Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter Music

I've created a playlist inspired by our rehearsal process for Winter, part of Gjenganger: 3 Plays by Jon Fosse. It's a little all over the place, but still good.




Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Art & Stoicism

A guest post from our very own Kirstin Franklin (previously published on her blog Gunnar's Mother).

This is incredibly hard for me to write about.

I was 14 when my grandpa died. By good fortune we were able to be there when it happened, blessed to have a chance to say goodbye. I remember feeling unexplainable grief mulling around in my body but became ever frustrated with my inability to produce actual tears. This is what we're supposed to do...what our bodies are meant to do when we lose a loved one...right? It's what I've seen in movies and television time after time...but why isn't it happening to me? Did this mean I didn't love my grandpa enough? No. No... I was sad, I loved him dearly, I was devastated...I was...but how would anyone know if I couldn't actually cry?  I sat through the beautiful service saltwater free...despite moving eulogies and beautiful music...there I sat. Feeling...but not emoting. It wasn't until we got to the snow covered gravesite and watched the coffin lower into the ground that I was finally able to release one lone teardrop.

As I got older and began to have more experiences with death and love, in my explorations as an actress and now as a mother I have found ways to access my emotions a little more freely. Yet the most basic and natural reaction for me in moments of intense feelings is and always has been suppression and distraction. Stoic Kirstin.

It wasn't until I joined Akvavit Theatre last January that I realized this stoicism was ingrained in my blood.  Before joining Akvavit I had never heard the term "Nordic Stoicism"....apparently that's a thing...and I've got it. And here in my new found artistic home I've found a place where this strange trait is not only understood, but actually appreciated.

It's unbelievably hard to find the words to express what it means to have an Artistic home...
to have ownership in collaborative art, and not just any art...but art that defines my soul.

I am so incredibly grateful to be a part of Akvavit Theatre as a Norwegian American, as a collaborator, as an actress, as a company member. I am so proud of the work we create together because I believe we're redefining what people come to expect from theatre.  I love that we can read a script that sounds impossible on paper and instead of shying away from it we plunge forward with reckless abandon.

Our current project: Gjenganger: 3 Plays by Jon Fosse is no different.  In Autumn Dream, A Summer's Day and Winter (the 3 plays we are presenting) Jon Fosse writes about "everything and nothing. " In a sense he pours out truth onto the page and extracts everything that we'd believe is important to plot and what you have left is raw human behavior. Between the vastness of Fosse's words lies the truth of the human condition.

I am so blessed to have been asked to play a pivotal role in Autumn Dream. Never in my career have I worked on a more challenging script, and yet I am drawn to it with such fervor and longing.  Perhaps it's the script or perhaps it's the intensity of working with devoted and inspiring collaborators, perhaps it's both. 

But yesterday, amidst this play about death, I found myself working alongside an actor who somehow managed to channel the stoicism of Nordic Gods worthy of the highest praise. Had I known that this actor's father had unexpectedly died just hours before this rehearsal I never would have had the courage to say to him this line: "And now your father's dead."   But this collaborator, friend and actor, whom I now hold with the highest of respects, chose to power through this run-thru without letting any of us know about his father's passing beforehand.  The fact that he allowed us to perform as we would, without knowing his troubles (and was able to hold it together beautifully) was the most selfless gift I think I've ever received from a fellow actor.  He mustered through this play (which takes place in a graveyard, dripping with talk about death) order to give us the peace of mind that we needed to make it through a week of rehearsal without him as he left to bury his father.

After a year of collaborating with Akvavit Theatre I have learned to embrace my stoicism and understand that this trait runs deep not only through me and through my whole family but in all humans in various forms, at different times. And that is why I feel so connected to this company and to these plays. I am learning to acknowledge the absence of outward emotion as both a blessing and a curse...but more of a blessing.

And if you've managed to read this far into this rant you might now understand why I cherish this work with Akvavit Theatre so much. I hope you will consider checking us out the next time you're near Chicago. Gjenganger: 3 Plays by Jon Fosse opens in rotating repertory at the DCASE Storefront Theatre in downtown Chicago (66 E Randolph St) running February 28th-March 24th (Thurs-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm). More information can be found here.

