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A bigger group of strangers

by Yasmin Ahsanullah

photo: Darina Rodionova

Having just emerged from an intense but rewarding rehearsal and performance period of The Stranger, back into the gloomy, cold reality of November in Finland, it’s hard not to feel a bit disoriented, a little like a stranger myself. However, that is a feeling I’m used to by now. I guess that is the feeling that drew me strongly towards the work of New Theatre Helsinki, and that through some happy little coincidences made

me part of the cast of The Stranger – one other in our lovely little group of others.

Theatre is a place I call home, and during the process of making The Stranger, it was easy to feel at home. Due to the support, creativity, and sense of humor of the cast and production team, it was easy the be vulnerable, open and creative, it was easy to share ideas and feel free. This led to the crazy, wonderful, whirlwind show performed at Vuotalo at the end of October, as part of the New Theatre Helsinki Pop up.

Theatre is a place I call home, but it hasn’t always been welcoming. Theatre is one of the great loves of my life, but it doesn’t always love me back. As a young, minority actor, I feel like I have to constantly fight to belong in the theatre industry in Finland at all, I have to fight to be seen, to be heard, to be taken seriously, I have to fight to be represented on stage and to be able to represent others like me. To be honest, most of

the time I feel like a stranger, in this place that I call home.

And maybe that’s why I enjoyed the process of creating The Stranger so much. It gave me an opportunity to put it all out in the open, bring it on stage with me. Instead of trying to hide my otherness, I found myself screaming, singing, dancing, rapping about it from the top of my lungs. I found myself relishing in the otherness, using it, molding it, until I wasn’t an outsider looking in anymore, but a part of something bigger,

an insider.

The theme of feeling alienated in your own life is something that I’m sure many of us can relate to. There’s a lot of ways to feel otherness, some of us choose to become outsiders, some of us are cast in that role against our will. Realizing that, even when I feel like a stranger, I no longer feel like I’m alone. I belong to this bigger group of strangers, who are all trying to be heard, trying to be recognized. And this is how I

know that our production of The Stranger is just the very beginning, just a tiny dot in the long line of strangers that will take their otherness to the stage, make theatre their home, mold it to be what they need it to be and create wonderful, strange, exciting, beautiful art for us to enjoy. And that is enough to keep me smiling as I navigate through the gloomy, cold finnish winter.

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