Revisiting 2013

The Summer of 2016 is proving to be full of Leftovers remembrances. This time we just touch upon our 2013 show in the beautiful area of Odsherred, Denmark. The performance took place in the surroundings of Odsherred Kulturhistorisk Museum and the setting remains luscious and idyllic. Furthermore it’s great to see the OK festival has evolved into a popular multidisciplinary event: Geopark Festival.

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Visiting old haunts…

This summer three of the four Leftovers were brought together in Riga and decided to pass our old performance space – Stūra māja.
This space had proved to be the most challenging, yet possibly also the most rewarding experience on the Leftover tour. The dense history of the old KGB house left such huge impressions on all of us.
On arrival at Brīvības Iela we stood silent in amazement. The dark and ominous monument to oppression and terror had been transformed into a welcoming gentrified city house painted in delicate blues and whites.
The museum still exists but the future of the building is as of yet undetermined.
We will be following the process.

stura maja

Left: The Corner House

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Photos from the internet archives

Elin with the audience in National Museum of Finland, 2012

Elin with the audience in National Museum of Finland, 2012

National Museum of Finland, 2012

The Corner House, former KGB headquarters of Riga, 2014 -> by Nanni Vapaavuori, by Martins Otto

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Dear Stura Maja

Dear Stura Maja,

This is is now my fourth attempt to write a blog entry about our performances on your fifth floor in May. I’m not telling you this to evoke your pity, obviously that would be ridiculous and offensive. I’m telling you this to let you know what a profound impact you have. How you have made me speechless.

Granted, I am a worldclass procrastinator, but this was not one of those times where I didn’t make an effort (I can show you two other attempts, but I deleted the first one). Some say that procrastinators are often perfectionists who are unable to do things because they want the result to be so perfect that the task at hand becomes impossible. This is partly true for me, but most of the time I’m just good old fashioned lazy. Let’s call a spade a spade, you know.

However, when it comes to writing about you and our performance, I can’t find the right words, the right tone. I want you to like me and I want to chose my words carefully.

The first time you awed me was in the winter of 2012. We were working on the performance in Riga and Ivo showed you to us. Even from across the street, I stopped in my tracks. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I was cold (I was) but the mere sight of you seemed to align my cells in a new way, as if you were setting me up to meet you again. I knew I would. I was certain of it. I think you did that to all four of us, you convinced us then and there that we would have to come back, in hindsight I’m sure we did everything to achieve just that. I did it despite being petrified; what could I possibly say in your presence? What could I tell you that was of any importance given all the stories and lives you had seen already?

And somehow we found ourselves (I say “somehow”, but in all fairness Ivo worked relentlessly to make it happen) sitting in your court yard in May 2014, 9 days before we were expected to perform. We had just taken a tour of the rooms that were used a prison cells and torture chambers during the KGB years. The tour left me numb to everything except you. A divider in time. I’ve had other meetings that have left me numb, but not quite in the same way. For days, every idea I had seemed silly and useless. Everything I wrote, I discarded. I couldn’t even chose rooms to tell stories in. In the end I realized what we – honestly- have in common; we both come from middle class backgrounds, and trite as it is, that was what I could talk about in your rooms. Telling the truth about my life as a middle class princess in a room once designed for middle class princesses seemed alright despite the prison a couple of floors down.

In fact, in a strange way I felt like I was carefully blowing at the embers of what the architect Aleksandrs Vanags had once intended. Though, of course, I have absolutely no idea if he would have liked storytelling performance art. Basement rooms that started out storing tools, became rooms packed with prisoners, and now these rooms are empty and viewed by tourists – people who are free to travel and chose to come and go. For the fifth floor we brought in another group, an audience, adding yet another layer: creating intimacy through distance. Rooms that were designed for children to sleep in, became the nightmares of grown men and now we created a dreamscape of our stories in them. Neither good nor bad, just different. An attempt to open the senses to the rooms and making a portal in time; maybe by tellling our stories – as different and unrelated as they are – other stories would emerge. It seemed that they did. I hope they still do.


Dear Stura Maja, It has been a month now. It’s been three weeks since this blog was supposed to be written, I had promised.