I also implore you to become a part of this production by helping us complete funding. We have a Kickstarter campaign running until Friday. Any and all donations are accepted and may be tax deductiblePLEASE CLICK HERE.

You can also check out the webseries I created to bring attention to the importance of Jon Fosse making his Chicago debut by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

--Kirstin Franklin

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Squirreled away in three separate classrooms on the campus of North Park University are the rehearsals for the three conjoined plays of Gjenganger: 3 Plays by JohnFosse— A Summer’s Day, Autumn Dream, and Winter. This report comes from Wm. Bullion, director of A Summer’s Day.

This is a very different play. Jon Fosse’s A Summer’s Day has only been done once in the U.S., but many times to great success in Europe. Fosse is a household name over there, but in my experience he’s second (debatably) only to Michel Tremblay in the pageant for Most Neglected International Treasure.

Does his New World obscurity come from our inability to “get” him? I don’t think so. I think we Americans don’t think we have the time to get him. Fosse’s tempo is glacial, his emotions eternally pre-volcanic. By the time you’ve finally gleaned what the characters are really feeling, it’s too late—the glacier has buried you and you can only lie there under it, decimated.

Over here, we have a culture that is very quick to interrupt, quick to cut to the chase, and our emotions, if not on our sleeves, are loosely in our holsters with the safeties off. We’re quick to the joke, and quicker to cut to the quick. So the cast of A Summer’s Day—my beloved collaborators Jan Sodaro, Mimi Sagadin, Marika Mashburn, Josh Harris, Mandy Walsh and Linsey Falls—has their work cut out for them. How do we have those intense emotions that are a hallmark of the Chicago actor, but not show them so much, and still have the deep impact that the piece requires?

Like acting Shakespeare, the answer is in letting Fosse’s text do the heavy lifting. If an actor concentrates on holding her emotions back, the text will out; she’ll find herself undone by the heartbreakingly sparse language Fosse employs, no matter how noble an objective front she puts up. It’s impossible not to be undone. This is a very different play and our audiences are in for a treat.

—Wm. Bullion

Jan Sodaro & Marika Mashburn

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Aquavit Akevitt Akvavit

Never heard of aquavit? Here’s a little info on the spirit that inspired our name. Come to our next party to taste it for yourself.

Akvavit (also spelled aquavit or akevitt) is a flavored spirit that is produced in Scandinavia and typically contains 40% alcohol by volume. Its name comes from aqua vitae, the Latin for “water of life.”

The liquor is made from a potato or grain mash, fermented traditionally with caraway seeds. Aquavit made with fennel, dill, anise, or coriander is also available, but caraway seeds are usually included for a hint of the classic flavor. 

I like to describe it like this: vodka that tastes a bit like rye bread. Like rye bread in a glass. Yum. Did you know that to be sold as aquavit in the U.S., the spirit must include the flavor of caraway?

While the Danish and Swedish versions are normally very light in color, most of the Norwegian brands are matured in oak casks for at least one year and for some brands even as long as 12 years, making them generally darker in color. Particular to the Norwegian tradition are linje akvavits (such as “Løiten Linje” and “Lysholm Linje”). These have been carried in oak casks onboard ships crossing the equator (linje) twice before being sold.

Aquavit is usually served in a snapps glass (like a shot glass with a stem). Some drinkers chase aquavit with beer; others think this ruins the aquavit’s flavor. Most Norwegians prefer aquavit at room temperature. When I was in Norway they said it ruins the aquavit to chill it, although it's usually served chilled in many other places.

Aquavit is often served with appetizers, particularly fish, and some people joke that the aquavit helps the fish swim to the stomach. It is also served with heavy meals, due to the belief that it will assist with digestion. Basically, aquavit can be served all the time…with any meal.

Here are a few of the aquavits you can find in the US:

Matured in old sherry casks, Linie has a rich rounded flavor with aniseed, caraway, and oak. Linie’s ability to aid digestion has been welcomed in countries all over the world. In the old days, Linie was actually drunk solely for its medicinal properties.
The Linie website suggested that a sip of Linie should be enjoyed after a sip of beer, so that the flavor can linger a second or two. It has been described as: well-rounded mild herb-taste with a light sherry note. This aquavit is Akvavit ensemble member Billy’s favorite.

