Music & Arts
Akvavit Theatre Interprets Nordic Productions – and culture – for Chicago AudiencesOctober 19, 2016
In 2011, an itinerant theater company was formed in Chicago to “explore what it means to be Nordic in an artistic context,” according to company member, casting director and marketing director, Kirstin Franklin.
Akvavit Theatre, which is the only U.S. theater company that annually produces and performs at least two fully staged, contemporary Nordic plays in translation, uses its performances to shine a spotlight on the unique traits of Scandinavian life.
In their exploration, the company members of Akvavit – named after the flavored Scandinavian spirit (often spelled “aquavit”) – have discovered that Nordic culture is vastly different from that of the United States. While Americans seek instant gratification, Franklin said, “The Nordic culture is OK with waiting and this ambiguity of the unknown.”
In fact, as Chicago Theater Beat wrote in 2015, “Akvavit Theatre has bridged the cultural gap between Scandinavia and the United States by digesting odd Nordic plays for a Chicago audience.”
While the theater draws a diverse range of theatergoers, Akvavit’s productions particularly appeal to the Gen X and Millennial generations because of their intense, provocative and often controversial subject matter.
“The Millennial generation has really attached to the more dark, comedic pieces,” Franklin said. “And the Generation X gravitates to the dark, sad pieces.”
In the company’s most recent black comedy production, Hand in Hand, which closed in October, six accidental roommates struggle to find money, love and their own apartment in Stockholm. Searching for shelter in the wilderness, the bedroom and even desperately looking for it in the government, the roommates’ lives spin hilariously out of control as they realize the truly high cost of living.
The Akvavit Theatre company, under the leadership of co-artistic directors, Chad Eric Bergman and Bergen Anderson, is composed predominantly of Nordic-Americans but also those who are just fascinated by the culture. The company performs at theaters around Chicago, primarily on the northern side, but also in Edgewater, Andersonville, Lakeview, Wicker Park and the Loop. The Akvavit Theatre initiative was part of the Nordic Spaces project funded by the Bank of Sweden’s Tercentenary Foundation.