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Jaak Allik: No satire in Old Baskin's Theater anymore

Jaak Allik.
Jaak Allik. Source: ERR

Former culture minister and theater critic Jaak Allik was a guest on Vikerraadio's "Vikerhommik" morning program, where one topic that came up was the funding of theaters, in particular the fact that the Ministry of Culture did not provide any funding to Old Baskin's Theater in Tallinn.

"When I read that Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) had declared Old Baskin's Theater a security agency for humor, I started seriously laughing hysterically," Allik said. "He's said all kinds of stuff during his career, but this was one of his better gems."

Politicians, he added, are just talking about a topic they don't really know anything about.

"What I'd like to know  is whether the leaders of any of the coalition parties, or in this case those who have commented, Reinsalu, Helme and Aab, have seen any of this theater's performances so that they can really discuss this matter," Allik continued.

According to the critic, he has been part of the jury for the theater awards in recent years, due to which he has seen some 100 new productions. "Thus I have also seen all of Old Baskin's Theater's productions from the past couple of years," he explained, adding that as the theater gives around a hundred performances a year, then apparently they must have enough of an audience.

"Nonetheless, it should be considered how this theater was born, what its goals were at its establishment, and I dare comment on this because I had a good relationship with Baskin, which was demonstrated by the fact that [Eino] Baskin's relatives asked me to speak at his funeral," Allik said.

"When Eino Baskin established this theater in 2004, it was a very bourgeois feat for him to establish his own theater again," he said, confirming that Old Baskin's traveling along the community centers of Estonia was not his initial goal. "He wanted a stationary theater, for which he fought for decades."

He stressed, however, that not a single actor is working at Old Baskin's anymore. "There is no permanent troupe; there are no technical workers. This is a producer's office being maintained by Aarne Valmis."

Allik likewise confirmed that the actors that motivated Baskin to establish the theater in the first place are now involved in several other projects. "Egon Nuter is an actor with Tallinn City Theater, and Anne Veesaar and Liina Tennosaar also perform here and there too, so that someone would end up unemployed with the closure of this theater is not an issue," he said.

"This isn't Baskin's theater anymore; it's moreso Eero Spriit's theater, who has mainly been directing there, with a few exceptions," the critic said, saying let Spriit direct there then, if people want to see it. "Whether the state should support this, however, is a matter for a competent committee, which has been appointed by the law to decide this matter."

Those people who specifically only go Old Baskin's Theater don't exist in Estonia, Allik stressed, highlighting the fact that Estonia is unique in that there are no populated places in Estonia that are located more than 100 kilometers away from a professional theater.

"Thus everyone who still wants to attend the theater still has that opportunity," he said, adding that it's of course nice that they visit community centers as well. Community center directors, he noted, have said that they are financially good for approximately one performance a month.

"I would also like to recall the fact that Baskin has gone down in theater history with his sharp social satire," Allik said. "Old Baskin's Theater currently doesn't possess any sort of element of societal satire."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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