Slightly amber; aged in oak casks; classic flavor hints anise, coriander, caraway and fennel.Your first impression may be: Slightly sweetish, caramelized molasses, spice and flowers, nutty. Taste: Spicy, sweet, fennel, dill, anise and coriander make for a savory mix that is very refreshing. Smooth and spicy.
This stuff is bold. Try it as a substitute for vodka or gin. My local neighborhood liquor store stopped stocking this. I don’t even know if you can find it in Chicago anymore. I’ll check at Binny’s.

White Cranberry Aquavit - Sweden/US

From the restaurant Aquavit in New York, this is one of the more popular handmade flavors & the first commercially available aquavit. Produced from cranberry concentrate from New England, and distilled in Sweden, this bottled aquavit has a small amount of caraway, too, as required by the Swedish government.

Description: Fruity aromas of cranberry sauce, strawberry frosting, and raspberry sorbet have a pleasantly spicy edge and follow through on a soft, slightly tannic entry to a fruity sweet medium body with vanilla fondant and citrus rind notes. Finishes with a delicate touch of lemongrass, medicinal herbs, tart, tannic cranberry skins and dusty limestone.

You can’t get this in Chicago -- only in New York…or you can order it online here. I have a bottle of this in my freezer right now!

According to the Aalborg website, it appears on both the Danes' lunch tables and at the banquets hosted by the Danish Royal Palace. With its alcoholic strength and intense caraway flavor Aalborg Akvavit is perfect for all the traditional strong Danish lunch dishes, especially the marinated herring. It is also great with classic dinner courses such as roast and pork.

North Shore Distillery Aquavit – Chicago!

We have our own aquavit distilled right here in the Chicagoloand area!
Tasting notes: "Yellow straw color with a chartreuse cast. vibrant and stimulating aromas of pink peppercorns, cardamom, lemongrass, medicinal roots and herbs, and sandalwood follow through on a silky entry to a dryish medium-to-full body with a touch of tilled earth a long, spicy fade. Excellent flavor, purity and depth.
Aquavit - Private Reserve starts with the basics: caraway, cumin, and coriander. These are macerated and distilled with the alcohol, and then aged in new American oak to “soften and meld the flavors.” Unlike other aquavits, they don’t add caramel coloring. The light brown color of the spirit is a result of the process.

North Shore also has recipes to share. 

I had a Ruby Keeler (Christian Bros. VSOP, Aquavit, Orange Bitters, Sugar Rim) the other night. It was quite delicious. 

Looking for more aquavit recipes? Ta-da.

White Cranberry Mojito

  • 2 item mint sprigs
  • 1 item lime, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon simple sugar syrup
  • 2 ounce white cranberry Aquavit New York
  • 1 item cracked ice
  • 1 item splash of white cranberry juice
Directions: Crush one sprig of mint with lime wedges and simple syrup in bottom of a mixing glass (or pitcher). Add aquavit; shake with ice. Strain over cracked ice into a highball glass; top with white cranberry juice. Garnish with mint sprig.

Vikings Helmet

  • 3 oz  ginger ale
  • 0.75 oz  lime juice
  • 0.3 oz  pineapple juice
  • 0.75 oz vodka
  • 1.5 oz  aquavit
  • 1 dash bitters

Directions: Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

Hell Mary

  • 1 dash tobacco
  • 0.5 oz tequila
  • 1 oz tomato juice
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1 oz aquavit
  • 1 dash horseradish

Directions: Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

Flat Eric

  • 1 oz lemon lime soda
  • 2 oz banana liqueur
  • 4 oz  sour mix
  • 2 oz aquavit

Directions: Use a high glass, fill up 3/4 with ice, add the banana liqueur, aquavit and sour mix then stir, the fill up with lemon soda (Sprite or 7up)

Andreas Viestad’s Mock Aquavit (don’t know who Andreas Viestad is? You’re missing out)

Note: some people prefer non-potato vodka – use whatever you like.

  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 1-inch long (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1 liter potato vodka 

  1. Open the vodka bottle, add all the remaining ingredients, and cover tightly.
  2. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking every 3-4 days -- how long you let it sit depends on how strong you want it. Taste it after 2 weeks to see if you want to let it go longer.
  3. when it's as strong as you'd like, strain the solids through a sieve and discard them. Transfer the aquavit back into the bottle.
  4. To serve, place your aquavit in the freezer until chilled and you can also place your 1 ounce tall glasses in the refridgerator until chilled.
  5. Ask your Scandinavian friends about toasting practices with aquavit, as it can be rather complicated (note from Bergen: and AWESOME!)
So there. Now you know a little more.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Languages in Norway

Here's a guest post by Kyle Korynta, our translator for the upcoming Fosse productions. 

