New Nordic Voices

13-01 2010


New Nordic Voices Progress-Report


New Nordic Voices was initiated in 2005 by the Nordic Cultural Attaché Group in Ottawa in collaboration with Theatre Director Jens Svane Boutrup from Momentum Theatre in Odense, Denmark.

After two consecutive years of celebrating two Nordic masters, Hans Christian Andersen and Henrik Ibsen, the general sentiment among the cultural attachés of the Nordic embassies was that it would be an opportune idea to open a door into the voices and stories told by writers of present day Nordic countries.

Since Canada is a country of so many voices and so many defining stories to tell, it was a trembling experience to present the compilation of 18 contemporary Nordic plays to Canadian theatres in Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg and hope to see results.

The project would not have happened without the funding from the Nordic Cultural Fund and the previously existing Nordscen.

The expertise, collaboration and funding from the Playwrights' Associations in the four participating countries, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland; The National Arts Council in Denmark and Iceland, the Finnish Theatre Information Centre, and the Writers' Guild of Norway, were necessary in order to give the project substance and to ensure a high quality.

Likewise, the project would not have happened without the vision and perseverance of Wenche Sharp, Advisor at the Danish embassy, who started the project together with Jens Svane Boutrup.

Not surprisingly, the project took longer to complete than first anticipated. In part, because of shifts within the working group, in part because of the nature of the project and in part because the embassy group is not professionally savvy so it took time to know how to pull the right strings.

By early 2008 we did not yet have a committed production or reading, we had several requests for the catalogues and plays, but no results.

Thankfully, this changed due to a small, but truly exceptional group of hardworking directors and professionals who took the risk of producing a contemporary play by an obscure - by Canadian standards - Nordic playwright.

In the final year of the project there have been two full productions of Jon Fosse in Toronto, one production of Astrid Saalbach in Ottawa and four readings in Winnipeg by Finnish and Icelandic dramatists. Hopefully, this is the early trickle of a greater awareness and appreciation of the New Nordic Voices here in Canada.


Project Description

The following is the original project description as the project was envisioned to proceed at the beginning. The project has not been realized by the parameters here given. In its completion, the budgets as well as the ambitions of the project have been lessened, in order to bring it down to a feasible level of operation by the standards of the new working group.

Project Title

New Nordic Voices - Introducing contemporary Nordic plays in Canada.

Project Period - 2005 to 2007


* To introduce acclaimed, contemporary Nordic plays and playwrights to theatres, artists and audiences in Canada.
* To bring together theatre institutions in the Nordic countries in an effort to promote and share our best plays and playwrights with Canadian artists and theatre institutions.
* To build the foundation for a lasting network of Nordic and Canadian artists and institutions through which plays, ideas and projects can be shared.
* To allow Canadian artists to directly encounter, investigate and work with contemporary Nordic plays.
* To develop and nurture ongoing relationships with responding Canadian theatre institutions and Nordic partners.
* To include Canadian and Nordic theatre training institutions, colleges and universities in the network, in order to generate a cultural meeting between the next generations of artists from Canada and the Nordic countries and to encourage academic interest in contemporary Nordic plays and playwrights.



The initiative to make a special effort to promote Nordic drama in Canada stems from a series of discussions between Wenche Sharp of the Danish Embassy in Canada and Danish stage director and translator, Jens Boutrup. The development of New Nordic Voices has drawn inspiration from previous efforts to promote Nordic drama abroad, such as Scandinavia on Stage and Network North, and aims to take a slightly different approach. New Nordic Voices puts emphasis on the promotion of the play as a text, bringing the best contemporary Nordic plays to the attention of Canadian artists and theatres. New Nordic Voices rests on the assertion that local participation is pivotal in building a long lasting relationship; that direct interaction between the text and the artist is the key to developing artistic interest and excitement; and finally, that the success of New Nordic Voices hinges on a sustained attention and effort from the Nordic partners involved in the project.

Project Description

Phase 1

* Identification of Canadian theatre institutions that have shown interest in Nordic drama. Theatres eligible to participate in the project will be selected by interviews and discussions with the theatres, carried out by the Project Committee, and with the Canada Arts Council as advisor.


* Production of a Nordic catalogue of contemporary plays with 5 plays from each country, totaling 25 plays. The selection of the plays will be made in collaboration with the 5 national art council's literature centres or equivalent institutions, to secure the best possible selection of plays and translations and a direct collaboration between New Nordic Voices and the Nordic arts councils.


Phase 1 is carried out in the summer of 2005.

Phase 2

* Visits to selected theatres across Canada to introduce the catalogue and engage in a direct dialogue with the theatres' artistic staff. The visits will be carried out by Project Consultant, Jens Boutrup, accompanied by a member of the Project Committee. For 2005 we have projected visits to 6 Canadian cities over a period of 15-18 days.


