Näyttämön ja lavastustaiteen historiasta Suomessa”. In: Suomalaista skenografiaa. Lähtökohtia tallennukseen, tutkimukseen ja historiaan. Ed. Heta Reitala. Taideteollisen korkeakoulun julkaisusarja A5. Helsinki 1986.
Suomen teatterit ja teatterintekijät. Yhteisö- ja henkilöhakemisto, koottu suomalaisen teatterin 100-vuotisjuhlavuonna. Suomen Teatterijärjestöjen Keskusliiton julkaisu n:o 28. Tammi. Helsinki 1974.
Suomen teatterit ja teatterintekijät 1983. Yhteisö- ja henkilöhakemisto. Ed. Ilona Tainio. Suomen Teatterijärjestöjen Keskusliiton julkaisu. Tammi. Helsinki 1983.
Teatterin maailma 1965. Suomen teatterilaitos ja teatteriväki. Ed. Verneri Veistäjä. Suomen Teatterijärjestöjen Keskusliiton julkaisuja n:o 8. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi. Helsinki 1965.
Tola, Heini, “Suomen Lavastustaiteilijain Liitto 50 vuotta.” Teatteri 5/1978, pp. 22–23.
Vesala, Olli, Leipä- ja kulttuuripolitiikkaa. Suomen Teatterityöntekijäin Yhteisjärjestö STY ry:n historiikki 1973–1998. Helsinki 1998. A web publication

Non-printed sources
Lahdenperä, Samppa, telephone interview in August 2018.
Tandefelt, Liisi, telephone interview in August 2018.
Warén, Matti, writings, diaries, and minutes from the early stages of the association. Matti Warén’s archives.>


Matti Warén (1891–1955)

Matti Warén was undisputedly one of the most significant names of early Finnish stage design. His entire career as set designer took place in the Finnish National Theatre. Like many of his contemporaries in set design, Warén too was trained in visual arts. A graduate of the drawing school of the Finnish Art Society in 1912 and of the Art Room of the University of Helsinki in 1913, he complemented his studies in two Parisian academies of visual arts before the First World War. As a painter, Warén is known especially for his depictions of folk life, landscape studies, and portraits.

Matti Warén started out as a visiting set designer and artistic adviser at the National Theatre in 1920 on an invitation by its director Eino Kalima. Kalima had, immediately after taking over in 1917, set out to reform the obsolete 19th-century set design largely based on ready-made sets. In the early stages, he expressly invited pictorial artists to work as set designers. The first of them was Eero Snellman whose career in theatre remained a short one, however.

Matti Warén took on the reform challenge with ambition. In spite of his increasingly frequent visits as a set designer, he continued to perceive himself as a painter. After many years as a visiting designer, he finally accepted a permanent employment with the National Theatre in 1927. Since the early 1920s already, he held a day job as a drawing teacher at a school, a line of work that he pursued in parallel with theatre until his retirement in 1951. He would spend his mornings and days at school and his evenings and nights at the theatre. The situation speaks volumes of the meagre subsistence of a pictorial artist – and of the chief set designer of the biggest theatre in Finland: it was hard to provide for a family of three with only one salary.

Warén’s heyday as a set designer was in the 1920s and 1930s. His idiom was flexible enough to adapt for a wide variety of stylistic solutions: he is known both for fairytale-like works characterized by a sprawling imagination and for strictly reduced scenic images. His use of colour was talented and bold. A significant number of Warén’s stage sketches have been preserved, and they illustrate well his method of work: he often proceeded from realistic studies towards stylized sets. Even his strongly stylized scenic images and costumes were always based on solid historical knowledge, something Warén was indeed famous for.

A set by Matti Warén for Lauri Haarla’s play Velisurmaajat (Fratricides) at the Finnish National Theatre in 1926. Directed by Pekka Alpo. A sketch in the collections of the Theatre Museum. Photo: Helsinki University Photo Service.

It was with a number of national Finnish works that Warén achieved particularly fine results. These included sets for Lauri Haarla’s tragedy Velisurmaajat (Fratricides, 1926) and for Aleksis Kivi’s plays Kullervo and Yö ja päivä (Night and Day, 1934). In Haarla’s case, he came up with a stylized two-dimensional application of the way early-20th century Modernists used folk art: the key element was a conscious break from realism. His sets for Kivi’s plays show signs of compositional principles that even hint at cubism. Warén’s solution to adopt Kivi’s rhythmical language as the starting point for the visualization of Kullervo and to steer totally clear from the previous staging tradition of the play represented an entirely new way of thinking.

A set by Matti Warén for Aleksis Kivi’s Kullervo at the Finnish National Theatre in 1934. Directed by Pekka Alpo. A sketch in the collections of the Theatre Museum. Photo: Helsinki University Photo Service.

