In 1983 new theatre directing students were admitted to Tallinn Pedagogical Institute Culture Faculty. Their first public performance took place in 1984 when they performed E. B. White’s “Charlotte koob võrku” (“Charlotte’s Web”, dir. H. Saarm) in Seitsme Linnuse Park. Perhaps this successful children’s story gave an impetus for those students to form VAT Theatre upon graduating. But before that could happen, the young enthusiastic students had to spend four years learning the secrets of the trade from their tutors Härmo Saarm and Inna Taarna.
In the spring of 1987 when the class graduated, the company Tudengiteater was already formed. Under that name they performed A. de Saint-Exupery’s “Väike prints” (“The Little Prince”, dir. M. Kampus) in Tallinn Print Workers’ Club in Rataskaevu 10. In the summers of 1986 and 1987 Tudengiteater performed Andres Ehin’s “Kalevipoja lood” (“Tales of Kalevipoeg”, dir. P. Jalakas, A. Toikka and T. Rebane) in the open air in front of Neitsitorn.
The company took part of student theatre festival in Tartu. Peeter Jalakas and Aare Toikka got acquainted with Vilnius University student theatre performances. Tiina Rebane, as her graduating production, staged Joseph Kessel’s “Lõvi” (“The Lion”), Peeter Jalakas Artur Alliksaar’s “Nimetu saar” (“The Nameless Island”). Both of these were performed in the small hall of Linnahall. As an advertising trick and a parody of the state RAT Theatres (National Academic Theatres), the productions were publicised under the name of VAT Tudengiteater (VAT Student Theatre).
In 1987 the students graduated and their passion towards theatre was strong. In 1987 the political situation was ripe for VAT Theatre to begin its existence as Tallinna Teatriarenduskeskuse Stuudio (Tallinn Studio of Theatre Development).
Peeter Jalakas was the head of early VAT Theatre. In addition to his former fellow students new members from Vanalinnastuudio Youth Studio joined the company. The studio theatre focussed on their development and their mentors were R. Kudu, H. Saarm, T. Tepandi, P. Tooma,
A. Eelmaa, K. Orro and many others.
1st Season 1987/1988
On October 1, 1987 Peeter Jalakas, Valdo Lauri, Lauri Saatpalu, Emil Rutiku, Rein
Kirss, Peep Raun, Kaido Ehasoo, Maarika Vaarik, Hiie Fluss, Kaia Kapsta,
Riho Västrik, Tiina Rebane and Aare Toikka begin rehearsals and trainings in Tallinn Print Workers’ Club. The first production they are working on is Jüri Laulik’s “Revident” (“The Inspector”). Peeter Jalakas directs H. H. Luik’s “Mul on külm” (“I am Cold”), Aare Toikka compiles a children’s fairytale performance “Laste asi” (“Children’s Thing”). This production receives the award for Best Movement in Estonian Theatre Union’s children’s theatre festival in Theatre Ugala.
In the spring and summer of 1988 Härmo Saarm directs August Gailit’s “Ekke Moor” that premieres in Saarm Farm in Läänemaa. Ekke is played by Lauri Saatpalu and Aare Toikka. There is plenty of audience and the company goes on a tour in Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.
2nd season 1988/1989
In 1988 VAT Tudengiteater becomes simply VAT Teater. Peeter Jalakas directs a new version of his diploma production of A. Alliksaar’s “Nimetu saar” (“Nameless Island”). Even more recognition is gained with “Ekke Moor” that is now playing in Estonian Drama Theatre small hall. Aare Toikka directs “Igavene inimene” (“The Eternal Human”) also in Drama Theatre. Dajan Ahmet joins the company. Peeter Jalakas leaves VAT Theatre and founds the company Ruto Killakund which later becomes Von Krahl Theatre.