* The theatres that - upon reading and selecting plays of special interest to them - show a desire to go further in the process can then be granted a production grant of up to $2.000 CDN (app. 10.000 dkr.). To receive a production grant, the theatre agrees to produce a rehearsed and staged reading of the selected play as a minimum. The production must involve local artists, must be carried out at the theatre's own venue and must be open to the public. The Project Committee decides who will receive a grant and the size of the grant.


* The Project Committee and the project consultant facilitate contacts to relevant Nordic artists, theatres, publishers and institutions, to enhance the cross-cultural involvement and to develop the network of Nordic and Canadian artists and institutions.


Phase 2 is carried out in the fall and winter of 2005.

Phase 3

* Follow up and evaluation of phase 1 & 2, involving Nordic and Canadian institutions and artists. The Project Committee will, upon the evaluation, decide on adjustments or changes deemed necessary for the success of the continued effort.


* The Project Committee will work to secure funding for the continuation of the project in 2006 and 2007 by encouraging the funding partners of 2005 to renew their commitment, as well as exploring other funding opportunities such as Nordic foundations, publishers, professional organisations and government institutions.


Phase 3 is carried out in the winter and spring of 2006.

The project is repeated in 2006 and 2007, upon the completion of Phase 3.

Nordic Dimension

New Nordic Voices is a project that aims to take the knowledge of Nordic plays in Canada beyond Ibsen and Strindberg, and to nurture more collaborations and exchanges in the theatrical field between the Nordic countries and Canada, our neighbor.

New Nordic Voices is born out of the belief that a joint Nordic push can generate results we couldn't achieve individually, and that our shared Nordic cultural heritage - interpreted and communicated by contemporary Nordic voices - can generate a unique connection and kinship with the Canadian theatre community.

New Nordic Voices is the first step in an ongoing effort to develop a lasting network and relationship between Nordic and Canadian theatre institutions and artists - an effort to which all of the five Nordic embassies in Canada are committed.

Project Committee

New Nordic Voices is headed by the Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish Embassies in Canada, represented by the following members:

* Project Leader: Wenche Sharp, Advisor - Press and Cultural Affairs , Royal Danish Embassy in Canada.
* Pirkko Mäkikokkila, Attaché - Press and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Finland in Canada.
* Helga Bertelsen, Attaché, Embassy of Iceland in Canada.
* Kristin Melsom, First Secretary, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Canada.
* Magnus Schönning, First Secretary, Embassy of Sweden in Canada.


The Project Committee is assisted by Project Consultant, Jens Boutrup - Stage director and Translator.


New Nordic Voices is partially funded by the Nordic Embassies in Canada, and is applying for additional funding from Nordisk Kulturfond, The national arts councils in the Nordic countries and Nordscen for 2005.



New Working Group in January 2008

In January 2008, a new Nordic Cultural Attaché Group was formed. The group remained unchanged throughout the last phase of the project, ending in December 2009. Its members are:

Project leader - Randi Kårstad, Cultural Affairs Officer, Royal Norwegian Embassy

Patricia Dodge - Head, Press and Culture, Finnish Embassy

Linda Friis Petersen, Communication & Cultural Advisor, Royal Danish Embassy

Olóf Sigvaldadóttir, Attaché, Embassy of Iceland


Budgets and funding

New Nordic Voices was granted 50 000 DKK from The Nordic Cultural Fund in 2006. Another 30 000 DKK was granted through Nordscen in order to cover costs of creating a catalogue and establishing a website. Each of the Playwrights' Associations (Dramatikerforbundene) agreed to make available for 3 consecutive years 10 000DKK towards a production of a work by their country's playwright. This amount would be matched by a contribution from the specific embassy.

The New Nordic Voices catalogue was completed by mid 2007. Its selection of plays was decided upon entirely by the Playwrights' Associations and presented in form of a series of synopsis. See attachment: New Nordic Voices Catalogue.

Consultant Jens Boutrup compiled the catalogue and set up the web site where interested could order a copy of both the catalogue and the full text of the play in question.

A list of 40 Canadian theatres, universities and Drama Schools was collected and the working group started a systematic outreach to these, presenting the catalogue and the concept. In September 2007, Jens Boutrup came from Denmark to visit some of these theatres in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg.

At the end of this marketing tour, the project had spent the 50 000DKK from the Nordic Cultural Fund and the 30 000DKK from Nordscen, and had yet to find a committed partner (s) for the project.

At the beginning of 2008 the project was at a cross roads; the project leader was stepping down, the funding had run out and we had only completed phase 1 of the project, more than 18 months later than first scheduled.