The Norwegian language situation

Norway is unique in that there is no official nation-wide spoken language; Norwegians speak either their own regional dialect or a regional standard, such as standard east-Norwegian.  In addition there are three official written languages in the country: bokmål, nynorsk, and samisk.  The first two are closely related and easily read/understood by all Norwegians, whereas the Sami language, spoken by the indigenous Sami people who originally lived in northern Norway, comes from a completely different language family. 

Bokmål is the most common written language in Norway and is used by approximately 85% of the population.  Bokmål is largely used in eastern and northern Norway.  Riksmål, which later became Bokmål, has its origins in Danish.  Riksmål was considered by many to be the language of the educated upper class as it, or Danish, was the language used in early universities.

Nynorsk is the written language used by approximately 15% of the population and is used largely in western Norway.  Nynorsk, formerly called Landsmål, was created from Norwegian dialects by Ivar Aasen in the 1840-1850s.  Nynorsk/Landsmål was considered to be the language of the Norwegian people.  Aasen traveled the country and created a dictionary and a grammar book based on the language that Norwegians actually spoke.  Nynorsk is closer to Old Norse, and therefore more similar to modern Icelandic language, in vocabulary and grammar than Bokmål. Nynorsk is often thought of as being a more poetic language and some of the greatest Norwegian poets have written in Landsmål/Nynorsk.

Jon Fosse is from western coastal Norway.  His works are therefore written in his Norwegian written language, Nynorsk.  If we were to compare his written Norwegian language with that of Henrik Ibsen’s, the two written forms would be at opposite extremes of the paradigm; Fosse writes in modern Nynorsk, and Ibsen wrote in Danish/Riksmål.

Written by Kyle Korynta, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Washington.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Let's kick start this thing!

Well, we're officially in production for Gjenganger: 3 plays by Jon Fosse opening on February 28th at the DCASE Storefront Theater. This is a big deal!

Want to be a part of it? Check out our Kickstarter which just launched this week. Watch the sweet video and give (if you feel like it). Every dollar helps. Really. If you can't give, you can help by sharing the Kickstarter with others.

Tusen takk!

We leave you today with this promo pic for Autumn Dream (one of the plays in our theatrical triptych).

Photo by Sooz Main

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Short Introduction to Jon Fosse and his Dramas

Akvavit is thrilled to be presenting a reading of IAB member Kyle Korynta's new translation of A Summer's Day by Jon Fosse. We are very lucky ducks, because not only is Kyle here in Chicago for the reading, he has written the following blog to introduce our readers to Fosse. Enjoy!

 A Short Introduction to Jon Fosse and his Dramas


There are so many aspects to the authorship of Jon Fosse and so many things that fascinate me in his works that keep me reading and investigating.  Although there have been a few productions of Fosse’s plays performed in the USA, Fosse is still fairly unknown here; this is actually quite surprising since Fosse has become so popular in various countries in Europe and in China.  In this short blog post I will briefly describe some aspects of Fosse’s success and some of the themes in his works.

Fosse’s Success

Fosse debuted in 1983 with his novel, Raudt, svart (Red, black) and has remained a highly productive writer.  After having written several novels, Fosse’s style of writing caught the attention of theater directors in the early 1990s.

Even though Fosse was known to be a theater hater, he was eventually convinced to start writing plays with the encouragement of Tom Remlov and Kai Johnsen; he wrote his first play Nokon kjem til å komme [Someone is Going to Come] in 1992, yet it wasn’t performed until 1996.  Instead it was his second and third plays, Og aldri skal vi skiljast [And Never Shall We Be Parted] Namnet [The Name] that were first performed at Den nationale scene in 1994 and 1995 in connection with the Bergen Project.

