Theatre Season Opens Featuring:“Expat Actors Stage New Life in Denmark”
Life as an expat is a lot like being an actor. Each move you build a new set, discover a fresh cast of characters, and take on a new role based on your adopted culture and surroundings. You rehearse some times for months, but in the end isn’t it all just improvisation?
By Karen Covington Pictures: Marco Tamarin
We examined this theory by speaking about acting, the theatre, Denmark, and their role as expats with two of the performers from Copenhagen Theatre Circle’s (CTC) latest production – Topsy Turvy Tales: An Actor’s Nightmare and #Wonderland.
Natural Disaster Meets American Romance—the Musical
American Rachel Kador’s Denmark run began on the heels of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 where she met Kris, now her fiancé, at a Halloween party in New York City. First impressions went well for both, but he was leaving for Boston the next day on his way home to Copenhagen. A series of storms after the hurricane would prevent his departure for another 10 days, just long enough time for both to know they shared a deep connection. After two years of long-distance living, Kador traded her career and home in Manhattan for a new life in Denmark.
“When I was contemplating this crazy idea to move to Denmark for this man I knew I needed something else to do,” says Kador, who plays Sarah in “The Actor’s Nightmare.” An avid rider since childhood, she found the perfect home away from home in Jystrup, Denmark, working on a horse farm. “I learned a lot about Danish family life and culture but I was living in a bubble.”
After a year of rural life, Kador was itching to return to the stage and spend more time with her fiancé. “When I moved to Copenhagen my first goal was to find an English theatre group,” says Kador. She would soon discover in a city brimming with fluent English speakers, Copenhagen has surprisingly few venues to perform in English. While attending an expat fair she learned about the CTC and The Fringe Festival that would land her back on stage.
Held each May, The Fringe Festival is a three-day experimental theatre event which brings actors, writers and directors together to create short performances, pushing creative boundaries. It’s here that Kador and a friend co-authored and directed, “The Whitted Out,” a musical comedy about the friendship and musings of two ageing ladies. Despite an actor dropping out due to illness, which called for an entire rewrite of the show two days before opening, The Whitted Out, went on without a hitch. It was extremely stressful, but a lot of fun recalls Kador.
A self-proclaimed musical theatre nerd, Kador’s passion for the craft was fuelled by her family’s many visits to Broadway during her childhood. While in high school she worked in improvised theatre and later she explored sketch comedy at university. “It’s tough, but it gets you on stage performing so it makes you a better actor,” she explains.
The silver lining of not landing the part
Londoner Andrew Whalley’s ticket to Denmark surfaced after a job offer in Tokyo fell through.
“I was working for the Royal Bank of Scotland at the time,” recalls Whalley who plays Shakespearean actor Henry Irving in “The Actor’s Nightmare.” A Danish friend at Saxo Bank asked if I was interested in making a move to Copenhagen.”
Like most expats, Kador and Whalley grapple with which part to play among the Danes. “When I first arrived it was hard to get to know people,” says Whalley. “The Danes aren’t unfriendly, just very private.”
Some companies like Saxo Bank are creating new ways to help integrate expats with locals. The Friday bar at Saxo’s Copenhagen offices is a start but Whalley finds most of the regulars are foreigners rather than Danes. Both Whalley and Kador say most of the friends they have in Denmark hail from other countries.
Whalley recommends finding a hobby to help ease the transition to life in an unfamiliar setting. The Copenhagen Theatre Circle was a lifeline for the Liverpool native as he rediscovered his talent for acting and found a host of fellow expats to grab a Friday night drink with. Now in his fifth year in Copenhagen, he is enjoying a better work/life balance and bikes to work with ease instead of packing into the tube each morning.
“The emphasis in Denmark is all about quality of life,” he explains. “I find London quite intense and crowded when I visit now.”
Kador also appreciates the ease of life in Copenhagen – especially the feeling of personal safety. Catcalls, and other unwanted harassment, were part of her daily commute in New York City— something that she has yet to encounter in Denmark she says.
“If I’m out late in Copenhagen I’m not worried about going home alone. It’s good to be a woman in Denmark.”
Now…On with the show!
The English language theater Company, Copenhagen Theatre Circle, (CTC) kicks off its season with an evening of two side-splitting one-act comedies in Topsy-Turvy Tales.
Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, #Wonderland is artfully written and directed by Sara Juntunen and Seraina Nett. The one-act performance is a hysterical romp through American politics, pop culture and the psychedelic world of Wonderland. Alice (Ella Hardy) spirals down the rabbit hole while playing Pokémon Go where she encounters Cheshire cat (Gizem Mutlu).
The cheeky Cheshire swipes Alice’s phone in hopes she will remain in Wonderland, wanting her to run for mayor against the narcissistic local charlatan. Without google maps to find her way home, Alice woefully accepts her fate and the nomination. On the election trail she meets a troupe of deeply disturbed characters including a very stoned caterpillar, (Heini Haapniemi) a lobster with oven mitts for claws (Haapniemi) and (wait for it…..) her opponent, Donald Trump (Kristen Flanagan).
An Actor’s Nightmare
The other one-act comedy of Topsy Turvy Tales, An Actor’s Nightmare, written by Christopher Durang and directed by Micah Epstein, is based on what actors fear most; it’s opening night, you’re on stage alone, and can’t remember a single line.
You feel so badly for George, played by Kristian Husted, you can almost taste his anxiety as he desperately attempts to recall his Shakespeare.
The show runs now through 8 October. Learn more about the CTC, show times and purchase tickets at http://ctcircle.dk/whats-on/topsy-turvy/
Playing: Weekdays at 20:00, Saturdays and Sundays at 17:00
Venue: Krudttønden, Serridslevvej 2, 2100 Copenhagen Ø (find also information at www.krudttonden.dk)
About: Copenhagen Theatre Circle (CTC) is an amateur theatrical society with performances and events taking place in English. The CTC is open to all who have an interest in being on stage, working behind the scenes and supporting in numerous other ways.
Now playing: Theatre for the Danish language impaired
Six Copenhagen theatres and the KBHT (Københavns Teatersamarbjede) are working with CPH STAGE to present Theatre For All, a scheme designed to make Danish performance art accessible to non-Danish speakers. This autumn and winter the group will present six Danish productions with English, Danish or Arabic subtitles available to download on your smartphone. Check out http://cphstage.com/ for the details.