Juha Jokela’s The Docents (Dosentit) explores conflicts in the academic world on many levels. The central character is Johanna Virtanen, whose research on the work environment at her home university causes tensions among colleagues. Conflicting interests escalate to the point where Johanna feels academic freedom is forced into battle against the university’s political agenda. Is she being silenced because her research results might bring to surface a need for change?
The play is mostly a traditional reality-based drama with characters communicating with each other through words. However, Johanna’s role and mode of speaking shift throughout the play as we are given a lecture, followed by an inner monologue; these scenes are interspersed by tense communications with e.g., the university’s principle, Johanna’s ex-husband post his academic glory days, and a sharp-tongued young post-doc researcher who helps Johanna with her materials as well as the violent world of social media debates.
Through a small set of characters experiencing the environment in one unnamed university, The Docents asks questions about academia’s role in society, morals in searching for the truth, and the pressure to comply.
Jokela wrote The Docents for The Finnish National Theatre and directed the production in 2021.