Savage Umbrella’s newest piece, VINLAND, is a beautiful, chaotic, dynamic story just itching to be brought to life. Over the next five weeks I’m delighted to be helming rehearsals in which we’ll be creating this story with twelve exciting actors: Anni Amberg, Megan Clark, Foster Johns, Benjamin Kolis, Hope Nordquist, Carl David Swanson, Mark Sweeney, Allison Witham, Nick Wolf and Savage Umbrella’s own Lisa Brimmer, Russ Dugger and Heidi Jedlicka Halvarson, as well as Blake E. Bolan (dramaturg) and Hannah K. Holman (production manager).
But what? Why? What’s going on?
In my quest to be of-the-moment I see restaurants offering seasonal, locally sourced produce, I see local breweries taking off, I see the quality of small local, businesses and I want to be part of that community-oriented, what-makes-us-here-now-special? zeitgeist. My adopted home of Minneapolis is a fascinating, rich place -- wait, WUT! there’s a Viking runestone in Kensington, MN?
Oh, yes. In the just-two-hours away Alexandria is housed the deliciously divisive Kensington Runestone. The stone’s runes tell a story of a joint Swedish/Norwegian voyage to Minnesota, remembering some of their group who were slain by the indigenous Native Americans, and it’s dated 1392. It was found in 1898 by a Swedish immigrant farmer, Olof Ohman. Linguists of the time declared it a hoax. Other academics claimed it was real. For decades the controversy has swirled. Were Vikings really in Minnesota in the 1300s? Or was Ohman trying to pull one over on everyone?
Man, it sure would be interesting to visit Alexandria and check out the museum.
Did I see cool things in Alexandria? Why yes, we drove to nearby New London, MN where we saw the Little Crow Ski Team. (nearby, meaning 1 hour away, meaning, distance is relative when you’re in a small town…)
So when the idea dawned on me in December of 2013, you can bet I was kicking the memory of July 2013 Laura who chose stick-eating-baby-adorableness over checking out a museum that could have been super useful to this project.
Isn’t that a cool boat my husband took a picture of? Yeah. Wish I knew anything about it, but I DIDN’T GO TO THAT FREAKING MUSEUM. Hindsight is 20/20. SIGH.*
But to the play. I plan to create a lyrical and dream-like world for the viking parts of the piece, evoking a mythical, romanticized version of the explorers. Then I’d like to tell the story of Ohman and his family, and of the balance between academic truth and cultural knowing. I hope to present questions and themes that will lead the audience to empathize with the vikings, with Ohman and with the academics, while these figures all struggle with the very human notions of heart, belonging, and home.
But, Laura, that’s a lot to cover in just five weeks!
Indeed, gentle blog reader, indeed. It’s really four and a half, but who’s counting?
That’s part of what makes these workshops so exciting. They’re jam-packed full of ideas and energy and YOU. Almost as exciting as working with the incredible artists I listed above, is bringing these ideas to you. Mark your calendar right now for September 19 & 20 at 7:30 pm. Come help make this invigorating pile of ideas into a play.
* Totally planning a trip to Alexandria to visit the stone with some Savage Umbrella colleagues after this workshop. Sans cute baby, I will totally do the appropriate research. Ahem.