SKENE, a musical theatre school for youth: interview with Jermo Grudstrom and Anna Paivaniemi
Skene is a musical theatre school for youngsters and teenagers. Its founders are Marco Bjurström and Sinikka Sokka: in 2006 they realised there's hardly any chances for youth to study and do musical theatre. Now there is and this year's show The Addams Family was directed by Jermo Grudström, whom I got to interview after the premiere 15.5. He's also continuing next year as a director and acting coach in the group. With us sat also Anna Päiväniemi, who is a student but also works as a dance captain in the group.
Jermo, how's the feeling after the premiere?
It's always the same. it's like a balloon that grows and then puffs away, and then there's just the emotions.
When did the process start?
In August. We start working on acting, dancing and singing, though my first task as a director is to gather up the group as one through some exercises, which are Laban and Viewpoints inspired. In acting we have, for example, Stanislavski-inspired exercises by me. I think it's important to think through that what does it mean to be an actor. It's definitely a process from inside-out. You have to know who you are and what you can do and what works for you.
Anna, what kind of directing works for you as a dancer and a student?
I've loved Peter's (Philström) way of directing our dance: it's direct and strong. Like, if the hand is meant to be here in the choreo, it is here.
How did you experience Jermo's way of directing you into one group?
He always directs towards it! It's so important, in dance too, to listen to others. Whenever, for example after the Holidays, the group's working got a little shuddered, he always reraised the group exercises to us.
What kind of exercises are you talking about? Jermo?
For example the one where they have to walk in a ring and stop at the same time without someone leading it. That simple exercise was impossible at the beginning! Everyone was like, he's a crazy man.
And then when we do it now, it works. They know each other know, they know each other's energy. I myself used to be on stage before and I know that if you don't know how to read energy and impulses, you'll have really hard time working, as a performer, actor, dancer... You have to know the base of what you want, what's your focus, how do you drive that...
At one point he asked us really many questions and we went like uh, I don't know. And that's the point where you start thinking.
Yes, so it's more like, not to give you anxiety but actually start the process of thinking, though you may not have all the answers? Jermo?
Yes, start thinking!
So how were you asked to direct at Skene?
I directed Tampere's music theatre students (at ammattikorkeakoulu) and their Godspell-musical production. Someone from Skene saw it and so I got contacted by them.
What do you think is the most rewarding thing as a director?
It's these people who are on stage. 100%. Seeing how much they grow and how much they get to understand. And I hate this day when it all ends and everyone is going on their own ways.
What's the most challenging part?
It's yourself, the things you put on yourself.
What would you say to anyone who's interested in Skene and musicals in general? What about those who end up changing their minds about their dreams, like it happened in the Addams Family?
Apply and follow your dream. Try it out. I think it like this: I used to be on stage, acting, dancing... And even if you feel sometimes like no, I don't want to do this, Skene is a good school for life. You learn how to feel and be with people. And that's what acting is too.
What do you think, Anna?
-Yeah (if someone's been dancing all her life and now thinks I don't want to do this, it's) totally fine. It's the journey. It's making up your own mind and finding your place in the world.
Well said Anna, well said.