Matti Warén willingly designed the costumes too for the productions that he created sets for. He provided the director with suggestions for actors’ positions on the stage, which was exceptional in his time. Close cooperation with the director was his ideal. Warén’s background in pictorial arts was well in evidence in his aim to create a full Gesamtkunstwerk on stage instead of “mere” sets.

As a person, Matti Warén was flexible and humorous yet would stick obstinately to his artistic views if needed. This was not always easy at a time when materials were in short supply and the idea of set design as art was only gaining ground. Warén strove to promote this view not only with his high-quality sets but also with his press writings and his union activities. He was closely involved in the activities of the Union of Finnish Stage Designers from its beginnings and chaired it in 1945–1954.


Seppo Nurmimaa (1931–2011)

Seppo Nurmimaa’s career as a set and costume designer for the Finnish National Opera spanned almost 40 years. He started out at the Opera in 1957 as a set designer and was its chief stage designer from 1975 until his retirement in 1994.

Nurmimaa had studied at the Department of Decorative Painting at the Institute of Industrial Art in 1953–56. Actual set design was not taught at the Department while alfresco painting among other things was; any education in set design had thus to be sought for in a theatre apprenticeship. Nurmimaa, however, did not make it straight to theatre; instead, he worked for half a year after his graduation as a set decorator’s assistant at the Suomen Filmiteollisuus motion picture company. He appreciated the opportunity to observe closely the technical skills of Karl Fager, a set designer and set painter of long standing. A picture of Fager and the freshly-graduated Nurmimaa opens an illustrative perspective into Finnish theatre history: Fager had started out at the Suomalainen Teatteri, the country’s first Finnish-language professional theatre, in 1900 already while Nurmimaa on the other hand graduated as an artist at the dawn of what has become known as “Finnish design”.

The doors of the Opera soon opened for Nurmimaa, and the old opera house (now known as the Alexander Theatre) on the Bulevardi street was his home stage for almost his entire career. Its cramped facilities make staging operas with large choirs and ballets particularly difficult. Seppo Nurmimaa managed to solve the problems, and he is known for his ability to create time after time an illusion of depth and space on the small stage. The airy feel of his sets was often created with transparent elements like webs or grilles, and many of his works are indeed characterized by a certain graphic lightness.

Nurmimaa’s sets for Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, a major work about the life of the painter Matthias Grünewald in the 1520s seen at the Finnish National Opera in 1982 as directed by Jussi Tapola, have also been praised for their spacious feel. The dark chiaroscuro decors with their numerous settings and the intensive and rich palette of the Renaissance costumes designed by Nurmimaa gave a vivid picture of the spiritual and historical milieu of the piece.

Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler at the Finnish National Opera in 1982. Direction by Jussi Tapola. Photo by Kari Hakli.

As is customary to the Finnish National Opera, the stage designer of a production has often created its costumes too, and this is what Nurmimaa also did with almost no exceptions. He has stated that he feels even more at home with costume design than with set design and has stated putting an emphasis on the performers as a reason for this. Nurmimaa is also known for his playful imagination and the fairy-tale quality of some of his work. The soloists and a good many of the choir members in Leoš Janáček’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen (directed by Erich Bormann in 1970) played various animal characters. Nurmimaa’s sketches for the animal costumes are in a class of their own in their delicate cheerfulness.

Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida directed by András Mikó for the 1986 Savonlinna Opera Festival was one of Nurmimaa’s biggest projects both artistically and in terms of physical size. There were over 350 costumes to design, and the sets were massive. Once again, Nurmimaa managed to solve the challenges of a stage of a notoriously difficult shape in a fully functional way. The visually rich and well-balanced unity was received by critics and audiences with rapturous applause.

The current building of the National Opera by the Töölönlahti bay was inaugurated in 1993. Nurmimaa took an active part in designing its stage facilities. In his last few projects before his retirement, he had the time to experience the roominess and the technical possibilities of its grand stage. Seppo Nurmimaa was awarded an artist professorship for the 1983–88 period.

The article “Kuukauden taiteilija: Aidanrakentaja on räätälin sukua” (Rondo 5/1986) by Tero-Pekka Henell is one of the sources used.


Ensio Suominen (1934–2003)

Rauta-aika (The Age of Iron), a TV film from 1982. The Pohjola fortress. Directed by Kalle Holmberg. Photo by Antero Tenhunen.

Ensio Suominen, one of the best-known Finnish scenographers of the latter half of the 20th century, has even been called “the national stage designer”. The term describes his input as the designer of many nationally important large-scale works on Finnishness and on its history over several decades. Suominen has, however, also created sets for smaller-scale productions, international classics, and contemporary drama.

