For the past week I have been marching around Scandinavia with Annika.
These are beautiful places filled with interesting and kind people.
This morning my companion (2) and I took a walk through the country with the Nordiska Folkhögskolan Alumni. (3) This was the morning training(4) for the day, although it took on a bit of a different function from previous days. We were able to see the real beauty surrounding us in the Swedish countryside. I was amazed by grandeur around me. The myths of scandinavia made sense to me in a new and exciting way, it was as if there really could be a giant around every corner.
In a lot of ways Tokalynga is the strangest place (to me) that I have ever been. The house is very full of strange things and strange rooms. It is my first time being somewhere that I am truly the only American(5). It gets dark so early(6). And I am called upon to do very strange things(7).
(1) Tokalynga is the culture house that houses Annika and I for the month. It is run by Teater Albatross under the direction of Robert Jakobsson. It is unlike any place that I have been. The house is massive and boasts about 30 bedrooms. There are also two large studios and a lot of outside space. Look out for a walk through video of some of the house’s weirder parts.
(2) Annika Vestel is my companion/guide/collaborator/translator/friend/wresltingopponent/swedishteacher on this crazy journey through Scandinavia. You know her from Bacchic, but this time I work with her in collaboration with her own company Vestel Scenkonst
(2A) Vestel Scenkonst
(3) Nordiska Folkhögskolan is a one year theatre school in Sweden. A group of 12 alumni have formed a sort of collective that will be living at Tokalynga over the next year. They hire teachers to come and train with them as well as lead each other in training. Split into three smaller cohorts they are also devising some pieces that they may show in a larger city some time soon.
(4) Morning Training is one of the major unifying aspects of the Tokalynga community. Every day at9:00 we gather in one of the studios and do an hour long “structured” improvisation. Sometimes it is lead by Robert, but also by different people in the group. Leading in this situation is really just a matter of starting us off and choosing the music from a grand selection of CDs. The training is a way for us all to start the day idealistically, that we are all in communion with one another and supportive of the work that we all do separately in the house.
(4A) Idealistically. This is such a common word in the house. Tokalynga seems to be built on ideals above functions. Community is the primary ideal, but also that we can all do what makes ourselves happy while helping each other. It also refers to a strict sense of equality. I somewhat jokingly call this the “Everybody Gets a Fish” mentality. (Working Idealistically in Scandinavia also frequently means working for free)
(5) Solo American. This has been harder for me than I thought it would be. I have a hard time balancing my americanness with a desire to fit in and experience the culture. I find myself being quite a lot more than usual because I don't want to stand out too much. The language also comes into it. Everyone in the house speaks amazing english, but I feel bad asking them to shift group chats into english for my benefit. This challenge and limitations are exciting for me and I am learning a lot about myself, but it can also be a little bit lonely.
(6) It gets totally dark around 4.
(7) Strangeness. This weekend the Nordiska Folkhögskolan students hired a man named Svante Grogarn to come and do a workshop with them. Annika and I were recruited to help facilitate the seminar. Svante had them start the seminar on their own on beds that they made for themselves in the main studio at Tokalynga. He then had them play a recording that instructed them to put on blindfolds. They proceeded to spend the next 24 hours blindfolded and unable to speak. Once they had gone into the exercise the facilitators entered the room and lead them on a journey that consisted of long walks and car rides. We then had some workshops in improvisation/voice/tongue massages/foot baths. Then we all had dinner followed by the blind students cleaning up and preparing for another workshop. Afterwards the facilitators brought them to the big communal shower and helped them bath and get ready for bed. This, of course, took place in the big studio where they started. They fell asleep after we feed them all milk from bottles and they received their stuffed animals. The next morning we did more walking/workshopping/cleaning/cuddling.