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.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kirstin's Recommendation: Tre Kroner

Company member Kirstin has a favorite hot spot - Tre Kroner, the site of two of our readings! Read on for her review and her recommendation for a perfect brunch. I know where I'm having breakfast this weekend!
I know exactly what you're thinking...
...What the heck am I going to do with my time on Saturday and Sunday before and in between the Nordic Spirit Fest readings?
Well, you won't need to go far...
In fact you should stay put. 

Both matinee readings will be performed at one of Chicago's finest Scandinavian restaurants: Tre Kronor
Which happens to be a mighty fine place to grab a meal...
I highly recommend coming a bit early on Saturday and Sunday and grabbing brunch at Tre Kronor.  

Have you ever had one of those unforgettable meals that haunt you in your sleep? Makes your mouth dribble with gooey saliva at the mere thought of the restaurant's name? 
Well, that happened to me at Tre Kronor. In fact my first meal was sooo good that I have to admit every time I've gone back I haven't tried anything else because, well, it was that good.

So if you go, order "The Kirstin" (but don't actually say that because they will have no idea what you mean) which includes:

Fresh squeezed orange juice (you're going to need a large people...and yes you'll probably order a second)
A side order of Swedish Pancakes with lingonberries (I'm already drooling, just typing this...)
A vanilla hazelnut danish (seriously might be the best pastry in town)
Tomato Basil (or) the Brie and Pepper Quiche (which comes on the most delicious buttery crust that ever melted in your mouth and seriously the most generous serving of fresh fruit piled alongside it - we're talking loads of bananas berries and grapes, not loads of melon)

This is a lot of food, so you might need a small child to help you finish it all... but that's okay because Saturday's matinee reading IS FOR KIDS!!! And guess what? They're free!! 

After the matinee you will have more time to kill. Not a problem at all. Just head across the street to the Sweden Shop where you can peruse through all sorts of Nordic goods, foods and books...try on a Norwegian sweater or buy a few yards of Marimekko fabric. Fun times for all. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Get ready to sing!

Saturday Gala with a song!

For the Nordics!

Fredmans Sång nr. 21

Så lunkar vi så småningom
från Backibuller och tumult,
när döden ropar: Granne kom,
ditt timglas är nu fyllt!
Du, gubbe fäll din krycka ner -
och du, du yngling, lyd min lag,
den skönsta nymf, som åt dig ler,
inunder armen tar!

Tycker du att graven är för djup,
nå, välan så tag dig då en sup,
tag dig sen dito en, dito två, dito tre,
så dör du nöjdare!

Same song for the rest to sing along!

So loon car fee sews moaning “Om”
front back key bull her oak two malt,
near turd hen rhubarb: Granny come,
deed Tim Gloss air new volt!
Dew, goo bud fail Dean creek car near-
oak dew, do inkling, lead mean log,
den sure stone imp, some oat day lair,
in noon dare arm hen tar!

Tick her do hot cry van air fur you,
Nobel end sew dog day dough end soup,
dog day send ditto end, ditto toe, ditto tray,
so turd you nerd away! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nordic Spirit Hot Spots!

As you plan for Nordic Spirit this weekend, you may be looking for good places in the neighborhood for dinner before, drinks after or a snack in between.  Here are some of our favorite area hot spots. Enjoy!

Tre Kronor
3258 W. Foster
Get yummy Swedish meatballs or Falukorv sausage here. It's traditional Scandinavian food with a modern twist.

Parlour on Clark
6341 N. Clark
Parlour is a super low-key tap room on the far North side with a hip, urban feel.

Tiny Lounge
4352 N. Leavitt
Try a fabulous martini or cocktail in the heart of Lincoln Square! Super chic and modern.

The Red Lion
4749 N. Rockwell
Traditional English fare in a cozy spot.

We're back!

Akvavit is so excited about our Nordic Spirit Festival this year, we've decided it's the perfect occasion to revive our blog. Please check back this week for information related to the festival, and keep checking back in the future for all things Akvavit, Nordic and Theatrical!

So Loon Car Fee!