Actress Seela Sella has nothing but fond memories of her teachers. However, there are some encounters that turned out to be of utmost significance along the way. Some of the encounters encouraged her already in her childhood, while some only revealed their importance later on.
Seela Sella remembers being just like any other student and always liking school. She got into theatre at a young age and often performed at school events.
First and foremost, Sella’s own work as an actress has been guided by the emotion and insights that she has experienced watching plays. Without her Finnish teacher Impi Varsila, many such experiences would not have happened.
Sella’s teacher saw her as an individual and led her to a revelation that turned out to be a turning point
From her time in an upper secondary school for girls in Tampere, Sella remembers Impi Varsila as a teacher who cared about each student, was extremely knowledgeable and taught them to understand Finnish literature and poetry. Sella’s interest in theatre did not go unnoticed by Varsila, either. However, the young student could not often afford tickets.
"Not only did my teacher Varsila deepen my interest in literature and culture, she also saw me and all the other students as individuals. It was thanks to her that I was able to dive deep into the world of theatre. That way, she unknowingly influenced the entire direction of my life and led me towards the revelation of the core of acting, which has carried me throughout my career,” Sella explains.
Not only did my teacher Varsila deepen my interest in literature and culture, she also saw me and all the other students as individuals.
Her journey towards the revelation started when her teacher decided to call Sakari Puurunen, Director of the Tampere Theatre, and ask whether they had any spare tickets for a student with a real interest in theatre. Director Puurunen wrote on a blue and green piece of paper with Sella’s name on it that she would have free access to all plays of the theatre.
“Even to this day, I can still remember exactly what I was thinking on each of the steps as I was climbing the stairs for the first time in my life to see a play at the Tampere Theatre. And there I sat almost every night as an upper secondary school student, from one play to the next,” Sella explains.
Thanks to her free ticket, she got to see, for example, Eeva Kaarina Volanen’s acting performance in Tolstoy’s War and Peace time and time again.
Sella found special significance in the scene where Natasha, in love with Andrei, asks Andrei if he went there often. Volanen, who played Natasha, answered the question sort of gasping for air, as if she was inhaling each line.
“It felt like my heart stopped because I was so taken and shaken by the performance Volanen put on display. The scene was very impressive and I would return to watch the play multiple times over, but that feeling was never diluted,” Sella says.
Through this experience, she internalised the revelation and lesson that carried her throughout her career – in acting, everything must take place in the moment. The audience cannot be allowed to predict what will happen next. Instead, everything must be created in the here and now.
Unique example as encouragement to walk your own path
In addition to the revelations and career options in acting, Sella remembers the encouragement and examples along the way. Singing teacher Aune Kyllikki Komi was not your average teacher of the time period. Sella describes her teacher as fantastic, unique in her own way, as well as an actress and opera heroine.
“As a role model, Aune Kyllikki set an example for us young girls. She showed that the role of an adult woman does not have to fit the norm and also provided us with the courage to our own unique selves,” Sella says.
As a role model, Aune Kyllikki set an example for us young girls. She showed that the role of an adult woman does not have to fit the norm and also provided us with the courage to our own unique selves.
Also in the bigger picture, she thinks that high-quality education and competent teachers are instrumental in fostering societal equality.
“It has been extremely important that girls in Finland, even in my time in school, were given the same opportunities to progress in their careers as the boys. We were taught that we could become anything. Without teachers, we might not still have had, for example, women as presidents or prime ministers.”