Performing Home: Theatre, Performance, and the Experiences of Finnish Canadian Settlers
Keywords:Finnish-Canadian theatre, folk movement, immigration, community theatre, Thunder Bay, Ontario
“Performing Home” explores theatre in the Finnish settlements of the Thunder Bay region between 1880 and 1914. It begins with an overview of Finnish immigration to Canada, and moves into an analysis of the role of theatre in Finland, where it was used as a political and social tool by the working class to preserve language and identity under Russian rule. The fundamental role of identity in Finnish theatre made it well suited for Finnish communities in the isolated Thunder Bay region, as settlers “performed home” by mobilizing folk arts as a community building tool. This allowed for a greater sense of cultural identity, and helped Finnish immigrants maintain a connection to their language and national identity, while building a unique Finnish-Canadian artistry within their communities. The political tensions between socialist and conservative groups is explored through the use of theatre among workers’ unions, and temperance societies. Further, the article argues that the role of theatre was essential in the establishment of settlements in the north in necessitating greater need for community spaces, such as town halls, which ultimately led to the growth of Finnish settlements in the region. Finally, the article aims to show how the theatre of early Finnish settlements evolved as a tool to preserve cultural identity and give voice to an isolated community with a unique language.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Tara Schell
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