August and Frieda StrindbergYou’ve seen them making the rounds about the fringe: a pair in period dress, August and Frieda Strindberg, here in Ottawa to present a lecture on the secret art of alchemy. I managed to stop them for an interview.

“I am performing a series of pseudo-scientific lectures entitled ‘Inferno Sonata.’ Do you know anything about alchemy?”
“Ah – no.”
“Ah, alchemy, the secret art of transforming baser elements to gold.”
“And how is that going for you?”
“I feel I am nearing a breakthrough. Yes, yes, very soon. It has taken its toll. I have lost a great deal of sleep, and my hands have suffered somewhat, there have been some explosions in the process, but I feel I am very close to something most remarkable.”
“And Frieda, are you the one patching him up?”
“I am afraid so. I must admit, I need to sew him into his bandages on occasion. He gets so worked up, he tears them off. It’s quite distressing.”
“How long have you been on this question to transmute lesser metals into gold?”
“I used to be a playwright; I was the greatest dramatist in Scandanavia. But I abandoned my career, it wasn’t serving me to well – others were stealing my genius and so forth – and now I’ve decided to give alchemy a try. This is the first stop on my series of lectures, I will be moving throughout this grand colonial country of yours.”
“What other parts of the country will be seeing?”
“Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Victoria. Assuming I live so long, of course.”
“Do you do your experiments on stage?”
“Oh yes. My aim is to re-create the experiments that succeeded in creating gold. I feel that if I can demonstrate it in front of the audience’s very eyes, then there’s no way they can consider me insane.”
“Do you get that alot?”
“It has been whispered from time to time. They call all genius mad, of course. A singular intellect and so forth…”
“I can only imagine, Frieda, the toll this must take on you.”
Frieda Strindberg“It is most distressing, but I do my best to keep up with him. You put up with a lot for brilliance of course. He’s not much of a husband. But at least, he does create good art, and hopefully good gold.”
“Frieda understates the matter. The fact is we are estranged. But if I can create gold, I am sure I can win her back. All women like gold, you see.”
“Can you create diamonds too, do you think?”
“…That will have to follow at some later date.”
“And do you have any children, or is just the two of you?”
“Oh, yes, we have children. They are in Basil, Switzerland, you see. Once I have completed my experiments and I have returned to health, then hopefully I will be able to see them again. I so wish to be re-united with them.”
“And how long has it taken you to prepare for this cross-country endeavour?”
“Several months. The scripting was the longest process. I began scripting last year, and developed that script throughout several revisions. My colleagues in the city of Edmonton were able to assist me in that regard. Then some rehearsal, previews in the city of Edmonton, and then driving out here in one of your modern contraptions, the auto-mobile.”
“How did you find that trip across country?”
“Oh it was very simple, you just headed towards the rising sun! Watched out for lakes and so forth, and moose…”
“Moose, we saw several moose, yes.”
“Terrifying creatures…”
“Have you been out this way before? What do you think of it?”
August Strindberg“No, no, not for a lecture. This is my first time. Splendid, everyone is quite lovely. Many of them speak french, which I can also speak, that is most gratifying.”
“Frieda, what do you think about the show? What is your role in the lecture?”
“Of course, I assist him, by making sure that all of his chemical equipment is in the proper order and onstage for when the lecture begins. And then during the lecture, I perform a supporting role behind the scenes.”
“She is my manager, you see.”
“I believe they call it here, a stage manager.”
“Do you actually take the stage at some point?”
“Oh, no, no, it would be inappropriate for a woman of my stature.”
“What do you hope the audience will take away from your lecture?”
“I hope they will be edified on pseudo-scientific subjects, but I also hope they grow to feel some sympathy or empathy for my plight. I am a nervous man, you see, many people do not understand what happens within the mind of someone like me. I hope to show them a piece of that. If they can appreciate it, perhaps they will show me more kindness in the future.”
“Do you think you will ever return to playwriting?”
“I expect I will make a triumphant return some day, once all my rivals have been dispatched, ha ha. Not by violence of course, I am not a violent man…”

Inferno Sonata plays at Venue 3- Studio Leonard Beaulne, this Friday (8pm) and Sunday (4pm).

Previous interviews:
Interview with Shelley Liebembuk and Dylan Ryan (Raven for a Lark)
Interview with Vision Theatre (4Play: One-Acts by David Ives)
Interview with Weeping Spoon productions (Greed)
Interview with Brigette DePape (She Rules With Iron Stix)
Amy Salloway (Circumference)
The Absinthe Collective (A Leave of Absinthe)
Peter Hayes (The Tricky Part) and Greg Landucci (Mr. Fox)
Penny Ashton (MC Hot Pink / Busty Rhymes)
Keir Cutler (Teaching the Fringe)
Celeste Sansregret (Wonderbar!)
Jem Rolls (How I learned to stop worrying and love the mall)