August Strindberg's Playing With Fire and Cecilia Sidenbladh's The Ice Madien, in its first performance outside of Sweden, are on a double bill at Columbia University in Manhattan Nov. 3. Called Fire and Ice, the evening of theatre presents both one-acts as a commentary on women's lives in 19th Century Scandanavia.
Strindberg, known for his Miss Julie, A Dream Play and a passionate distaste for Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, was in the process of divorcing his first wife Siri von Essen when he wrote Playing with Fire. The love triangle of the dark and comic play mirrors his own relationship with von Essen and her first husband, Baron Carl Gustaf Wrangel. It was after the dissolving of his marriage that Strindberg changed from being a sympathetic supporter of women's causes to a more adversarial stance.
Urlika Brand translated and will direct Playing With Fire. She directed the same for HERE in 1998 and has worked with California's Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble.
Sidenbladh based her play on the diaries of Victoria Benedictsson, a late 19th Century writer, thought of as Sweden's George Eliot. She first attracted attention in 1885 with "Pengar" ("Money"), written under the name Ernst Ahlgren. The novel made her reputation and soon she fell in love with Georg Brandes, considered Europe's top literary critic at the time. Brandes, however, was not so captivated with Benedictsson or her talent and his rejection of her and her writing is the subject of Ice Madien. On July 21, 1888, three years after being discovered as an author, Benedictsson succeeded in her third suicide attempt. Her life and death helped inspire both Strindberg's Miss Julie and Ibsen's Hedda Gabler.
Sibyl Lines will play the Swedish author. She is a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared on Broadway in Waiting in the Wings. Fire and Ice begins at 7 PM at the Deutsches Haus (420 West 116th Street). Admission is free. For further information, call (212) 854-7859 or visit Columbia's Swedish Program at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/swedish.
— By Christine Ehren