by Katie Berger (2012-13 Apprentice Class)
Here in Minnesota, it feels as though winter is never going to end. Snow has been on the ground for weeks, and it seems like we can’t step out our front doors without sliding across a thin layer of deceitful ice. But it’s a totally different season in rehearsals for Miss Julie.
The story unfolds in Sweden Midsummer’s Eve; a night full of magic and excitement when “the spirits are stronger and more present.” It is the shortest night of the year, when people come together to celebrate the warm weather, the long daylight hours, and the bounty that summer has to offer. There are numerous traditions that are still held in Sweden during this magical night, many of which we have been researching and adopting in the rehearsal process.
Dancing: Like any good social gathering, Midsummer’s Eve festivities are not complete without social dancing. The Schottische, a partnered folk dance which is incredibly easy to learn with many different variations, is danced by all. It is made up of a sequence of steps and hops and is typically danced to faster, uplifting music. Maypoles, while traditionally raised on the spring time festival of Beltaine in Celtic areas, found their way to the celebrations as well. The ritual of raising the pole in an open spot and dancing around it holding ribbons is upheld even today.
Curious about the Schottische? Not anymore. Apprentices Katie Berger and Ethan Bjelland show you how it’s done.
Food: A traditional Midsummer meal includes delights such as pickled herring, boiled new potatoes, and the season’s first strawberries. This food is generally paired with cold beer or spiced schnapps, whichever you prefer.
Magic: Even after Christianity proved to be the reigning belief in Sweden, Midsummer was thought of as a magical time for potions and fortune telling. Anything to do with the natural world was considered extremely powerful, and girls made a point to gather flowers and leaves to weave into their hairstyles. This guaranteed good health throughout the coming year. For unmarried girls, it was said that if you picked seven types of summer flowers and placed them under your pillow, you would dream of your future husband. Because of these mystical beliefs, Midsummer has become an extremely popular date for weddings.
After delving into these traditions, it is no surprise that the unlikely events of our play, Miss Julie, unfold on this night. The short hours of darkness in late June prove to be the perfect setting for the strange happenings that lead to our character’s interactions. Julie, Jean, and Kristin: winded from dancing, excited by new possibilities, and giddy with alcohol, each have a Midsummer experience to shake the snow off of any Minnesota winter.