3rd Season 1989/1990
VAT Theatre performs “Simson ja Delilah” (“Simson and Delilah”), “Tumm Hamlet” (“The Mute Hamlet”) and “Emil&Päss” in Finland. Before Christmas in 1989 VAT Theatre organises Estonian Studio Theatres’ Festival in Estonian Drama Theatre. The passers-by are alarmed by the smoke coming from the windows and doors of the theatre. A fire brigade arrives to extinguish the fire. But the smoke was merely a stunt for the opening of the festival. Evald Hermaküla, the artistic director of Estonian Drama Theatre announces the beginning of the festival which involves companies Gregori Grupp, Aavo Rebane Pantomime Studio, Jaan Riho’s Studio “Munev Aine”, Tartu Children’s Theatre and VAT Theatre.
Tiina Rebane directs G. Durrell’s “Minu pere ja muud loomad” (“My Family and Other Animals”) in Drama Theatre large hall. In the same winter VAT devises “Köielugu” (“The Story of a Rope”), which becomes the trademark for VAT Theatre for a long time to come. “Köielugu” is performed with much success in Estonia, Finland and Norway. The company’s artistic leaders are Aare Toikka and Dajan Ahmet, the manager is Kaido Ehasoo.
4th Season 1990/1991
In Linnahall small hall the young audience is captivated by J. Võõramaa’s “Me mängime armastust” (“We Play Love”), directed by Härmo Saarm. VAT Theatre performs mainly to children. This will logically lead to participation with ASSITEJ in a few years’ time. The company also performs to young and adult audiences, the material for those productions is often devised. Aare Toikka’s epic hero tale in primitive verse “Mina pean torti näkku lüüa saama” (“I must get to throw cake in the face”) exhilarates the audience. Hiie Fluss becomes the managing director for a few years to come.
5th Season 1991/1992
Contacts are established with similar companies in the Nordic countries. Aare Toikka directs K. H. Strobl’s “Riivatu nunn” (“The Graceless Nun”) in Theatre and Music Museum, the production gains much success. These nights in the Old Town of Tallinn result in a close connection with the band Tunnetusüksus. Dajan Ahmet leaves VAT Theatre and founds Salong Teater.
6th Season 1992/1993
Mart Kampus directs a movement production “Järv” (“The Lake”) based on Ansomardi’s story. The only sounds uttered in that production is the word “vesi” (“water”) and music performed by Tunnetusüksus. Aare Toikka directs Dietzensmidt’s “Dr. Winkelmanni mõrvaasi” (“Dr. Winkelmann’s Murder Case”) in Von Krahl. VAT Theatre is one of the initiators for creating ASSITEJ centre is Estonia. A weekly radio play programme “VAT muinasjutt” (“VAT Fairytale”, dir. Tiina Rebane) is broadcasted on Raadio 2. This results in nearly 300 radio play productions aired and later arhived in Estonian National Radio. Estonian National Television celebrates the theatre’s fifth anniversary with a programme “Kogu tõde VAT-ist” (“The Whole Truth about VAT”). Aare Toikka becomes the artistic director of the theatre.
7th Season 1993/1994
Aare Toikka’s production about Estonians’ roots “Eesti kosmos” (“Estonian Space”) premieres. VAT takes part of theatre festivals in Sweden, Germany and Poland. In collaboration with Lasse Akerlund from Swedish theatre Allena, they create “Tondi Tõnu” (“Tõnu the Ghost”) which is based on Estonian fairytales.
8th Season 1994/1995
The company gives 179 performances to 36 695 audience members in total. The performances take place in Antsla, Aluvere, Abja-Paluoja, Aste, Haapsalu, Haljala, Järva-Jaani, Jõgeva, Jõhvi, Karksi-Nuia, Kohila, Kadrina, Kehtna, Keila, Kilingi-Nõmme, Kiviõli, Kohtla-Järve, Kunda, Kose, Kullamaa, Kuressaare, Kärdla, Käina, Laekvere, Narva, Otepää, Orissaare, Paide, Põltsamaa, Pärnu Jaagupi, Rakke, Räpina, Rapla, Sindi, Suure-Jaani, Tamsalu, Treimani, Tõstamaa, Valga,
Vana-Vigala, Vastseliina, Võru, Vändra, Väike- Maarja, Valtu, but also in Tallinn, Tartu, Rakvere, Pärnu, and Viljandi.
