In 2018, the biannual theatre festival Midwinter Night’s Dream celebrated a small anniversary – the festival took place for the 10th time. Through the years, the Midwinter Night’s Dream has had various creative teams and curators with different concepts, but one thing has remained the same – it’s Tallinn City Theatre’s festival, organised in the most part by the theatre’s own staff.

The Midwinter Night’s Dream festival was founded in 2000, when the City Theatre had just opened its new wing with the freshly renovated Heaven Theatre and Chamber Theatre. Together with the Hell Theatre that had also recently been opened, the former small theatre company that for many years struggled with lack of space now suddenly had a large building with multiple venues, capable of giving several performances at the same time and welcoming a much larger audience. The uniqueness of the theatre situated in a complex of medieval houses also attracted the attention of many foreign guests. In the turn of the millennium Tallinn City Theatre performed in many festivals in Europe and Russia. But there was one thing that often caused certain distress – tight festival schedules didn’t enable actors to see each other’s work and make new contacts. Thus, the City Theatre started to dream about our own festival that would enable us to welcome visiting companies, interesting theatre-makers bringing in fresh vibes and giving an additional value to the theatre audiences of Tallinn, as well as to show the world our own productions and our new theatre building. The festival’s goal was to invite companies with similar artistic pursuits, and to gather the whole event under the same roof, making the best of the theatre building’s cosy atmosphere to encourage communication between participants. The event was subtitled “festival of small stages” and scheduled between Christmas and New Year that inspired the name Midwinter Night’s Dream.

During the past eighteen years, the festival team has brought to Tallinn productions from great directors, for example Peter Brook, Kama Ginkas, Frank Castorf, Patravadi Medjuhon, Reko Lundán, Alvis Hermanis, Dmitri Krymov, Robert Lepage, Brett Bailey and Kirill Serebrennikov. Amazing actors like Martin Wuttke, Oksana Mysina, Bruce Myers and Issey Ogata have performed here. The genres have spanned from Russian psychological realism to African dance, from Finnish family tragedy to German avant-garde. Rimini Protocol invited the audience to take a walk in the city with headphones, whereas Exhibit B shifted the viewers point of view by displaying a live gallery of people. The festival has hosted forty four different productions; in addition, there have been dozens of discussions, workshops, lectures, screenings and club events. Several of our goals, visions or expectations have shifted, developed, disappeared or changed during the years. It became evident quite early on that there are very few great productions that can actually fit into the City Theatre’s small venues – already at the second festival we rented some of the venues elsewhere. When the first six festivals ended with a grand New Year Celebration with the festival guests and the public, in 2012 the festival was brought to mid-December in order to overcome obstacles connected to the logistics and work routine, and to pull the real focus back to theatre. In May 2017 the Midwinter Night’s Dream Festival received the EFFE Festival Label for the years 2017—2018.

During Tallinn City Theatre’s brainstorming conference in 2017 we formulated the goal of the Midwinter Night’s Dream once again: to invite our kindred spirits to Tallinn, to host productions that are close to our heart – not by form, but by spirit. In retrospect, one of our most successful festivals was the one dedicated to Dmitri Krymov’s productions in 2010, giving the audience an opportunity to take a deeper look into the work of an extremely interesting director and artist. Last festival also focused on one single director, the masterful Alvis Hermanis whose work for us is novel in form, but close in spirit.