Our history

Theatre has been an important part of Ostrobothnian identity in many ways. Below are some key milestones in Wasa Teater’s 100-year history.

1865 – The first mention

The interest in theatre in Vasa began in the 18th century when the Vasa Court of Appeal was established. Performances were held in temporary premises, and travelling theatre companies provided the theatre. In 1865, the cellar master Kjellman’s salon, which later became Ernst, is mentioned for the first time as a theatre venue.

1919 – Wasa Teater is founded

The need for a theatre of its own in Vasa had been discussed repeatedly since the 19th century. When the Swedish Domestic Theatre ceased its touring activities and became Åbo Svenska Teater in 1919, the plans gained momentum. In March 1919, a general meeting was held at which it was decided to form a theatre company in Vasa. The driving force behind the project was the businessman Holger Schauman, who was elected chairman of the first board of Wasa Teater. The intention was also to build a theatre building, but while waiting for more favourable economic times, the company started operations in a temporary auditorium on the upper floor of the Ernst Hotel.

1930s – Bankruptcy looms

In the 1930s, bankruptcy was imminent. The theatre’s finances were at rock bottom. The management’s only option was to call a general meeting and propose that a bankruptcy petition be filed. When it became widely known that the theatre’s existence was threatened, a strong public opinion emerged. In a single day, a rescue operation was carried out that secured the theatre’s future.

1953 – Wasa Teater burns down

The Foundation’s finances never allowed for the construction of a theatre building, even though it had finished drawings and acquired a plot of land for the purpose. Instead, the old hotel was renovated with funds raised in the summer of 1950. Wasa Teater was reborn in a new and stylish guise. However, the good fortune did not last long – on a cold January morning in 1953, the fire was out, and thousands of grief-stricken citizens watched as firefighters struggled and the theatre went up in flames.

1955 – An impressive effort

On the day of the fire, a fundraising campaign was launched to rebuild Wasa Teater from the smoking ruins. Money poured in from all sides, from individuals and companies, from all over the country and from Sweden. One of the driving forces behind the fundraising was director Carl Estlander. In the economic climate of post-war Finland, raising funds for a new theatre was a great achievement. The new theatre was inaugurated in September 1955.

1980 – The new theatre

Wasa Teater became a regional theatre in 1980. The operations were taken over by the Ostrobothnian municipalities through an association, while the property is still owned by the Wasa Teater Foundation. In 1997, the Swedish Ostrobothnian Association for Education and Culture became the principal of the activities and at the same time took over the property from the Wasa Teater Foundation. In connection with the change of ownership, the theatre was renovated, but much remains undone for financial reasons.

2019 – Wasa Teater 100 years

Wasa Teater celebrated its 100th anniversary on 1 November 2019. Wasa Teater is one of the oldest and most important cultural institutions in Ostrobothnia. The goal for the 100th anniversary was that the theatre would have a newly renovated, accessible theatre building with an exciting and varied range of performing arts that arouse interest regionally, nationally and throughout the Nordic region.

Wasa Teater was founded and developed primarily thanks to patrons with an interest in theatre and foresight, and not least a committed audience in Vasa and Ostrobothnia.

Wasa Teater 100 years – the history

In September 2019, a history of Wasa Teater was published. The main writers were journalist Anci Holm and actor Elisa Makarevitch. In addition to stories and interviews with former employees of the theatre, the history also contains a huge list of plays performed with information about the director, participants, etc. The Wasa Teater Foundation made the history in collaboration with the publisher Scriptum.

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