HFS meeting Sirenos

Human encounters in Vilnius 

The Feminist Secret Society of Helsinki has received an invitation to appear at this year’s Vilnius International Theatre Festival SIRENOS with their show titled Encounters. In preparation, members of the public have been asked to apply to take part as “invisible partners” during the show’s two-night run. The role of these volunteers will be to share their thoughts on any topics of their choosing, with their words conveyed to the audience by on-stage “borrowed bodies”. 
In October, the Feminist Secret Society of Helsinki’s Encounters will be appearing on stage in Vilnius, Latvia as part of the SIRENOS international theatre festival. For the artists Katri Naukkarinen, Amanda Palo and Olga Palo, the festival appearance marks the first time their participatory theatre work has been performed in translation and in a new cultural setting. 
Ahead of the festival, a public call has been launched to find “invisible partners” to discuss topics of personal relevance and interest to them, with their words conveyed on stage by so-called “borrowed bodies”. Under the show’s concept, volunteers will be brought into an encounter with the audience, their interaction mediated by the bodies and voices of the performers, without ever coming face-to-face with the audience or each other. 
Even before the deadline, the number of people expressing an interest had far exceeded the number of places available,” said producer Kristina Steiblyte
The application form lists some suggested topics of conversation for the volunteers, including sex, home, family, love, guilt, bug life, social norms, mental health, fear of loss, goodness/kindness and LGBTQIA+. 
Whenever we stage this particular performance, we always hope that people will choose to discuss topics that really matter to them that they might not otherwise feel able to talk about in public. Obviously, we’re conscious that these things are always context dependent, and what constitutes a political hot topic, for example, will vary from country to country,” commented Amanda Palo of the Feminist Secret Society of Helsinki collective. 
The exact course the conversation takes is always determined in the live moment. While the “invisible partners” remain hidden, they are represented on stage by professional actors. In Vilnius, these will be Vilma Raubaitė, Milda Naudžiūnaitė and Livija Krivickaitė along with dancer Austėja Vilkaitytė.  
The set up in Vilnius is particularly intriguing for us because of the added twist of everything taking place in Lithuanian, which none of us speak, but we’ll obviously be staying very much attuned to the atmosphere on stage and in the auditorium,” Amanda Palo added. 
Encounters, Vilnius will run at the festival on 4–5 October 2023. In May of this year, the Feminist Secret Society of Helsinki ran a pilot, also in Lithuania, to test out the concept. Encounters received its world premiere as part of Helsinki City Theatre’s Nykyesityksen näyttämöllä contemporary live art showcase at Studio Pasila in August 2022, but it first came into existence in 2018 as part of a Mad House Helsinki event under the title First Encounters
TINFO has supported the development of the Encounters concept into an export showcase for Finnish talent as part of our wider activities on international mobility. Further projects are set to be launched over the next three years in countries with close geographic and cultural links with Finland, with funding provided by the Finnish Cultural Foundation. 
TINFO / Sari Havukainen, 25 September 2023  
Translated by Liisa Muinonen-Martin

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