Theater makers: Not too many actors in Estonia

Mart Koldits.
Mart Koldits. Source: ERR

Ever-decreasing funding for culture has prompted the question of whether Estonia is educating an excessive number of actors. Theater professionals themselves are divided.

In Estonia, acting is taught at two institutions, in Tallinn and Viljandi. The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EAMT) in the capital city graduates 14 students on average every two years. Mart Koldits, director of the performing arts department, believes that not enough actors are trained there.

"I don't know of any other university disciplines with employment rates approaching 100 percent among graduates. In 2022, one moved on to receive a master's degree, half are contract workers in professional theater and half continue as freelancers, but still in professional field.

The University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy (UT VCA) annually graduates eight to 10 actors. Tiiu Tamme, program manager of the performing arts curriculum, said that graduates acquire a comprehensive understanding of the field and are qualified to work in a variety of acting-related positions.

"There are also independent and project theaters, as well as the film industry, where only freelance actors work. In fact, a large number of small theaters lack the capacity to employ their own permanent staff."

Rakvere Theater houses 17 actors. The theater's artistic director, Peeter Raudsepp, said the issue is not a shortage of actors, but rather inadequate funding for small theaters.

"The state is keeping county theaters on a shoestring budget, so we cannot take on more people. Obviously, the increasing number of actors migrates to the centers where freelance employment is available. Then there seems to be a lot of actor and Tallinn has a lot of actors indeed."

Vanemuine Theater currently employs 25 actors. Tiit Palu, head of drama at Vanemuine, said that he is sometimes asked about vacancies a couple of times a week.

"Our positions are numbered. Unfortunately, we do not have any openings but we would gladly hire more.  We employ them as guests instead, as there are times when we need to replace someone fast or bring in a guest actor."

Mart Koldits said that because acting education also allows students to pursue a variety of side projects, Estonia's diverse theater landscape still affords graduates the opportunity to secure a professional position.

"I believe the artistic and institutional diversity of the Estonian theater scene is adequate for our small demographic," he said.

Everyone agreed that Estonia needs multiple training institutions for actors. "I believe it is important that we have two schools and distinct performing arts institutions," Tamm said. "Also in the arts competition is necessary to prevent stagnation and ensure constant development."


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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