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Looky-looky, Vargamäe – no love, but children were born!?

In the last weekend of October, the children of several Estonian shelters and substitute homes got a chance to enjoy the new children’s play “Vai-vai vaene Vargamäe” (“Looky-looky, poor Vargamäe”) at Ugala Theatre in Viljandi. After a thought-provoking play, children had the opportunity to visit the backstage and meet the actors. This was followed by a tour of Viljandi, with a visit to all of the city’s most beloved tourist attractions.

The play is based on Estonian national writer A.H. Tammsaare’s renowned novel “Tõde ja õigus” (“Truth and Justice”), as adapted for children. The play came with laughs and cheers - as always in life - but with more serious undertones and profound story-lines designed to unravel the essence of “truth and justice” for the audience.

Worth the wait!

For first-time visitors of Ugala Theatre, all was new and fascinating. The drive to Viljandi was perfect for discussing the subject of the play, with many children being unfamiliar with Tammsaare’s novel. A quick preview gave an idea of what to expect.

One of the home educators told funny children’s stories within “Truth and Justice”, while others tried to sum up the novel in brief. All educators were quite eager to see how such a novel could be adapted for children.

The drive to the familiar city of Viljandi was quick. Some families even had time to visit Lake Viljandi and admire the view on Castle Hill. Just before the play started, there was enough time for a quick tour of the renovated theatre building. For those already seated, stage decorations garnered attention, taking the audience back in time to 19th-century Estonia.

Everyone needs hugs!

Even though the play was rendered to fit the audience of children, it was not the easiest of plays. What rang out was the thought that too much work without love can do harm: everyone needs hugs to get along in life. Children could relate to the text and topic of hugs, while educators could relate to over-working. A member of one of the families was so entirely smitten by the topic of love and hugs that she sighed loudly at times, turning heads and gaining smiles among the audience.

Most children were very involved in the play. There was no shortage of laughs and cheers on the stage. But laughs and cheers were followed by grimmer episodes, allowing the audience to feel for and sympathise with the characters. Indeed, a good play should evoke different feelings, both joy and sadness.

Heavy work and elusive love

Boys seemed to be more into brawls, stone-lifting and Pearu’s funny tricks, of which there was no shortage. Girls, in turn, seemed to enjoy tender, emotional episodes. The children were especially fond of Mari, who took it upon herself to also raise Krõõt’s children - a topic which many of the children could closely relate to. The children also realised that a lot more work needed to be done in the old days, with no time for merry-making.

One of the home educators nailed it, summarising the essence of the play: “Among the most memorable was the idea that there is love in the fields, in the ditches and in the woods, but not enough for home. A lot of love went to the work in the fields and the woods, but there was no love left for those at home. We should love those close to us above all else, and only then proceed with work. Otherwise, we can suddenly discover that we have worked all of our lives, without sharing any love. Let there be love or the heavens fall, said the woman in the play”.

During the interval, children could practise making purchases in the cafeteria. Each chose his or her own meal: it required some mathematical effort to stay within the budget.

Mari from the stage - like an old friend

When the play ended, the children had the opportunity to meet the actors, ask for autographs for the programme and take pictures with their favourite actors. There was also time for a Q&A session with the actors. “It is so cool that we got to go to the theatre and meet the actors”, the children of one of the families wrote in the feedback letter.

But asking for autographs is not always simple. One of the home educators wrote: “I had to encourage a girl who was afraid to ask for an autograph all by herself. But how was I supposed to know from which actor she wanted to get the autograph, right? And my ignorance could have cost her dearly...
I remember her face lighting up, when she returned and showed me her “spoils”. She was all chatty and excited. Well done! You can do it!”

The most eagerly awaited actor was Adeele Sepp, the actor playing Mari, and a participant in the popular Estonian version of the TV show “Your face sounds familiar”. All interested fans had a photo moment with Adeele. The children were also familiar with other actors, discussing which actor played in which TV series or movies on the way home.

The making of theatre

A tour in the recently renovated theatre building was exciting, as well, giving a glimpse of the various costumes as well as backstage areas and studios. A perfectly timed and spirited tour. It was especially fun to see things you could actually touch.

The children got a glimpse of the areas where actors prepare for the play, put on make-up and dress up in costumes. A large room was dedicated to stage decorations and paintings. It accommodated huge trees and plants, used for the stage background.

The Cipollino room provided a lot of excitement, along with the news that a single actor played several characters in the play. How can they change costumes and make-up so quickly? Fortunately, no one got lost in the halls and corridors of the theatre.

The full beauty of Ugala Theatre was revealed on the way home, with the theatre lights lighting up the evening. Young minds were excited about their theatre experience, with a lot to talk about and share.

A flood of emotions and questions

The children admitted that the play was educational and serious. On the way home, the discussion revolved mainly around the importance of love and caring in life. The conclusion was that it does not bode well to constantly argue with each other. Furthermore, we should not forget, when we grow up, that family is much more important than work.

The play unleashed a flood of emotions. Bigger children realised that if you truly desire something, you can achieve anything through hard work. The topic of love remained shrouded in mystery: even though there was no love, children were still born!?

In some families, the home educator made quite an effort to discuss the events seen on stage, and to explain what exactly happened and why. The children had a range of questions regarding “Vargamäe”, attaching their own meaning to many of the aspects. Plays requiring afterthought are indispensable for children.

Overall, it was obvious that the children understood the message of the play. The essence of Tammsaare’s often-quoted “work hard and love will follow” concept became much clearer for many. We should work hard anyway, but we should never forget loving and hugging those close to us. That’s it!


 

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