A consensus decision was made at the first meeting of the new working group in January 2008. As a final effort we wanted to see the project through to the end. The group applied for renewed funding through the Nordic Cultural Fund. The project was granted another 50 000DKK ear marked for productions only, in order to complete phase 2 of the project outline, the actual collaboration with theatres and festivals.

New Nordic Voices received 5 applications for productions and they were all eligible for support.


Toronto: One Little Goat Theatre production of Jon Fosse's play, Someone Is Going to Come, required a new Canadian translation since the existing one in British English standard does not work well for a North American audience. The Writers' Guild of Norway generously sponsored the cost of the Canadian English translation with 3000 CAD (17 000 NOK). Translated by Adam Seelig and Harry Lane.

The production received 5500 CAD from the New Nordic Voices Fund.


Toronto: Play inc. Theatre Company, produced Jon Fosse's A Summer's Day, and received 3000 CAD through the New Nordic Voices Fund.

Winnipeg: The Manitoba Association of Playwrights in Winnipeg applied funds to stage a reading and workshop of Surf (Brim) by Icelandic playwright Jon Atli Jonasson, during the Núna (now) Festival.

The reading received 2000 CAD from the New Nordic Voices Fund. The production was a collaboration between the Núna Festival and the Manitoba Association of Playwrights.


Winnipeg: The Manitoba Association of Playwrights also applied for funding to stage a reading of the Finnish play Mobile Horror by Juha Jokela. The reading was in collaboration with the Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg.

The staged reading received 1380 CAD from the New Nordic Voices Fund.


Ottawa: Théâtre du Trillium, applied for a grant for their production of Le Bout du Monde, by Danish playwright Astrid Saalbach.

The New Nordic Voices program was not catered to French language theatre, but the committee decided to grant the production 1000 CAD out of the remaining New Nordic Voices Fund.



One Little Goat Theatre:

Someone Is Going to Come by Jon Fosse

Toronto, March 13-29, 2009

Walmer Centre Theatre

A poetic play of paranoia and sexual jealousy by one of the world's greatest living playwrights, Jon Fosse. Presented in Toronto for the first time by One Little Goat.


GLOBE & MAIL, J. Kelly Nestruck: "21st-century Beckett, played with creepy charm and impeccable comic timing."

TORONTO STAR, Robert Crew: "With its new translation of Someone is Going to Come, One Little Goat Theatre Company has done Canadians a huge service. It allows us to sample, most of us for the first time, the very special talents of contemporary Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse, hailed by many as the greatest thing since sliced Ibsen. The play is wonderfully creepy, the script a smorgasbord of poetry and bleak humour."

EYE WEEKLY, Christopher Hoile: "Keen insight and superb acting."

CLASSICAL 96.3FM, Paula Citron: "Kudos to Seelig for bringing us intelligent writers virtually unknown in North America!"

SCENE CHANGES, Jeniva Berger: "An intriguing glimpse into the genius of Fosse."

(For complete reviews visit and click on "Media")

Featuring Michael Blake | Dwight McFee | Stacie Steadman | Directed by Adam Seelig | Translated from the Norwegian by Harry Lane and Adam Seelig

Set & Costumes by Jackie Chau (2008 Dora nominee) | Lights by Kate McKay | Stage Managed by Wendy Lee | Music by Ludwig van Beethoven

Thanks to the many who continue to spread the word...!

©2009 ONE LITTLE GOAT | 422 Brunswick Ave, Toronto ON M5R 2Z4


Play inc. theatre company :

A Summer's Day by Jon Fosse

Toronto, October 21 - November 7, 2009.


The Equity Co-Op show runs October 21 - November 7, 2009 at the Alley Theatre Workshop, 12 Ossington Ave in Toronto. Show times are Tuesday- Saturday 8pm. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for students. For more information or tickets, call

416-927-0906 or visit.

Considered one of the world's finest contemporary playwrights, Jon Fosse's work has been translated into over forty languages. Set in an isolated old house against the dramatic backdrop of the Norwegian Fjords, A Summer's Day takes us back to a pivotal moment of a couple's life and spins a haunting story told from two different points of view.

Directed by Cynthia Ashperger, dramaturge/choreographer Brandy Leary. A Summer's Day stars Cynthia Ashperger (Ryerson University; director of acting program), Lara Arabian (Hallaj, Modern Times show) Mike Kash (Dora Moore Award Nominee) and Dylan Smith (Death of a Salesman, Blue Bridge).

Set design by Emir Geljo, costume design by Alex Gilbert, lighting design by Michael Bergmann and sound design/composition by Dale Yim.