Hiie Fluss leaves the company to become committed full-time to developing the Estonian Centre of ASSITEJ. Tiina Rebane becomes the executive director of VAT Theatre.
9th Season 1995/1996
A fairytale series “Kudistaja” is created for Estonian National Television in collaboration with VAT Theatre and Mart Kampus. Tiina Rebane directs A. Beekman’s “Tondinahad” (“Ghost Skins”) together with Estonia’s Russian Theatre. In 1996 Old Town Days a pseudo-historical comedy “Olle Terwe hansatuultes” (“Olle Terwe in the Winds of Hansa”) (by Lauri Vahtre, dir. Ago-Endrik Kerge) is performed in the courtyard of Maiden Tower.
10th Season 1996/1997
Aare Toikka’s “Reinuvader Rebane” (“Mr Foxy Fox”) is performed by Tallinn Pedagogical University students J. Sarapson, M. Teder, T. Saar, A. Kask, K. Jalakas who later become the core of VAT Theatre company. Rein Agur begins rehearsals with W. Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline”.
11th Season 1997/1998
VAT Theatre celebrates its 10th anniversary. The season is opened on August 31st with a children’s production in A. H. Tammsaare museum in Järva county. New members of the company include Janek Sarapson, Margo Teder and Tanel Saar.The actors spend two months in the South Estonian forests and work on Saar-Poll research materials on youth risk behaviour. As a result of this process Merle Karusoo’s “Laste ristiretk” (“Children’s Crusade”) is created. VAT Theatre performances in Germany are organised by Stendal Theatre director Christian(God=DJ)Römer. In 1998 Old Town Days W. Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” (dir. Rein Agur) is performed in The House of Blackheads.
12th Season 1998/1999
The new season is opened by Kati Murutar and Aare Toikka’s production “Tuudur, Plutt ja Magdaleena” (“Tuudur, Plutt and Magdalena”) under the African sky, on the other side of the Equator in an international theatre festival ZATZYP in Zimbabwe. The performances of the same production close the season in ASSITEJ World Congress in the official programme in Norway. “Cymbeline”, directed by Rein Agur, receives numerous awards in theatre festival Banaanikala. VAT Theatre organises the first Mustamäe youth culture festival “Vägivallata noorus” (“Youth Without Violence”). In former cinema Kaja forum theatre performances take place, which are among the first ones in the country.
13th Season 1999/2000
Rein Agur’s “Cymbeline” receives the director’s award in Estonian Theatre Festival DRAAMA ’99. Aare Toikka and Marge Ehrenbush direct a folk dance production “Kaval-Ants ja Vanapagan” which premieres in an international theatre festival in Kiev. The premiere of Merle Karusoo’s “Save Our Souls” takes place in Liiva Centre.
14th Season 2000/2001
VAT Theatre opens the season with Shakespeare’s historical chronicle “Henry V” (dir. Rein Agur) in the Theatre Attic of The House of Blackheads. The production receives numerous awards in theatre festival Banaanikala. Premieres of “Kivid” (“The Stones”, dir. Aare Toikka) and “Näost näkku” (“Face to Face”, dir. Peeter Raudsepp) take place.
15th Season 2001/2002
The season is opened on the stage of Tallinn City Theatre with the premiere of Bertholt Brecht’s “Lend üle ookeani” (“The Flight Across the Ocean”, dir. Bengt Andersson, SWE). “The Stones” receives many awards in the theatre festival Banaanikala. “Henry V” is selected for the main programme of Estonian Theatre Festival DRAAMA 2001, “The Stones” is performed as part of the off-programme. The guest director Christian Römer from Germany stages Falk Richter’s “God is a DJ”. With this production the National Library Theatre Hall is opened, this becomes the home stage of VAT company. Mart Kampus stages I. von Zadow’s “Pompeenia”. The 15th season brings an important recognition from Estonian Theatre Union – Salme Reek award for a well composed repertory with a clear message.