Ensio Suominen’s career is an exceptionally many-sided one. He started in film industry in 1950 first as a camera assistant at the Fennada-Filmi motion picture company before being promoted to B-camera operator, cinematographer, and set designer in 1958. He got to give shape to Finnish history in the next year already as the set designer of Punainen viiva (The Red Line, directed by Matti Kassila), a realistic film in which he inserted a modernistically stylized dream sequence that met with high praise in reviews. In 1959, Suominen started studying at the Free Art School under the supervision of Unto Pusa.

After the fade-out of the Finnish studio film era, Suominen moved to television and became, via the Tesvisio company, the chief set designer of the TV2 channel of the Finnish Broadcasting Company from where he switched to freelance scenographer in 1997. The early stages of his career include many genres from military farces to advertising films and from the Inspector Palmu films to current affairs programmes on TV. One milestone was Rauta-aika (The Age of Iron), a four-part 1982 TV production written by Paavo Haavikko and directed by Kalle Holmberg: an entirely new kind of take on the Finnish national epic Kalevala, it endeavoured consciously to avoid the clichés of its subject matter while creating new traditions.

Ensio Suominen already designed sets for spoken drama early on in his career along with film and television work but their number increased clearly as of the first half of the 1980s. Opera stage designs were also part of his job description since the 1960s already, with Aarre Merikanto’s Juha and Aulis Sallinen’s Ratsumies (The Horseman), the landmark works of the so-called Finnish “fur cap opera” performed at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 1970 and 1975 respectively (both directed by Kalle Holmberg) being no doubt the best-known.

In spoken drama, Ensio Suominen profiled himself especially as the scenographer of big stages in the 1980s when the big theatre houses were perceived as problematic by many and when the general trend was to seek out found facilities as well as various intimate and individualistic milieus. Suominen thought himself that he may have had enough of worn-out and difficult spaces when working on film productions and in the Olavinlinna castle and could also therefore appreciate the technical possibilities available on big stages. In any case, he had the exceptional ability to create tensions on a big stage even with very little in the way of physical elements. He often limited the performance area downstage, and even though his sets grew up into powerful visions of the worlds in the plays, the performers always played, quite literally, the main part in the scenic image.

The increased importance of lights in the dramaturgy of stage design and in set changes was one of the characteristics of his work. On the other hand, he only used hydraulics on extremely rare occasions. His important scenographies for the big stage include Kerttu-Kaarina Suosalmi’s Saari joka liikkuu (The Island that Moves, directed by Veli-Matti Saikkonen) at the Helsinki City Theatre in 1985 and Heikki Ylikangas’ and Ritva Holmberg’s Tie Tampereelle (The Road to Tampere, directed by Kalle Holmberg) at the Tampere Workers’ Theatre in 1996.

Suominen was the chairperson of the Union of Finnish Stage Designers in 1988–1990 and the director and associate professor of the Department of Scenography of the University of Art and Design Helsinki during the 1988–1989 period.


Liisi Tandefelt (s. 1936)

Liisi Tandefelt’s name cannot be ignored as far as Finnish theatre costume design is concerned. She was a pioneer especially in the 1970s when costume design started to rise into an entirely new position as part of a theatre performance.

Tandefelt graduated first as an interior decorator from the Institute of Industrial Art in 1958 and then as an actress from the Finnish Theatre School three years later. Before the 1960s, the responsibility for costumes lay partly with actors and partly with heads of costume departments. Some set decorators also designed costumes. In the 1960s, there was no actual training available in Finland for theatre costume designers and, when she started as a costume designer at the Tampere Workers’ Theatre in 1963, she had no permanent colleagues with employment contracts. Even her job description at the time was actress/costume designer. She has pursued her career as an actress at times in parallel with costume design, with the former having taken priority since 1992.

The costumes designed especially in the 1970s by Liisi Tandefelt were characterized by an air of handicrafts and by a powerful use of materials. She has pointed out herself that practical needs often were the starting point for working by hand since usable theatre fabrics were unavailable in Finland. Finnish theatre costume designers were influenced by and learned from Czechoslovakia where use of materials was markedly skilful.

This aura of handicrafts was displayed in a particularly fresh way in the costume design for William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in the Tampere Workers’ Theatre in 1972. It was produced on the small Kellariteatteri (“Basement Theatre”) stage where the audience could see the costumes at close range, hence a particular set of costuming challenges. Liisi Tandefelt’s idea broke merrily with every Shakespearean tradition as the costumes were largely made by knitting and printing on cloth. There were few historical references in the costumes while the long and narrow lines and other details characteristic to 1970s fashion were more than abundant instead. Caliban, the misshapen monster of the play, was seen in the production as a young hippie whose knitted cape trembled as a sign of his insecurities.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest. Tampere Workers’ Theatre, 1972. From left: Mauri Kuosmanen, Juha Mäkelä and Esko Roine. Directed by Esko Elstelä. Sets designed by Paavo Pirttimaa. Photo by Timo Palm.

