On May 14, 1912, Sweden lost a most famous and acclaimed playwright, novelist, poet, painter and essayist, August Strindberg. 100 years later the whole world is celebrating the centennial of his death, and in the Bay Area the celebration is already in progress.
The August Strindberg Centennial in the Bay Area
Rob Melrose, artistic director of The Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco, started to prepare the celebration six years ago by contacting Paul Walsh, a well-known Strindberg translator. Together, they decided to make a new translation of the five chamber plays.
January 29 of this year started the year-long celebration of Strindberg’s work with two readings of "Miss Julie" and "A Dream Play" with a Swedish dinner between the readings.
As a Swede, I was surprised by how important Strindberg’s work is to the American theater scene, but Melrose explained that every American college drama department teaches Chekov, Ibsen and Strindberg. Melrose himself studied drama at Yale University and fell in love with the work of Strindberg. He explained that Strindberg is one of the most important playwrights for having pioneered realism and expressionism in theater. He was ahead of his time. His realism incorporated the audience into the play with smells, real props and making the set designs real, even if it means oblique angles and imperfect views.
Later in life Strindberg was drawn to the opposite expression from that of his realistic plays. He wrote "A Dream Play" in the form of a dream. He was the pioneer of expressionism within drama—Melrose can see how German playwrights were inspired by Strindberg 30 years later and that surreal movies like "Momento" and "Inception" are being made today. He was also ahead of his time in writing about the equality between the sexes as well as about women’s liberation.
Celebrating the centennial of Strindberg’s death is a once in a lifetime opportunity and Melrose is very proud to have the Cutting Ball Theater presenting Strindberg’s Chamber Plays in Rep, which, to his knowledge, is the first time all five plays can be seen together in repertory in any language including Swedish.
A couple years ago, the leaders of the Cutting Ball Theater introduced the idea of a Strindberg Centennial to the Consulate General of Sweden in San Francisco and the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation. Pro Suecia supports the production of all five chamber plays translated by John Walsh.
The Consulate General will be very much involved in the work of the Strindberg Centennial at the Strindberg conference at UC-Berkeley in October. The greatest Strindberg connoisseur in Sweden, Björn Meidal, will be the keynote speaker.
UC-Berkeley and the University of Washington will organize a conference where members of the Association of Swedish Teachers and Researchers in America (ASTRA) from all over the U.S. will participate. In conjunction with this conference, the Cutting Ball Theater will present a preview of the "Ghost Sonata."
The Cutting Ball Theater will celebrate the Strindberg Centennial throughout 2012. Please visit their website for more information:
The Swedish Consulate General of San Francisco will also keep you updated on the events of this celebration:
For more info on the San Francisco Swedish Chamber of Commerce, see www.sacc-sf.org
By Emma Lööf Björnram