WASHINGTON, D.C.: Are Nordic countries the same as Scandinavian ones? If not, what’s the difference? How long is it safe to stay in a sauna? If you’ve pondered questions like these, you’re in luck. This month’s Nordic Cool festival, at the John F. Kennedy Center in D.C. Feb. 19–March 17, presents all manner of art from the Land of the Midnight Sun. Theatre, dance, visual art, literature, design, film and cuisine get equal treatment in this massive festival, thanks to more than 700 artists visiting from such nations as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. (Incidentally, while “Scandinavia” is sometimes used as a synonym for Nordic countries, it more specially refers just to Denmark, Norway and Sweden.)
Theatre lovers will be pleased by a smattering of shows for every taste. Young audiences will enjoy Teatret Gruppe 38’s Hans Christian, You Must Be an Angel and A Sonatina. Founded in 1972, the Danish company recently won the ASSITEJ honorary award for artistic excellence. Meanwhile, Sweden’s Backa Teater presents Little King Mattias, based on the 1923 international classic of the same name.
Plenty of adult fare is on tap, too. Finland’s Tampere Workers’ Theatre stages The Warmblooded, the third in a trilogy by Sirkku Peltola (who also directs) about a down-on-its-luck family living beneath a highway.
Norway’s National Theatre, which presented many of Ibsen’s works during his lifetime, gives the U.S. premiere of a Hedda Gabler adaptation by Ole Johan Skjelbred. Peer Perez Øian directs.
Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre presents an adaption of a different stripe with Fanny and Alexander, a riff on Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning 1982 film. The RDT, founded in 1788 by King Gustav III, played home to such directors as Alf Sjöberg and Bergman himself.
Speaking of star directors, Iceland’s Gísli Örn Gardarsson of Vesturport Theater takes a spin with Metamorphosis, in collaboration with the U.K.’s Lyric Hammersmith. Known for his breathtakingly physical stagings, Gardarsson’s creates a gravity-defying Gregor, whose home morphs into a freewheeling gymnasium. Gregor lithely negotiates his way through the split-level set. In Woyzeck, an earlier production of Vesturport, Gardarsson had actors dipping in and out of a see-through water tank on stage while performing startling acrobatics. That production marked the first of Gardarsson’s collaborations with Nick Cave, the Australian musician behind the band Bad Seeds. Cave, working with longtime collaborator Warren Ellis, has created tunes for Metamorphosis as well. Next stop: transformation.