The Turku City Theatre productions of Life of Galileo (1973) and Danton’s Death (1977) are some of Tandefelt’s best-known costume designs. In the texts of both plays, costumes play a dramaturgically significant part. The sets for Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo were deliberately designed with economy of expression in mind. The idea was that the characters and their interpersonal relationships would emerge clearly on a reduced stage. The power relationships at play were heightened further with costumes. Danton’s Death by Georg Büchner is about the power struggle between French revolutionaries, and the contrasts between the main characters was heightened with the help of costumes: while there were touches of both upper-class sophistication and informal nonchalance in the wardrobe of the bon vivant Danton, the mental rigour of his adversary Robespierre was brought to the fore with the tight-fitting uniform-like clothes whose stripes Tandefelt enhanced by hand with a marker to make a stronger impression. The costume designs of both productions were based on history while distance from realism was sought for.

Liisi Tandefelt’s costume designs for My Fair Lady at the Tampere Workers’ Theatre in 1985 were another major triumph for her – in the concrete sense of the word as well since the massive wardrobe was awarded a gold medal in the 1987 Prague Quadriennale. The musical features several elegant crowd scenes among which the famous Ascot scene is largely a fashion show. The ornaments of the costumes were printed in almost-ready clothes so that the carefully thought-out and partially even sculptural forms could be kept intact. Tandefelt found the decorative motifs for the musical set in 1914 in early-20th century architectural drawings.

The Ascot scene from the My Fair Lady musical. Tampere Workers’ Theatre, 1985. Directed by Mikko Majanlahti. Sets designed by Eero Kankkunen. Photo by Kari Hakli.


Tiina Makkonen (1952–2011)

Tiina Makkonen had a distinctive personal style as a theatre scenographer. She is known for using authentic materials and for creating installation-like comprehensive spaces. It was especially in the 1980s that she liked to create sets also outside ready theatre facilities; she found disused spaces and places that had seen life more interesting than traditional theatre spaces.

Makkonen often made the passing of time and the intersections of different time levels visible in her sets. The simultaneous presence of various time levels is, at times, written in play-texts as well, but she emphasized questions of time and memory in her work. She had graduated from a Steiner school and frequently displayed the impact of Steinerian thinking on her worldview and, hence, on her set designs.

In the late 1980s, Makkonen designed the sets for two Howard Barker plays at the Turku City Theatre. One was performed on the traditional big stage of a theatre and the other was staged in a 300-metre long corridor-like space at a former rope factory. The physical starting points of these spaces differed totally from each other yet had a strong spatial experience, the handicraft-like surface treatment, and authentic materials in common.

The auditorium/stage relation of Scenes from an Execution (Kohtauksia eräästä teloituksesta), a 1988 production at the rope factory, was something out of the ordinary. The entire 300-metre space, into which Makkonen had created a comprehensive set design, was used in the production. The audience lived in the same space with the actors and moved from scene to scene as the performance unfolded.

That Makkonen managed to create a comprehensive spatial experience on the big stage of the City Theatre too in 1986 was equally astonishing. In the text of Barker’s The Love of a Good Man (Kunnon miehen lempi in Finnish), a play that premiered at the time, the action is set on a WWI battlefield with piles of corpses. To emphasize the human suffering caused by war, however, Makkonen set the play in the middle of broken everyday objects inside a block of flats destroyed in the fighting. Both productions were directed by Juha Malmivaara with whom Tiina Makkonen worked in close cooperation. Her husband, the sound designer Kimmo Sillantie, was another important cooperation partner whose soundscapes deepened the experience of time and space in many a production.

Howard Barker, The Love of a Good Man (Kunnon miehen lempi). Turku City Theatre, 1986. Directed by Juha Malmivaara. Costumes by Merja Levo. Photo by Matti Kivekäs.

The way Makkonen designed sets was not far removed from installations, and, in the early 1990s, she designed and executed with her team a spatial work called Ad Mortuos (For the Dead) and a chronowork named Ad Futuros (For Those to Be Born, For Those to Come).

Makkonen graduated as a set designer from the University of Art and Design Helsinki in the 1970s. She has thanked her teacher, the set and costume designer Pekka Ojamaa, especially for successfully teaching passion for work. In 2001–2006, Tiina Makkonen worked in turn as a teacher there as professor of stage design in theatre.

The article “Tyhjä ja täysi. Tilan kokemus ja ajan työ Tiina Makkosen lavastusajattelussa” by Vesa Tapio Valo has been used as a source. It is in Harha on totta. Näkökulmia suomalaiseen lavastustaiteeseen ja pukusuunnitteluun 1900-luvun alusta nykypäivään. Ed. Heta Reitala. Atena kustannus. Jyväskylä 2005.