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  KALTIO 2/2004: Kristian Smeds - Without Compromising!

In English

Kristian Smeds:
No Compromise

Kaltio 2/04

Finnish text: Anniina Jokinen
English translation: Anniina Vuori
Images: Teijo Määttänen

During Kristian Smeds' period as the director of Kajaani Theatre, fury and the northern theatre's own voice have risen. 

Kristian Smeds, sitting in his office at the city theatre, waves joyfully. Outside in the coldness of February, the new high school graduates are on their celebratory truck ride. The group of senior students who took part in the recent Romuna rock revue wave cheerily back at the director.  

Smeds' term as the director of Kajaani city theatre is ending 30th of July. Eight years in a row as a theatre director - in Takomo, Helsinki before Kajaani - and three years in the scenic art council is a long time.
- I regard that as a sufficient amount of work for society, Smeds says.

Smeds says he came to Kajaani for the northern voice. It has been important to him to be able to show that quality theatre can be achieved anywhere. It is up to the creators, the people, what gets done. And that is a lot, when the artistic community and its leaders are able to genuinely communicate and motivate each other.

The workers always face a tough challenge when a new show is always started from scratch, and the motive has the be dug out of the work. The same structure never works twice. Smeds says that in order to succeed, everybody's effort is needed, not only that of the artistic personnel: the whole group is there to put together high-quality art. It is stressful for everyone, but also rewarding.

- I have good memories from this term. We have worked a lot together, the goals and things we aimed at have been reached, and we can be proud of our success. But we cannot stop there!

Smeds says he needs a break and some rest before taking up new challenges.

For Kristian Smeds, being an artist is a job which he says he learned through interest and education, by working. It has its own value.
- For I don't have the talent to understand and fix cars like my brother, he chuckles.

Artistry is also a calling for him, like work can be a calling for a priest, a doctor, or a teacher. For Smeds, the job of an artist is not always to build community, but also to oppose, state antithetical arguments instead of synthesis. An artist can, if he or she wants, participate in societal discussion as well as a politician. Without compromising!

Theatre is an art form which communicates with the community, and which according to Smeds can take an active role in it. He points out how theatre makers declare too easily that people do not listen or respect them, and says that theatre has precisely the value which its makers give it and claim. Meaning and value come from inside. And a show does not exist before meeting its audience, communicating with it.

What is Smeds after with his art?

- In the last instance, I keep doing the same work over and over again. I search for the possibility for the stage and the audience to meet and communicate. Feeling of life, tastes and smells! The themes, strategies, and people change, but the basis is the same. And the pieces cannot be put together without other people: the work is guided by who you work with; it's about seeing the possibilities of the situation, with those people. A different kind of Woyzeck was created in Kajaani than what it would have been anywhere else.



According to Smeds, a lot is going on in the north right now. He compliments the program of the theatre in Oulu as grand, talks about the Routa dance group from Kajaani, amateur theatre and the cultural project Generator.

- Living in this area, it's important to concentrate on what is here around us. The building blocks can be found there. And this applies not only to art, but to being in general. There is peace, space, real winter, clean nature: these are worth much more than money. When I visit Helsinki, it's like going abroad; I drink espresso, look at the ladies' new hairdos and other such things connected with travelling abroad.
Smeds says he is a restless soul, full of ideas and plans, of which 1 in 500 is worth realising. Peace is something he experiences when he works, as he focuses.
He talks about identity, which he tried to find already as a school boy - only to find that he is stuck between the city and the countryside. Such experience is undoubtedly recognisable for his whole generation.
- You always miss the place where you're not. In a smoky rock bar you long to be fishing at the lake, and vice versa.
Smeds' Finnish, which he talks and especially writes in, is according to him a mixture of general language and the dialects of Oulu and Lapland, general slang spiced with English, words he has made up himself, and influences from Finnish literature: fusion language, which even the man himself wonders about.
Kristian Smeds' Kainuu trilogy is going to end with The Three Sisters by Chekov, which premiers at the end of October. The parts already produced are Huutavan ääni korvessa and Woyzeck.
Smeds dreams of doing something small and simple after The Three Sisters, concerning separate artists. 
- Ymust also think irrational, childish, crazy ideas! They shouldn't be blocked. Male choir Huutajat, The Screaming Men, is a senseless idea, but it works. It depends on the people. If people do what they believe in together, voilà! Things start to happen.