I still think about you every day, like a lovesick teenager. I miss you, and yet it is terrible to think about you. I can’t write this without feeling melodramatic and clammy. When I was sixteen I wrote an epic love poem and my teacher dismissed it as crap. She gave me a B+ if I remember correctly (being ambitious as I was, B+ felt awful, especially since I for once had decided to be honest. “Write what you know” certainly did not do me any good then. And here I am doing an entire performance based on truth and facts). Writing this blog makes me feel the same as back when I was sixteen having my paper graded. I am trying to be honest about my feelings, but all it amounts to is a garbage heap of words. Should I take my feelings out of it?


Dear Stura Maja,

We were awed and impressed by you and the people who work with you. The audience was amazing and we hope we gave them a good experience. We worked very hard. It was unseasonably warm. It rained. Some days were very tough and others were cold. And most of the time I thought about a lot of stuff. Like life. I miss you. Sincerely, xoxo elin

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Warm and wonderful reception from Riga audience

Since the premiere on Wednesday the shows at the Corner House have been full of audience. It’s the best compliment a performing artist can get. It’s been particularly rewarding to hear feedback saying that the performance brings new life to the building in a right kind of way – cleansing the stuffy air without forgetting it’s past. We are proud that our humble family stories could have such effects.

Fortunately, there’s still one more show to go tomorrow. Riga performances end too soon!

Some photos from the premiere party:


Nina caught unaware by Jurgis


Assistants Elina, Sintija, Rudolfs and Viesturs




Elin explaining something in detail to Oliver – who has seen all the versions of Leftovers since Helsinki world premiere


Very happy technical director Nanni

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The first drafts of texts were more or less finished by Friday. Over the weekend we started rehearsing in the rooms with our assistants. Sunday we had four hour long marathon during which we presented the results to one another. Afterwards we had an internal evaluation of the texts and scenes. Yesterday, after a night of rewriting, we made corrections and planned the logistics of the tours audience will make around the fifth floor, where most of the performance will take place. Also, the sound, props, lights, furniture and other visual design are under construction. Finding the right things can be time consuming. Like on Friday I spent hours with Nanni to find a travel blindfold with no success – just to find out that Elin had one already! Even the most simple thing can be hard to get, like hair for example…

the Riga team

Yesterday we all had a feeling that we had finally conquered the fifth floor of the Corner House. This week it will be ours. Of course, the past is there with us, and it should be, but we have bulldozed a spiritual space to breath, a space for our family stories in these gloomy rooms. And something weird happens: the part of the house where we reside starts to feel like a normal working place. And I’ve been asking myself is right or is it wrong to feel like that. Yesterday, I went to the prison cell corridor in the first floor to remind myself that this is what happened here.

I think it is important to have these places to remind ourselves, especially for us who have not actually experienced the cruelty of a state oppression machine.

We are having some test audience today!


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Invading the Corner House

On Monday the gorgeous sun welcomes us to Riga and our first visit to the Corner House (Stura Maja) on Brivibas Iela. After taking the spine chilling official tour, studying the rich and information packed exhibitions we are all freezing inside. The history of the house is so compact and painful – where will we find room for our families?

We meet with our hosts from Riga 2014 and Stura Maja and our local creative team – Jurģis Krāsons (set design) and Andris Indāns (sound design) – for an informal chat and initial collective panic attack. And what a calming bunch of people they turn out to be! Helpful, practical and full of confidence.

So now there’s nothing to do but work. Tuesday the house is closed and we meet our 4 lovely assistants, Viesturs Balodis, Rūdolfs Balodis, Elīna Tarasa, Sintija Silova, who bravely embark on this journey with us. Together we go to explore the house and get a rough idea of the rooms we will occupy. It’s not a place you feel comfortable being in alone – or at night for that matter! There are plenty of stories in these walls.

Wednesday is Jurģis’ turn to perform, as we visit the Riga Kino Studio area to empty his prop storage space. It’s full of useful stuff and Ivo seems overjoyed to find an old radio like his father’s. And Elin is relieved to have solved a major issue about her grandparent’s story.

Thursday Janne, Nina, Elina and Rudolph visit the New Theatre of Latvia to get bits a pieces for the costumes  and  the props arrive at the House. We go through the rooms with our technical director, Nanni, and Kristine from the exhibitions to get approval. Otherwise we are writing, writing, writing, writing and writing…

the corner house   gang in Rigameeting the assistants  inside the house


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