Riksteatern – National Touring Theater of Sweden

At this conference, Riksteatern is represented by Birgitta Englin, Executive Director.

Riksteatern, Hallundavägen 30, 145 83 Norsborg, Sweden
Contact: Birgitta Englin

social / community center (art, culture, but also other fields) & cultural center (arts and other cultural activities) & performing arts center / theater
nonprofit association / NGO, established by a government minister in 1933 and soon after by citizens who established local and regional associations that together formed Riksteatern.

Riksteatern, the National Touring Theater, was established 78 years ago as a cultural forum that enabled people to enjoy and take part in theater, regardless of their geographical location or socioeconomic status.
Our mission today is to create mental juxtapositions in many languages, in order to set thoughts and feelings in motion. As a movement with over 40,000 members, we have a particular responsibility to develop new democratic methods and structures in order to safeguard a citizen perspective in our productions and processes.
Within Riksteatern, there operate Silent Theatre, Sweden’s only theatre for and by the deaf, and the internationally-renowned Cullbergballet.

Riksteatern is owned by its members, which compromise a “folkrörelse” (a movement on a voluntary basis). More than 40,000 members and 231 local and regional associations in all 21 counties of Sweden create the country’s largest meeting-place for culture. Every four years, the member associations congregate at Riksteatern’s highest decision-making body, the Congress, to decide the upcoming year’s mandate for Riksteatern’s goals and directions, and to elect a board. The Swedish government elects the chairperson and one member of the board.
The board consists predominantly of members from the local and regional theatre associations, and it has overall responsibility for the structural strategies and focal areas of Riksteatern activities.
Riksteatern’s organizational activities are coordinated from Hallunda, a suburb of Stockholm where approximately 200 employees (excluding freelancers and part-timers) operate.

Organizational openness: Considering the large amount of collaborations we are engaged in, with artists and individuals not to mention communities, we would not be able to continue our projects and productions if Riksteatern as an organization were narrow-minded and non-inclusive. Our projects with, for example, children and youth, always provide spaces and methods that include ideas and visions suggested by participants, which leads to their general incorporation into the final production.

Riksteatern building in Botkyrka, Stockholm

Venue/s / resources: Riksteatern’s organizational activities are coordinated from Hallunda, a multicultural suburb of Stockholm where approximately 200 employees (excluding freelancers and part-timers) operate. In the building we have a number of minor rehearsal venues and stages. We do not own a physical building that serves as our theater; we are a touring company, and we perform on various stages around the country. Every year, Riksteatern visits some 300 locations, ranging from large cities to small villages. We provide around 60 staged art performances at theaters, in “people’s parks” (communal establishments consisting of cinemas, open-air theaters, etc), and at local cultural centers, festivals and schools.

Budget: more than €500,000.

Co-productions: We do not have a specific model, yet the vast majority of Riksteatern’s activities, both projects and productions, are co-operations in one form or another. For example, we have cooperated with the governmental Swedish Institute, Plan International and Action Aid in Ghana, where we came together with the National Theatre of Ghana to co-produce the play “African Cinderella” in Sweden and Ghana. Riksteatern’s ocal and regional associates provided the financial means that enabled the tour of Ghana. We also co-produce plays and other stage performances with regional theaters.

Hosting: Riksteatern’s local and regional associates purchase productions from Riksteatern and other governmentally-supported or private producers on a regular basis. Hence, the local population can choose from a wide range of performances, from Shakespearean classics to rap battles. On an annual basis, Riksteatern also organizes the Theater Days, which brings together hundreds of members, producers, organizers and other theater enthusiasts at our headquarters in Stockholm to attend seminars and workshops; to view plays, concerts, and other stage performances; and to network and exchange ideas.

Services: We support networks and groups active in civil society, both within and outside the cultural sector. We have provided space, i.e. offices and rehearsal venues, to various local groups. The cost is generally rather minimal, and below market value. We have also taken on the costs of employing a coordinator for a national network, Ideell Kulturallians, who can now better mobilize and disseminate the efforts made by the member organizations of the network, of which we are a founding member.

International collaboration: Very relevant! Indeed, in order to realize one of our visions – to create mental juxtapositions in many languages so we can set thoughts and feelings in motion – we welcome cooperation with various ethnic minorities in Sweden, as well as with other partners in Europe and the rest of the world. There is no one specific model from which we operate when it comes to international collaborations. In Dyarbakir, Turkey, we collaborated with local NGOs that focus on children’s rights. We organized workshops that used stage art to provide methods and forums that enabled children express themselves and learn more about their rights.

Participation / Gathering citizens: The structure of Riksteatern is unique because it is not a traditional cultural institution with one distinctive building. Rather, it is a network that brings together state cultural policy and a movement based in civil society that organizes cultural events of relevance – due to their focus on sociopolitical matters – in small and big cities. In addition, Riksteatern creates forums (i.e. workshops and seminars) for dialog between artists and the audience. This method creates opportunities to share experiences on the production’s topic (be it a play, a support gala for the democracy movement in Belarus, or a graffiti festival). This method constitutes the core of the active citizen perspective that Riksteatern aspires to bring to light in all its activities.

Neighborhood: Botkyrka Riksteater, the local Riksteatern association in the suburb of Botkyrka, regularly organizes plays and other stage performances in the theater venues of the Riksteatern building in Stockholm and in other local venues in Botkyrka. Schools located in Botkyrka regularly visit Riksteatern to enjoy various general rehearsals for free, particularly rehearsals of children’s plays. We have also cooperated with one specific school in the neighborhood where Riksteatern employees of Riksteatern worked with young students to develop a play, which was staged in Stockholm.

Municipality: We have positive cooperation with the Botkyrka municipality, where we have been engaged in a number of projects, mainly focusing on multiculturalism and youth.

Riksteatren - No Tears for Queers - play on hate crimes - LGBT - Spring 2011

Advocacy / activism: Riksteatern has been a principal actor in the Swedish cultural scene to promote narratives that shed light on human rights, diversity, and identity within the Swedish context. On an international level, we continue to invite, cooperate with, and (co)produce performances, on major or minor scenes, by artists and activists who tell awareness-raising stories about their realities, challenges, and successes. For example, we have organized workshops, within the framework of theater, on women’s rights, children’s rights, and freedom of speech and assembly in Turkey, Lebanon, and Ghana. We have also initiated projects that focus on greater youth involvement in civil society, within and outside the cultural sectors, where young people become “engagement guides” within their community. With the widely-toured play No Tears for Queers we shed light on hate crimes against the LGBT community in Sweden. The play was accompanied with a tailored workshop run by our collaborator, the National Association for Sexual Rights.

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