With the success of Namnet [The Name] and Nokon kjem til å komme [Someone is Going to Come] Fosse’s works quickly drew the attention of an international crowd and were soon performed in Germany and France.  Fosse was put on the map as a new voice and style, not only in Norwegian theater, but also in European theater.  In his article from 1997, “Hvorfor akkurat Jon Fosse?” [Why precisely Jon Fosse?], Jon Nygaard writes that in a very short amount of time Fosse had become Norway’s leading dramatist; one would have to go back to Ibsen to find a comparison with his success.  Nygaard writes, “Fosse’s breakthrough has happened much faster that Ibsen’s and his breakthrough will perhaps [have] the same implications for the development of Norwegian theater.”  Nygaard points out the main reasons why Fosse has been successful; first he was already an established writer before he wrote plays, secondly he truly writes works for the stage in a process that breaks down the barrier between authors and theaters and returns the theater to the intellectual world, and thirdly he has had a team of support from Remlov, Johnsen, Eirik Stubø and Norwegian theaters who invested in his plays.

In the following years journalists began referring to Fosse as “the new Ibsen” in Norway, while others began comparing Fosse to playwrights such as Beckett, Pinter, Brecht, Maeterlinck, Chekhov, Strindberg, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and Elfriede Jelinek.

Fosse’s success inspired the creation of Kirsti Mathilde Thorheim’s book published in 2008, Tyngda av ein forfattarskap: Jon Fosses litterære og sceniske rom: Korleis dokumentere ein verdsdramatikar? [The weight of an authorship: Jon Fosse’s literary and scenic space: How to document a world dramatist?].  Thorheim writes that as of 2007 there were a total of 479 documented theater productions, staged in over 300 theaters in 44 countries (12).  Thorheim also writes, “Jon Fosse is one of the most important voices in world drama today.  In periods after the turn of the century he has probably been the most performed contemporary dramatist in Europe” (27).  Thorheim’s book outlines Fosse’s success and gives the reasons for creating a Fosse-archive which became realized in part in 2010 at the Ivar Aasen Centre.


According to Norwegian literary scholar Lars Sætre, Fosse’s plays have four main themes, the past and memory or temporality, the characters’ innerselves and spiritual lives, dream, and unique from the playwrights of before or around 1900, Fosse has a fourth theme, “a special further development of the masters’ critical conventions: the theme of language, signs, names, words, and what they are able to carry and convey” (2005: 178). 

Other scholars have also described how Fosse uses the theme of the difficult and imprecise relationship between language and reality.  Hilde Aarflot has described Fosse’s work as attempting to describe the indescribable in her article from 2000.  In his article from 2007, Norwegian Dramaturg Ola E. Bø has described Fosse’s work as theater texts that allow the silence to speak.  American director Sarah Cameron Sunde writes that Fosse’s dramas allow space for silence in her article from 2007, “Silence and Space: The New Drama of Jon Fosse.”  Sunde writes, “The idea of space (both the space that separates people from each other and the limitless possibilities of what might occur in a space that is wide-open) winds its way through every layer of Fosse’s work” (58).

There are emotional and mystical themes that can be felt in a Fosse play.  A concept that Fosse includes in many of his works is “det lysande mørket,” or “the illuminating darkness.”  This was the title of Swedish critic Leif Zern’s  book from 2005 on Jon Fosse’s plays.  The phrase itself is an oxymoron and is tied to mysticism; as Norwegian Lutheran Minister Kjell Arnold Nyhus writes in his book on Fosse from 2009, U Alminnelig: Jon Fosse og mystikken. [Un Common: Jon Fosse and Mysticism], it can be helpful to read Fosse’s works in the context of Christianity and the mystic writings of Mester Eckhart.

I myself have written about Fosse’s emotional and lyrical qualities in my 2012 dissertation entitled, “A Comparative Study of Selected Plays by Jon Fosse and Henrik Ibsen: Affinity, Affect, and the Altering of Aura.”

Recent Honors

Fosse has now written 15 works of prose, two collections of essays, many songs and lyrical works, 9 children’s books, and over 27 works of drama.

In September of 2010 Fosse received the International Ibsen Award and in 2011 he was awarded the highest honor that could be given to him by the Norwegian State, the privilege to reside in the Honorable Artist Residence, Grotten, in Oslo for the rest of his life.

Kyle Korynta was a 2011-2012 Fulbright Scholar to Norway and is currently a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Washington in the department of Scandinavian Studies.