From left

From left

Masala makes waves in Sointula

Members of the Finnish Masala Youth Theatre returned to Malcolm Island for a day-long workshop last weekend.

Elena Rardon

Gazette staff

SOINTULA—Just a year ago, the Masala Youth Theatre group from Masala, Finland performed its play “Sointula!” during the village’s Culture Shock conference. This weekend, members of the Finnish group returned to Malcolm Island for a day-long workshop for kids, emphasizing leadership and cross-cultural teachings.

“We fell in love with the place,” group member Iika Hartikainen said Saturday. “We wanted to continue and make a cultural exchange.”

Driven by their desire to return to the village they loved so much, a few members of the Masala Youth Theatre formed the Friends of Sointula Association and raised funds for another trip by performing as a band.

They teamed up with the Sointula Leadership Institute Society, a society formed last December with the intention of building on natural leadership skills inherent on the North Island. The Friends of Sointula wanted to provide exercises to hone these skills

The group ran into a number of obstacles, including the teacher’s strike and ferry dock construction, but the workshop was still able to go on as planned.

“Everything worked out,” Hartikainen laughed. “It’s like a miracle.”

On Saturday, they gathered at the Sointula Finnish Organizational Hall to direct the free workshop, called “Taking the Lead.” It brought together youth participants aged 12-16 from Sointula and Port McNeill.

Saturday’s workshop began with an introduction and warmups, including a musical warmup that focused on building rhythm and finding a voice. The students then worked on making short drama scenes, including a few improvisation exercises.

“There’s a lot of stuff in theatre that can be applied in everyday life,” said Hartikainen. “Like how to work in a group, how to accept different ideas, finding one’s voice.

“I’m amazed by the kids,” she went on. “They are so super-talented. They show really great character, and it’s easy and fun to work with them.”

During a short lunch break, members of the group discussed their love of the village and the connection they felt. One member, Elina Vehkaoja, even has relatives in Sointula. “It feels like home,” Vehkaoja said. “It’s a cozy place.”

“There’s great diversity on this island, and people find unity in that,” said Hartikainen. “We found soul mates here.”

The group had plenty of support from locals, including the Lions Club and Rotary. Even the workshop itself was arranged in collaboration with the Sointula Leadership Institute Society.

“Youth here have to make their own entertainment,” said Annemarie Koch. “So they have natural leadership tendencies.” Some of these skills, she added, include innovation and the ability to adapt to change.

The Friends of Sointula held a smaller workshop Friday at A.J. Elliot Elementary School. Saturday night, they performed at the Whale’s Rub Pub.

“We’re hopeful that they will come back,” said Koch. “We would love to have them back.”

“For us, it’s a celebration,” said Hartikainen. “We want to make this an annual thing.”