What is a performance made of? What does a costume designer do? What is performing after all? These and several other questions are answered in Theatre Museum.

Backstage, you can play the lead if you want. At numerous points throughout the exhibition, you can try things yourself, see how things work, and experience the thrill and joy of performing. Dubbing Karaoke lets you lend your voice to movie actors. In the Transformation game, you can change your appearance by putting on a shape-altering costume or inserting your face into a promo shot. With the help of scale models, you can test different lighting schemes and set changes, and in The Blue Studio you can shoot your own newscast. The scenes from Play It with Feeling have been shot beforehand with two professional actors; you play the third role. And finally, two stages await your performance: a traditional proscenium stage and a contemporary platform with lighting and wardrobes.

Those things that are unofficial, off-the-record, hidden from the public eye, stimulate the mind and the imagination. Moving around the hidden side of the theatre – the backstage world of wardrobe, set and prop storage – can be a fascinating. There, in the shelter of the curtain, unrelated objects rub shoulders: a Christmas tree, a pub counter, a horse and a coffin coexist peacefully with racks of clothes, closed doors… Anything feels possible.

There’s something rough-around-the-edges, something unfinished about the world of the backstage. This is the ambiance the Theatre Museum’s new permanent exhibition, Backstage, strives for. It takes visitors behind the scenes to see what performance and theatre are all about, and what the work of a performer entails.

Backstage was inspired by the idea that man is homo ludens, or homo performansis. Theatre is grounded in desires and needs typical to the species: the desire and need to perform or, correspondingly, to watch and listen. Backstage reveals the cultural spectrum of performance. In this diversity, the rules and conventions of performance change with time and place.

Although performance has been realized in different ways in different cultures, its fundamental premises are similar. The photographic essay The Marks of a Performer challenges visitors to consider different methods of performing – and then try them out themselves.

The collection’s costumes and scale models guide visitors into the bilingual history of Finnish theatre and its polysemantic present. The oldest treasures on display are Ida Aalberg’s and Axel Ahlberg’s late-nineteenth century costumes from the days of the Finnish Theatre. Dripping with the magic of the stage, the costumes and scale models, which are illuminated with individually customised fibre optics, communicate the visual richness of the theatre. Finnish actors and plays make an appearance in the exhibition’s cavalcades of photos.

According to visitor feedback, the best thing about the Theatre Museum is the activity-oriented exhibition space: the opportunity to step onstage oneself, and try out the lights and sounds. That unmistakable whiff of the theatre, the mood that’s so palpable you can almost touch it, is what sets the Theatre Museum apart from traditional museums. The new exhibition takes activity, involvement, and interaction to a new level.

So join us Backstage!

Theatre Museum

Exhibitions are open
Tue−Sun 11am−6pm, Wed 11am−8pm
Exceptions to the opening hours
Entrance fees: 5/8 eur, HC accepted
Cable Factory
Tallberginkatu 1 G, 00180 Helsinki, Finland
+358 (0)40 1922 300