Nordic and Baltic ASSITEJ centres organise jointly NB Festival in Narva, Estonia. “The Stones” and “The Flight Across the Ocean” take part of the festival. “The Flight across the Ocean” performs successfully also in Stockholm. “The Stones” receives a lively reception in Kuusakoski theatre festival in Finland. With “Kaval Ants ja Vanapagan” the company takes part of Syktyvkar Finno-Ugric theatre festival En Dzird. VAT Theatre receives the award for the best company work.
16th Seaon 2002/2003
VAT Theatre celebrates its 15th anniversary. Aare Toikka adapts and directs A. Kivirähks’s “Siim ja saladused” (“Siim and the Secrets”). VAT Theatre receives the critics’ award for their performance in Veliky Novgorod international theatre festival, and at home the company is generously awarded in festival Banaanikala. Mart Kampus’s production “Kingitused” (“The Gifts”) receives many awards, including actor’s awards for Elgitha Zeno and Janek Sarapson. Mart Kivastik’s “Teener” (“The Servant”) is produced. VAT Theatre organises “Vägivallata noorus” (festival “Youth Without Violence”) for the last time. “The Flight across the Ocean” takes part of theatre festivals in Russia, Norway and France.
17th Season 2003/2004
Estonian Centre of ASSITEJ grants a special award for “The Gifts” in Estonian Theatre Festival Draama 03. The premieres of international collaboration productions of “Kolumats” (“Struwwelpeter”, dir. Christian Römber, GER) and “Kalevipoeg” (dir. Markus Zohner, CH) take place. Urmas Vadi directs his play “Kohtume trompetis!” (“I’ll See You in the Trumpet”). “The Flight across the Ocean” and “Kalevipoeg” take part of theatre festivals in Russia, Germany and Denmark. “The Stones” wins the award of best production on a small stage in St Petersburg international theatre festival.
18th Season 2004/2005
Aare Toikka directs “Pal-tänava poisid” (“Pal-Street Boys”), “Ats ja Pille-Riin” (“Ats and Pille-Riin”) and “Klammi sõda” (“Klamm’s War”). “Kalevipoeg” travels to Germany, Russia and Japan. Kaspar Jancis receives Kristallkingake award from Estonian Theatre Union for a versatile debut in Estonian theatre. “Kalevipoeg” receives a Grand Prix both in St Petersburg and Novgorod international theatre festivals.
19th Season 2005/2006
Bengdt Andersson directs W. Shakespeare’s “Torm” (“The Tempest”), Kadi Tudre in collaboration with Goethe Institute and Tallinn Art hall directs A. Beyeler’s “Kick & Rush”, Peeter Raudsepp stages A. Nothomb’s “Vaenlase kosmeetika” (“The Enemy’s Cosmetique”). F. Molnari/A.Toikka’s “Pal-Street Boys” takes part of numerous festivals, and receives awards both home and abroad. The Good Theatre Award is given to Maarika Vaarik by Estonian Theatre Critics’ Union. VAT Theatre hosts the European theatre network Magic Net meeting in Tallinn where the participants include 100 theatre professionals from 14 countries. This meeting results in a production “Hidden Stories” in Estonian National Library.
20th Season 2006/2007
The season’s premieres include Urmas Vadi’s “Elvis oli kapis” (“The Real Elvis”, dir. Aare Toikka), Kristof Magnusson’s “Meeste varjupaik” (“Men’s Shelter”, dir. Christian Römer, GER), H. C. Andersen’s “Väike merineitsi” (“The Little Mermaid”, dir. Aare Toikka) and Eva Koff’s youth play “Mirr” (dir. Katrin Nielsen).
