Our final days in Norway (at least for Chantal and me) were an interesting mix of theatre, weather, and fish. Once we arrived in Bergen after our cross-country train excursion (see previous post), we had dinner with the family of an exchange student that lived with my family in Kansas last year. In fact, that’s one of the factors that led to my involvement with The Arctic Cycle: I already knew some people in Norway.
And our exchange son’s mom is Agnete Haaland, the artistic director of Den National Scene, Bergen’s largest theatre and one of the major arts organizations in Norway. Needless to say, Agnete was instrumental in helping us set up all of the visits during our trip and helped make our time in Bergen quite wonderful.
We hadn’t been in Bergen for more than a couple of hours before Agnete whisked us off for a short tour of DNS and a performance of DIKTATORFRUER – JEG ER SOM DERE, JEG ELSKER EPLER (The Dictator’s Wives – I’m Like You, I Love Apples) by Theresia Walser. This would be the third of four productions we saw during our trip and was probably the hardest to understand. With the dialog in Norwegian and our unfamiliarity with the story and plot, it was difficult to follow all the acton. But the acting was great and after a short explanation afterward, it mostly made sense. (Sorry, no photos of the performance.)
During our first full (and rainy) day in Bergen, we spent time walking around the harbor areas of the city and enjoying fresh fish kebabs (and incredible french fries) at the fish market. In the afternoon, we saw a performance of “Robin Hoods Hjerte” (The Heart of Robin Hood). This was a wonderful action-packed adaptation of the Robin Hood story. It was alternately funny, dark, creepy, scary, energetic, moving, and dark. Did I mention that it was dark? Despite the presence of lots of kids at this performance, and while there are some wonderful sequences that have great kid-appeal, it’s not a kids show. With several murders, a beheading, and other pretty intense sequences, it will probably be positioned more toward adult audiences when it arrives on Broadway.
One the second day, we had a surprising visit with two scientists from the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research in Bergen. (http://www.bjerknes.uib.no/). Surprising because we didn’t realize beforehand that Stefan was American and Paul was German. Having met with so many Norwegians, I think we just assumed they would be Norwegian too! We had a great conversation about their particular areas of research and I really enjoyed learning a bit more about the political and social challenges the scientific community faces in Norway. I’m looking forward to working with both Stefan and Paul as we continue to build the educational components of The Arctic Cycle.
On the final day of our trip to Norway, both Chantal and made one last trip to the fish store (the bacon and cheese fish cakes are delectable) and flew back to Oslo. After a few hours in the terminal together, Chantal boarded her flight back to NYC and I embarked on a week-long trip to Germany before I made it home to Kansas a week later. (You can see photos from my German experience on my blog here.)
It’s been hard to explain to friends and colleagues with single words and short sentences how meaningful and important our trip to Norway turned out: I’ll be pondering that for months. The bottom line (at least for now): We’ll be going back to Norway. We got extremely positive and encouraging feedback from absolutely everyone we met with and talked to about The Arctic Cycle. The relationships we started will be critical as we continue to develop Forward and bring it to the stage.
Stay tuned for more exciting news!
All photos by Clay Myers-Bowman.
Last Tuesday was a sad day as our “Fellowship” finally broke up after traveling together for 10 days. Early in the morning Chantal and I got up, packed, and headed to the Oslo central station to catch the train to Bergen on the west coast of Norway. A 7 hour trip. Later in the day, Jennifer took the train to the airport for the first leg of her journey back home. Sigh.
Despite our sadness at continuing our journey without Jen, it was an amazing train ride. I guess it’s supposed to be one of the most amazing train rides in the world. While the photos below aren’t the greatest (it’s hard to snap photos from a moving train) you’ll get a sense of the grandeur, isolation, and magic of this beautiful country. We really have fallen in love with Norway.
We also attended a performance of The Dictator’s Wives at Den National Scene, the national theatre in Bergen. Even though it was entirely in Norwegian, I really enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on, but I had to ask for some clarification later just to make sense of the story. It was a great introduction to the theatre scene in Bergen.
Sandwiched between a visit to the Norsk Actor’s Center (a program for…well…Norwegian actors) and a great meeting at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (with one of the real science guys) we got to know a bit more about Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian polar explorer and a central character in Forward, the second play of The Arctic Cycle.
It started with a trip through the snow…
(All photos by Clay Myers-Bowman.)
