They tell me that I was born at the Municipal Maternity Ward of Stockholm a sunny September day in 1951. I do not remember a thing. It has been told that I two months old was shipped in a basket over the stormy Atlantic Ocean to Canada. They say that I was the only one onboard who wasn’t seasick. The memories of the four years in Ottawa are that I was kept in a dog pound in the garden. It probably sounds worse than it was, because I also remember being carried on the strong shoulders of Dag Hammarskjöld’s bodyguard and shown around the United Nations.
In the mid-fifties Beijing (or Peking as it was then called) became the centre of my life and from those five years I at least have some memories. I was placed at a kindergarten in an early age and then continued my schooling at the Sacred Heart School, which was run by nuns who were not allowed by the government to teach religion. School was in English and mostly consisted of reading out loud from worn books, learning Shakespeare sonnets by heart and handwriting. One side of the classroom was reserved for girls, the other one for boys and never may the two genders meet. We had to wear a school uniform and discipline was tight. The mildest punishment was to write “I shall never talk to a girl in school again” one hundred times. If any g wasn’t well rounded enough you had to do it all over again. The first kiss took place in the seaside resort of Pei ta ho. Her name was Lucretia and she is today an author. I think we were eight years old. At home I had private classes at the piano and in Mandarin while my mother held lessons with me in the Swedish language and geography. But there was time for play too.
The favorite pastime was to fool the guard outside the gateway. We were a couple of kids that found a back entrance and we could spend a Sunday running out through the main gate twelve times, but never going back in. The guard’s logbook didn’t add up and the authorities finally found out about our secret and cemented it closed.
Sometimes our family traveled to Sweden by the Trans Siberian railroad, with at cargo ship or by air. I especially remember a trip between Bangkok and Hong Kong. The deck was jammed with water buffalos that were taken care of by an old Chinese man. During the ten day long rail journey between Beijing and Moscow I spent many hours playing Chinese checkers and drinking tea with the wagon conductor while the train slowly dragged itself across the Chinese inland, Mongolia and Siberia.
The contrast in moving to New Delhi was huge. From the nuns to the American International School with softball, square-dancing, sleepovers and Root Beer. Group work instead or reading out loud and learning by heart. Every Wednesday at the American Embassy they showed a film, normally in the garden but during the coldest winter month in the garage. I was in love with Pam. Meg was in love with me and my best friend Barry was in love with Meg … Pam was probably not in love with anybody but then she suddenly was moved back to the good old U S of A. I learned to ride, to smoke hidden from my parent’s eyes and to dive into the pool. There was no more piano playing and I never put enough energy into learning Hindi.
In early September 1964 I visited Rome with my mother on my way to boarding school in Sigtuna. I was thirteen and loved the five days we spent there walking the streets and seeing the sights. I was in charge of setting each day’s carefully planned agenda. After that I spent six years at the same boarding school as the king of Sweden. Two years hell as a victim of serious mobbing, two years during which the vacations were the most important thing and the last two and very intense years that I remember with much happiness and warmth.
Those last two years were really a time of “Sturm und Drang”. I was either in love over my ears or sadly rejected. I read Strindberg, John Steinbeck and Arthur Koestler. We used to sneak out and dance illegally in a barn to the scratched music from a Phillips. We hid in the forests and smoked (which of course was forbidden). Warm autumn nights and cool spring nights we snuck out (at the risk of being suspended) to swim in the lake, “borrow” boats and make out. I was chosen as the head of the theatre society without knowing anything about theater and we worked hard to present Gogol’s “The Courting” and Eugene O´Neills “Ah, wilderness”. There was the school paper, strikes, starting up the pupil’s own coffee shop and arranging visits by bus (which had to be accompanied by a teacher) to the theaters in Stockholm an hour’s drive away.
School breaks were intense too. My parents had moved to Bern, Switzerland. I learned downhill skiing and spent winters in Gstaad, Sannenmöser and other slopes. There were also a couple of trips to Austria with friends from school to test the slopes and find the girls. Summers always meant at least a couple of weeks schooling in German and French in Gstaad or Neuchâtel. But mainly it was all about adventures, girls and a lot of pen-pals that I kept in touch with for many, many years.
The number of summer days spent in Båstad (a seaside resort in the south of Sweden, world famous for its tennis tournaments) working increased. I was giving tuition, worked at a tomato farm, at the tennis games and selling strawberries at the marketplace. Year by year I advanced working at the Hotel Malens Havsbad from janitor, receptionist, kitchen and dining room until I could top my service career when I had reached the legal age to for two seasons run the pub together with a friend. It meant working seven nights a week during the whole summer but we made a lot of money and were the center of nightlife in Båstad. I could also spend the days sitting outside in the sun with my typewriter in my lap.
On the sixth of June, 1970, I finally graduated in economics from Sigtuna as a “gymn.ekon.”.
The spring and first part of the summer were spent at parties all around Sweden. By then I had attended at least a dozen different schools for shorter or longer periods of time. I was pretty tired of studying and decided to take a sabbatical year.
