Sweden. Day 35. Curtain.

The day started with slippery ice all over the entrance, so you had to be careful walking out of the door. It was sunny, but the ice from the previous rain and snow had frozen. One false step and you could fall down on the hard, cold ice, and break a leg. But then again, isn’t “break a leg” an expression used to wish success for those who work in the theatre world?

Today was the day for my final presentation here, which included the exhibition of a video documentary (“Three questions about Sweden”) and the reading of a sort of play.

I woke up feeling a bit anxious, after nightmarish dreams, as nothing was properly prepared. I had finished editing the video just the night before, and as for the reading of the play, the text was finished just two days ago, we didn’t have time for rehearsals, and everything had to be improvised on the spot. Plus there were quite a few technical aspects related to the exhibition and the recording of the play, and we had to make sure that all cables and stuff worked.

The video presentation, I think, went quite well. I don’t know what Swedish people will think of it, but, as a non-Swedish, I found all responses interesting; some were funny, a few were even touching.

Now, the film has a few little technical problems, the main one being that the camera (a now old Canon DSLR) has recently developed a problem with its focus sensor, and so autofocus is not working properly. Manual focus should be working a bit better, even if also not perfectly. However, my own inner focus sensor, that is my eyes, due to my age are also not working properly, and the little screen of the camera does not help. So sometimes I was sure things were on focus but they weren’t… But it happens only now and then in the video, and I think it does not distract too much from the content.

The video documentary was followed by a sort of multimedia play… It was called “Landstigning” (or “Ashore” in English), inspired by the work of August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen, and it is really still very much a work-in-progress… It is the initial scene or act of whatever I managed to write up here, and while it worked for the purposes of this presentation, it will still need a lot of work to turn into something finished.

The presentation of the play was a little more chaotic than the video, as we had done only a single reading of it, a day before (by video call, as Robert was in Stockholm) and there were no rehearsals on the stage. As we found out, there were many cues — actors’ entrances, sound effects, songs — that had not been properly timed.

But I have to say that Robert, who is a professional actor and theatre director, did a wonderful job. We were all just reading the lines, as there was no time for a real interpretation, but it was great job by the only real actor on stage. Robert played Ibsen; I, unfortunately, had to play Strindberg, as there was no one else to do it. A third character that just appears singing was played by fellow artist and singer Åsa, also by improvisation, as she had only been informed the day before…

The whole experience has only increased my respect for actors. It can be really hard to step on a stage and convince people that you are somebody else. I cannot really do it, but a good actor can transform written lines that maybe sound clunky or nothing special on paper, and give them the breath of life, and really make people believe in whatever crazy thing is happening. Actors make it seem easy, but it isn’t.

And of course, that’s not mentioning all the work that goes into it with the preparation, rehearsals, set design, etc. Now, I’ve been working with film for a while, and it can be hard too, but doing something live, and for the stage, is and feels completely different. If I have to do it another time, I will not try to rush it and take several months just for the preparation, but of course, we had just a few weeks up here at Björkö.

A surprise guest at the presentation was my friend Ninnie, another former exchange student at the Georgia Rotary Student Program (besides Karin) whom I had not seen in 28 years. She lives in Stockholm with a husband and three kids and came all the way up for the show. So that was very nice of them and also increased my respect for the people of Sweden, which was already high.

As I was back in the house, or rather in front of it, the little yellow bird appeared again, in a tree just next to me, singing. I suppose it’s the same bird who used to come to my window, or at least, I like to imagine it is. I still don’t know what he wants, but he seemed happy.