Then we took the bus to Bigdøy peninsula and the Fram Museum. It’s really a must-see spot for anyone interested in experiencing or learning more about polar exploration and Norwegian culture. The “Fram” is the ship that Nansen built to withstand getting stuck in sea ice during his attempt to reach the North pole (by drifting WITH the ice, not crashing through it) in the late 1800′s. It’s quite a story. You can look here for more info about his theory and the three year ordeal.
The ship has been preserved and is the central (we’re talking almost the only) feature of the Museum. You can climb on board, walk through the lower decks, and grab the wheel like Nansen did. Here’s a gallery of a few photos from our visit:
After the Museum we rushed to an appointment at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute to learn more about the man and his legacy. What I didn’t realize was that the Institute is housed in the home that Nansen designed and built. It was extraordinary. While the house was mostly stripped of it’s furnishings after his death, the wall paintings, woodwork and major fixtures are still intact and provide a glimpse into Nansen’s personal life. Best of all, tucked away on an upper floor is Nansen’s study, basically undisturbed since his death. With Claes, a FNI staff member, as our guide, we had an unexpectedly wonderful visit, including a few quiet moments at Nansen’s grave.
We left Nansen’s home in a rush to get to another meeting at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, but I continue to think about what we saw and learned about an intriguing, intelligent, and complex man.
This was one of our few fun and relaxing days. During the day, Jennifer and I went to Bigdøy peninsula and visted the Jule Marked (Christmas Market) at the Norwegian Folk Museum. Lots of great things to see and eat! We had fresh off the fireplace griddle lefse, coffee, and I had a candied apple.
We also toured an apartment building that had been relocated to this site from another city. Every apartment has been restored to a particular period of Norwegian history and some had been decorated for the holidays. It was quite cool.
In the evening, we had dinner with the four women pictured below: Anna, Mari, Marte, & Louise, who were part of the team that produced two children’s musicals dealing with climate change. We had a delightful time talking about our projects and ways we might be able to work together in the future.
The day we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived. I think all of us were a bit anxious to get started with the rehearsal for the reading at Soria Laboratoria. It was fun to be there as the actors started arriving and everyone got introduced. Morten was a great host and everyone seemed really excited. As rehearsals go, there’s not much to see except actors reading the script.
In addition to working on the dialog, the group also spent some time discussing Norwegian culture and how characters might have acted and reacted in the specific scenes in the play. They also added some Norwegian words to the script which gave the reading a very interesting flair.
After a short break for dinner, we set everything up for the reading and started welcoming the small crowd. The audience seemed engaged throughout the reading and laughed quite a bit.
Another interesting part of the evening was the discussion with the audience afterward. Chantal answered a few questions and listened to some particularly Norwegian perspectives on climate change and global warming. Everyone seemed really excited about the play and expressed lots of appreciation for Chantal’s work.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the reading possible. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to Soria Lab (Morten Joachim), Ensemble Free Theatre Norway (Brendan McCall), our actors (Ingvild Lien, Jonathan Espolin-Johnson, Dushinka Andresen, Brendan McCall, and Hanne Greger), Fractured Atlas, and the dozens of individual donors who helped support the trip with contributions through our crowd-funding campaign.
The time has flown by on our trip to Norway. We’re on to our 3rd city and I realized that I hadn’t yet posted anything on the blog from Oslo except the photo below from the American Embassy.
To put it bluntly: we had a marvelous time in Oslo. When we got out of the cab in Tromsø at the airport for the flight to Gardermoen, we saw this little sliver of daylight. My first in four days.
When we landed in Oslo it was already getting dark, but there wasn’t any snow. After a little mixup due to not having phones, we got escorted to the house where we stayed and settled in. Not feeling like cooking, we ate at a small Tandoori restaurant in the neighborhood. Of course we ordered too much, but when it’s SO good, it’s hard not to keep eating.
Our first full day in Oslo was quite busy with meetings and visits including the American Embassy (photo here), Soria Laboratoria (the location for the reading, more on that later), and Dramatikkens Hus, a wonderful organization that focusses on developing new playwrights and plays. Here’s a photo of our visit with Siri and Line, the two wonderful directors of the organization.
Thursday evening we travelled to an eastern area of Oslo for dinner with Brendan, Dushinka, and Anastacia, their wonderful one-year-old. We had a great time getting to know them and talk about the upcoming reading.
These days have been so busy that I didn’t take many photos. I’ll remedy that later!
Next up: Friday was the reading at Soria Lab!