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Already in the September newsletter we published an article about the one-woman-show “God is my Typewriter”. The play is based on the life story of the American Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry Anne Sexton. The Finnish actress Anna-Mari Laulumaa is performing this story of a lifelong battle against depression, mania, suicidal tendencies as well as of her relationship with her husband and children. Anna-Mari has been touring female prisons in Latvia, Finland and Sweden and recently got a new grant for touring female prisons abroad. So I am also open to invitations outside Europe. After her first tour Anna-Mari said: “I felt that inside a prison the questions are very serious, so this serious tragedy was the kind of theatre that could help the inmates to process their own true questions. And these questions are probably similar to the questions that Anne had. Very, very difficult questions.” If you are interested to invite this performance to your female prison please contact [email protected].
Anna-Mari Laulumaa has been touring with her one-woman-show ”God Is in My Typewriter” in female prisons. The tour started from Ilguciema, Riga, then she headed to Ystad and Hinseberg in Sweden and finally to Vanaja in Finland. ”The staff and the inmates welcomed us so warmly”, says Anna-Mari. ”The atmosphere after the performance was full of warmth and showed me the power of theatre. When the inmates stood up and applauded after the performance in Hinseberg, I was so grateful. There we were, a group of women thinking about the universal questions – together. This first tour was such a good experience for us, for the staff and for the inmates, so I truly hope that I can make another tour with this performance to some other female prisons in Europe.”
The performance is in English, but it is easy English and very visual. Anna-Mari has been performing this story now for 65 times in 7 countries and to even more nationalities. “If English is not your mother language or even if you don’t speak it at all, you will still understand it. And sometimes the inmates were whispering to each other, translating some words and it is always possible to make a short hand-out with basic information in the local language to help to follow the story.”
Anna-Mari got a grant for this tour from the Arts Council of Central Finland.
”It made the tour possible. And Virva Ojanperä from the Criminal Sanctions Agency here in Finland and EuroPris helped me so much in getting in touch with the right people. And then the first invitations came from Elina Gusare in Latvia and Jacques Mwepu from Hinseberg, Sweden. Those invitations made this tour real. And this would not be so beautiful without having Arto Saarelainen with me creating the lights and the atmosphere of theatre inside the prisons and also driving the car from one prison to the next one. In every prison the staff was also most helpful. I understand that it is always a lot of extra work to bring us and all our props inside the prison. But everything worked beautifully. We were taken care very well. So the tour is a result of many people willing to help and to participate.”
After the performance there was a discussion about the themes of the play. ”The questions posed by inmates were so adequate and honest.” Anna-Mari continues. ”Why did she commit suicide in your opinion? What was the most difficult part for you to act? Why did you come to prisons?” For this last question Anna-Mari had to think for a moment. ”Actually, I am performing here, because Tuula Tarvainen, the Director from the Laukaa prison in Finland first asked me to come there. And after that performance I had such a strong feeling that this should be taken also elsewhere. So I guess that the reactions or the responses of the inmates and the staff in Laukaa were the reason why I continued to this direction. Initially I was afraid that this painful story would add to the inmates’ pain. But it was quite the opposite. And during this tour it became clearer to me. One member of the staff said that she had been discussing with the inmates the three themes that are in the play during the day. And one guard said with tears in her eyes that she had seldom seen these girls sitting so peacefully and fully concentrated for one hour. So, I guess it reaches the audience and speaks the language they know or, maybe, it even helps them to process their own experiences, watching me living trough Anne’s struggle. For me theatre is a holy thing. There is a lot of entertainment in this world nowadays. But I felt that inside a prison the questions are very serious, so this serious tragedy was the kind of theatre that could help the inmates to process their own true questions. And these questions are probably similar to the questions that Anne had. Very, very difficult questions.”
Creating a one woman show based on Anne Sexton’s life story has been very meaningful and partly also a painful experience for Anna-Mari. She read through the poems, letters and bios and adapted these 2000 pages to this one-hour (and 9 pages) performance. ”So many choices had to be made. A life in one hour. It is always only a glimpse of it,” thinks Anna-Mari. ”There was a sentence in my mind throughout the rehearsal process. ‘Mercy is even bigger than love.’ I still don’t quite understand it, but it is a very important sentence to me.”
God Is in My Typewriter is based on Anne Sexton’s (1928-1974) life story.
Anne Sexton (November 9, 1928 – October 4, 1974) was an American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. Themes of her poetry include her long battle against depression and mania, suicidal tendencies, and various intimate details from her private life, including her relationships with her husband and children.