Thesis supervisor: Professor Anneli Saro
Opponents: dr Peter Eversmann (University of Amsterdam), dr Ott Karulin
The PhD thesis focuses on the functioning of theatre in the city of Tartu in an international comparative perspective. The research presented is based on an extensive empirical study, conducted in the framework of STEP (Project on European Theatre System) that is a comparative study carried out in seven cities in smaller European countries to analyse the differences and similarities of different theatre systems and the reasons behind.
To understand the functioning of a theatre system, the theatre supply i.e. the number of different productions of different genres as well as the number of different organisations offering them, the number of performances i.e. the number of visits to these performances and finally the reception of theatre are studied. It is pointed out how the historical and cultural development of theatre system, the structure of the system, the theatre policy and economic aspects influence the functioning. In addition, the reception of different types of performances is analysed to understand what theatre does for its audiences and therefore in the society.
The study shows that differently from other cities, Tartu is clearly dominated by spoken theatre. This dominance can be explained culturally, historically as well as with the existing theatre policy that is structuring the theatre system. Spoken theatre has been a preserver of language and thereby of culture, currently the Estonian Ministry of Culture is allocating the biggest subsidies to organisations staging mostly spoken theatre. In addition, spoken theatre is cognitively the most understandable type of theatre. Producing other types of theatre is also not supported by the size of the country – in a small country like Estonia, there are often not enough audiences for more alternative genres. Besides, the theatre education in Estonia is quite one-sided.
The reception research points out that the reception of different types of theatre is similar in different cities. Spoken and dance theatre are experienced as more challenging and serious, musical theatre as more entertaining and relaxing type. The most influential factors determining the overall satisfaction with the performance are the skilfulness of the performers and the ways performance is able to draw the spectator into the world created on stage.