“Kalevipoeg” takes part of ASSITEJ festival in Norway. “The Little Mermaid” is shown in Novgorod children’s and youth theatre festival. “Kalevipoeg” is performed in London, Serbia and in Theater Schwerin as part of Magic Net annual meeting. Aare Toikka receives The Good Theatre Award from Estonian Theatre Critics’ Union and Salme Reek award from Estonian Theatre Union. Katariina Lauk joins the company.
21st season 2007/2008
VAT celebrates its 20th anniversary with a festive reception, performance “Kalevipoeg” in KUMU Auditorium and an after-party in KUKU Club. Theatre Cafe Europe takes place – new and noteworthy plays get translated and performed in rehearsed readings in London, Zaandam, Lille and Tallinn. The theatre gives two performances of “Kalevipoeg” in New York Estonian House.
The directing students of Drama School of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre present their work – Robert Annus’s “Winter” (by Jon Fosse) and Uku Uusberg’s “The Zoo Story” (by Edward Albee). VAT Theatre’s actor Margo Teder has his director’s debut staging Klas Abrahamsson’s “Kas sulle meeldib porno?” (“Do You Like Porn?”). Aare Toikka directs Wojchiech Tomzcyk’s “Nürnberg”, the cast includes Katariina Lauk, Aare Üksküla and Tiina Rebane. The project Magic Net comes to an end having lasted for three years. Its final production which is completed in collaboration with 14 European theatres travels to different countries for two weeks. The premiere takes place is Bratislava and Janek Joost is the Estonian participant.
22nd Season 2008/2009
Ago Soots and Meelis Põdersoo, graduates of Drama School of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre join the company. In the autumn season the following premieres take place: “Kevadtalv 1918” (“Early Spring 1918”) by Indrek Hirv (written for the 90th anniversary of Estonian Republic), Moliére’s “Misantroop” (“Misanthrope”, dir. Markus Zohner) and Rudolf Herfurter’s children’s story “Varblase Priidu” (“Fritz the Sparrow”, dir. Mart Kampus). The spring season sees the premieres of Andrus Kivirähk’s “Ingel, ingel, vii mind taeva” (“Angel, Angel, Bring me to Heaven”, dir. Aare Toikka) and Peca Stefan’s preposterous “Vääärviid” (“Colörs”, dir. Ago Soots). The theatre joins a new international project Platform11+ where the goal is to create new plays for young spectators aged 11-15 years.
23rd Season 2009/2010
New premieres include Reko Lundan’s “Tarbetud inimesed” (“Unnecessary People”, dir. Peeter Raudsepp), Nini d’Introna and Giacomo Ravicchio’s “Robison & Crusoe”
(dir. Aare Toikka) and Mare Sabolotny/Rein Agur’s “Kirjaklambritest
vöö” (“Paperclip Belt”, dir. Rein Agur). VAT Theatre participates in European Theatre Night in Portugal near Palmela. There are over 100 theatre professionals present from various European countries. The theatre also gives performances in Vilnius and Budapest.
24th Season 2010/2011
National Library Tower Hall is opened in September with Tanel Saar’s project “Saare esimene lint” (“Saar’s First Tape”, consultants Rait Avestik and Aare Toikka). Margo Teder stages in the same hall Holger Schober’s “Hikikomori”. In the spring season four premieres take place in the Theatre Hall – “Hea, Paha ja Inetu” (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, dir. Aare Toikka), Polly Stenham’s “Kihvad” (“Tusk, Tusk”, dir. Auri Jürna – student of Drama School of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre), Katariina Unt’s project “Nisa” and “Help!”. The latter one is created in collaboration with Hungarian director Peter Horvath and Theatre Kolibri. In the end of October VAT Theatre hosts European Youth project Platform 11+ youth meeting “Shared Stories from Schoolyards”. The theatre gives performances in Novgorod, York and Dresden