After the summer I flew to New York and started working at Motorships Inc. at their main office on Battery Park. I found a furnished apartment on East 18th Street that I shared, first only with the cockroaches but then also with a Norwegian. By Christmas I had disengaged myself from a career in economics, let my hair and beard grow long and started working at the Village Arena Theatre on East 4th Street with the musical “Touch”. It was considered to be the follow-up to “Hair” and was described by Emory Lewis as the “Best musical of the season.” With that I was stuck to the theatre for good, got myself a headband to keep the hair in place and was a hippie.
By spring I had run out of money and found a cheap flight to London, where I froze for two days before I could continue to Stockholm. As the official representative for “Touch” I went to Rome where they were supposed to participate at a festival but the promise fell through. I started working for the literary agent Folmer Hansen and by autumn I enrolled to study theatre science at the University of Stockholm. I meet a couple of actors and we formed Spegelteatern, starting out with a production for children. No sooner was the group formed when I was engaged at Aalborg Teater to direct a Danish production of “Touch”. This was a busy time as I flew back and forth between Stockholm and Aalborg, trying at the same time as I was directing to keep Spegelteatern together and fulfilling my studies. There were many conflicts at Aalborg Teater, especially between my group and the rest of the theatre but we also had problems with an American choreographer, who was more into showdance than the hippie world. Finally we got together a show that got very mixed reviews. Some thought it was fantastic, others hated it.
By then I had also become engaged in building up a new organization,SAMS (renamed Kulturama), where I stayed for eight years as head of the theatre department. During my eyars there Kulturama became the largest school in stage and music arts in Scandinavia. I completed my university studies with a fil. kand. (B.A.) in theatre, film and sociology. I even started on my doctors degree but gave up after only one semester, being too busy in the practical world of theater.
In the middle of the seventies I moved to my current address, a quiet street on the south side of Stockholm. Here I live in a two room apartment with my two cats, Ville and Celine. I have also lived here with several girls, of whom I was engaged to three and married to one. Now I am a stubborn bachelor again.
I believe it was 1982 that I sold my new Golf Cab, quit Kulturama and left the life of the in-crowd of Stockholm. I also cut down on my trips to Key West, Durbrovnik, Sicily and Malta. Instead I bought a VW Bus, spent time in several different spaces until we 1989 landed on Björngårdsgatan, which is still the home of Spegelteatern. That same year I directed the most expensive production in our tradition of “Shakespeare in the park” at the Royal Gripsholm Palace. Together with the designer Iain Whitecross from New York and jazz composer Heikki Sarmento, living and working both in New York and Helsinki, we created a visual and musically fantastic production of “The Tempest” with fireworks, boats in the lake, open fire and creatures with costumes of thousands and thousands feathers glued together.
Spegelteatern collaborated with Teater Sandino, a group of exiled Chileans in Stockholm. This gave me the chance to go to Santiago and Valparaiso to teach at universities, do workshops and productions. During seven years I spent about a year in total in Chile, but also in Rio de Janeiro during the carnival. That was a fantastic time, and I got the chance to travel, while working with things that were important to me.
At the end of 1990as Spegelteatern fell in to difficult times. But somehow we survived and could build up our organization again. Something that we have done many times over the years. Not many independent theatre groups in Sweden have survived as long as we have – I think there are two groups that have a slightly longer history than us.
During the last eight years I have started on a new career; being a consultant. It has saved the theatre money-wise and I find it extremely stimulating and interesting. To use my experience and knowledge as a director, head of a theater and acting teacher together with executives from some of our largest corporations here in Sweden to develop Communicative Leadership is thrilling. This is something I will continue with as long as I can, just as the theatre always will have a place in my heart.
The plans of starting a bed-and-breakfast in Southern Europe have not been totally abandoned, but I have put them away for the time being. First I have to get together enough money and the right finca. I am currently engaged in an in-coming travel agency in Madrid and have been invited to direct at the Teatro Guindalera in Madrid. I have plans to rebuild both the theatre and my apartment.
But there are also more and more visits to the eye-doctor, podiatrist, the dentist and the chiropractor. Even though I am a weak person and haven’t been able to quit smoking (yet) I feel great. Maybe one day I will even understand that I’m not twenty any longer.
I am very proud of having received a prize from the Royal Swedish Academy 2005 for my work in the theatre, of having kept Spegelteatern going since 1972. I am proud that I can afford to support Greenpeace, Medicins sans Frontiers and the Stockholm Cat Sanctuary. My life continues to be rich. I wish I was young and good looking but I am thankful for all the experiences my life has given me. There is of course a backside too, people I have hurt, people that have hurt me, stupidity, weakness and things I have done that I wish I hadn’t. Maybe I will have another couple of years to make good.
I am currently living in Spain – at least over the winter of 2012/2013 whereafter I will decide if i stay permanently or return to Stockholm.
Key words for me are solidarity, equality and kindness. Meet the earth, inhabitants, both human and animal, and it’s resources with respect, with warmth and curiousness. Care for our globe and bury the hate. Do not just think just about your own surroundings, but see the whole picture. We have only each other and only one world, at least in this life.
Live life! Enjoy together with others, not at the expense of others – other people, animals and our small and so severely taxed little globe. Try at least.