On February 19 2005 the Estonian culture weekly “Sirp” published, just hours before the premiere of "NO99 Sometimes It Feels As If Life Has Gone By Without Love”, the first production of Theatre NO99, our manifest. The last lines of the manifest read: “You come, hungry and in good spirits, you warm up and then you begin where it feels right. Maybe this in itself should be the manifest for our opening production. To begin where it feels right.” This goes not only for the beginning. You should also finish where it feels right. Today is the moment.
We have decided to finish. The decision to do so is a joint one, made by our whole artistic team. We all stand by it, because for 14 years we have shared the same ideals, and today we apprehend jointly that it is no longer in our might to continue working to the full merit of the ideals we once set ourselves. Theatre NO99 has always been an idealistic endeavour, and when one no longer reaches the due merit of the ideals, then Theatre NO99 is no more. A theatre cannot be finished off by any drama exiting the media space. No. A theatre finishes, because step by step, bit by bit, little by little something has happened that is impossible to name. This decision hurts us. The silence that takes hold in the corridors of Theatre NO99 is a silence just like any other, yet for us, this silence hurts. But this silence is also honest. This silence is just. Because we cannot go on the same way and we don’t want to go on any other way.
It must be said in passing that the the Estonian Ministry of Culture and the board of Theatre NO99 are aware of our decision. We have agreed with them on the fundamentals - in January 2019 Theatre NO99 will cease to operate. Next week we will give our three last performances with “NO30 Ship of Fools” and on December 19 give a guest performance with “NO43 Filth” in Moscow. This is it. How exactly the finalisation procedure take place, who will fax which contract to which machine, whose phone will ring and when - all this we do not yet know. But soon we will. For this we have already started to work jointly with the ministry and the board.
Since the beginning our ideals have remained unchanged: to give maximum focus to works of art born out of the joint effort of all the people working in the theatre, by the flame of their joint desire, as a fruit of their joint love. We say thank you for all this to our audience both at home and abroad: everybody who over the years has given a moment of their life to be with our productions. We value it very highly. We say thank you to all the people who have collaborated with us over all these years. Who have been in our rehearsal room, in our workshops, our offices, during the performances in the control room behind the desks, behind the curtain during the pause, in front of the curtain, on the stairs, in the box office, at the make-up chairs, on the bridges, and on stage - we thank you all and we did not forget anybody, nobody at all. We thank you for all these moments. We say thank you to all the critics, curators and fellow minds, who have with their ruthlessness and warmth forced us to demand even more of ourselves. We say thank you to Estonia and its tax-payers, thanks to whom we have had for 14 years the privilege of making artistically independent theatre and fully devote ourselves to art. It’s been a fortune. It has been important. It has been an extraordinary possibility. We hope that Estonia will find the strength to continue supporting others in the same way as it supported Theatre NO99, others with likeminded aims, will and ideals. And we say thank you to something that almost doesn’t have outlines, that has no smell or colour, that smoke will simply pass by and that winds do not make even shiver, but that has for us nevertheless been the most important of all − love. Love that in theatre takes the most different forms: it shows itself in the rehearsal room and at the mundane planning meeting, one can feel it in the workshops or in the control room, but most important of all, it is present with you sitting in the seats and us being on stage. This is the heart of theatre. This is the meaning of theatre. This fleeting, but nevertheless endless moment of love. Today it feels as if theatre has finished, yet there has been a lot of love.
Together with all the one-time actions there has been exactly 100 premieres of works of art at Theatre NO99. They all begun in a dark corner of the rehearsal room, out of not knowing and out of a feeble moment that can break just there and then. Over and over we took ourselves back to the moment when we did not know how to go on. When our skills, our history, our budget was of no help. When the task we had set ourselves seemed impossible to fulfill, the mental image we had envisioned seemed hopeless to convert into reality and the jointly imagined work of art seemed in unattainable distance. Sometimes it indeed remained unattained. Sometimes we failed. We made wrong choices. But we are not ashamed to say: we were always full of curiousity, hope and faith to move on. Where did it all come from? It came out of selfless cooperation. We believe that fundamentally Theatre NO99 was based on selflessness. In giving oneself away for the sake of something bigger.
Do you remember, Andres, how you once played the piano in the second floor foyer: the theatre was empty, behind the windows spring was slowly coming of age and the wind was blowing where it listeth and giant chandeliers were crowning you, sitting behind a white piano and playing the tune of “The Deer Hunter”. Do you remember, Andres? The moment in that movie where they say goodbye. Where they say goodbye, knowing that they’ll never meet again the same way. Never. We made every one of our shows like the last and played every one of our performances like the last. We also made theatre as if it was the last theatre we ever make. Theatre NO99 was but a moment. Just like the moment at the end of a performance when darkness falls and the suddenly switched off lights barely audibly cracle; when the audience has not yet breathed out; when the actors are somewhere in that darkness, frozen in-between of being and nothingness; when the sound master holds the fader with tiny expectant drops pearling on tip of his index finger; the moment when the stage manager looks into the darkness and for a moment thinks about something utterly unknown; when a stagehand standing on the bridge is holding a hammer in his hand and his breath in, as if fearing to break something invisible; when down in the offices people have raised their heads to the sounds coming from the stage intercom seeking the moment, that fleeting magical moment, when all that has been, has ceased to exist and all that comes, has not yet been born. Theatre NO99 was such a moment
Eero Epner, Rasmus Kaljujärv, Laur Kaunissaare, Eva Koldits, Rea Lest-Liik, Jörgen Liik, Helena Lotman, Tiit Ojasoo, Gert Raudsep, Ene-Liis Semper, Simeoni Sundja, Ragnar Uustal, Marika Vaarik