A Summer's Day

By Christopher Hoile October 23, 2009 12:10

Editorial Rating:

A Summer's Day
Written by Jon Fosse. Directed by Cynthia Ashperger. Featuring Cynthia Ashperger, Dylan Smith. Presented by Play Inc. To Nov 7. Tue-Sat 8pm, $20, students $15. Alley Theatre Workshop, 12 Ossington. 416-927-0906.

Is Toronto acquiring a taste for Jon Fosse? A Summer's Day (1999), the work's Canadian premiere, is the second production of a Fosse play this year. The 50-year-old Norwegian playwright, frequently performed in Europe, is barely known in North America.

Fosse uses extensive repetition and an extremely reduced vocabulary to represent the inadequacy of language in the face of the surrounding void that renders it and existence itself meaningless. Thus, characters in A Summer's Day hold on to simple words like "window," "boat," "waves," "darkness," in a vain attempt to make sense of their world. The plot itself is simple. The visit of an Elderly Friend (Lara Arabian) to an Elderly Woman (Cynthia Ashperger) sparks the memory of the Friend's first visit to the house when the Woman's husband Asle (Dylan Smith) left to brood on his boat in the fjord and never returned. Asle's disappearance and the Woman's petrifaction into a state unfulfillable hope make this a double tragedy.

Ashperger has had the brilliant insight to recognize how similar Fosse's memory play is to Japanese Noh plays in which characters are compelled to re-enact the memories that forever imprison them. Here, Ashperger uses beautiful, handcrafted Balinese masks for the Elderly Woman, Elderly Friend and others, who have reached a state of immutability, to set them apart from their younger unmasked selves when change was still possible. As a performer Ashperger clearly distinguishes the ritualistic acting style of the Elderly Woman from the naturalistic style of her younger self while maintaining unabating intensity in both. Smith is excellent is conveying the depths of depression that have engulfed an ordinary man. Arabian and Michael Kash, as the Friend's Husband, fully convey the pain of innocents drawn into the tragedy of others. As a director Ashperger brings out both the poetry and the unbearable tension of a nightmare playing out in slow motion.

Dr.Cynthia Ashperger
Director of Acting Program
Ryerson Theatre School,
Faculty of Communication and Design
Ryerson University, Toronto


Núna Festival,

Manitoba Association of Playwrights:

Surf by Jón Atli Jonasson

Winnipeg, April 29- May 2, 2009.

Directed by Rory Runnell

Manitoba Association of Playwrights,

Production was close to full level. Held in the main theatre at Prairie Theatre Exchange to an audience of 300. Production was received with acclaim, Winnipeg and Manitoba has the 2nd highest numbers of Icelandic descent outside Iceland itself. The festival is annual and would be interested in continuing to stage new playwrights from Iceland.


Manitoba Association of Playwrights:

Mobile Horror by Juha Jokela

Winnipeg, May 20, 2009.

Directed by Rory Runnell.

Staged reading for one performance in the Colin Jackson Theatre, 2nd space of Prairie Theatre Exchange, Winnipeg. It has 150 seats, audience number 80.


Théâtre du Trillium:

Le Bout du Monde by Astrid Saalbach.

Ottawa, October 21 - 31, 2009.

Director: Anne-Marie White

Featuring: Marc-André Charette, Nathaly Charette, Magali Lemèle, Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez.

Music: Guy Marsan

Light: Paul Auclaire

Costume and Hair design: Geneviéve Couture

Presented at Salle Caisses Desjardins of La Nouvelle Scène,

Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Thursdays at 6 pm, Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm.


Magali Lemèle as Xénia Photo: Rolline Laporte

End note

At the end of 2009, the Nordic Cultural group is pleased to conclude the project New Nordic Voices. Out of the 5 productions in this final year, 4 would not have been realized without the assistance of the New Nordic Voices project.

Only the larger scale production of Astrid Saalbach's play would have been produced regardless.

The project has been met with enthusiasm, as a concept. Yet, it is a long way from welcoming the idea to actually taking the risk it is to produce foreign contemporary plays, -especially in North America where theatres depend so much more on Box office than in the Scandinavian countries.

Many of the requests we received for plays from the catalogue online came from Europe; Estland, Germany, The UK and Ireland. These were told to contact the publishers. Based on that information and the experience of trying to sell the plays to theatres in Canada, we think the New Nordic Voices concept has a higher potential in Europe and perhaps most so within the Nordic Countries themselves.

It was rewarding to receive the support we got from the Nordic Cultural Fund and the enthusiasm and expertise from the Nordic Playwrights' Associations. Thank you for this genuine support.

The Nordic Cultural Fund received a full report of the project in August, including budgets and programs, posters and reviews.

We apologize for not including all of these in the electronic report. Should you still want some, you can let us know.

On behalf of the Nordic Press and Cultural group,

Randi Kårstad
Ottawa, December 18, 2009