An evening honoring Guttormur J. Guttormsson was held this past Monday, October 6, 2014 at Iðnó (Old City Theatre) in downtown Reykjavk. It was arranged by Vonarstætisleikhús (Vonarstræti Theater) and the Icelandic National League of Iceland.
The granddaughter of Guttormur and singer, Heather Alda Ireland, from Vancouver was one of the guests of honor. Vonarstætisleikhús is the brainchild of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, past President of Iceland and Dr. Sveinn Einarsson former director of the Reykjavik and National Theater and writer. This coincided with a consular convention here in Iceland and fits in with the documentary shows that Egill Helgason has done, Vesturfarar about the Icelanders in North America. It is aired on RÚV (Iceland Public Broadcasting). September 14 the show actually highlighted the works of Guttormur.
President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and Heather Alda Ireland
Photo by Kent Lárus Björnsson
Guttormur J. Guttormsson is second only to Stephan G. Stephansson in terms of well-known Icelandic writers from North America. Unlike Stephan, Guttormur was born in North America in 1878. He was born and spent his life at Víðivellir on the Icelandic River (Riverton) in Manitoba. He was a farmer, with writing as a passion until his death in 1956. Though he was born in North America all his writing was done in Icelandic. He did visit Iceland and in Iceland, he is mainly known as a great poet. Besides poetry he also wrote a number of plays. They are special because it is said that he was probably the first Icelandic writer to include Impressionism and Expressionism in his works while most were content to use the common reality and romantic themes.
Vonarstætisleikhúsið has decided to focus on Icelandic plays and used the occasion to promote Guttormur´s work. Vigdís and Heather gave a little talk about the Icelandic River Poet. An arm-chair discussion about the man and what Heather remembered about her numerous visits and time spent at the farm with her Amma and Afi.
Þór Túliníus, an actor, read the play Skuggann (The Shadow) by Guttorm J.Guttormsson which was followed by fellow actors Kristján Franklín Magnús and Ragnheiður Steindórsdóttir, who read some of his poetry, including Winnipeg Icelander and other classics. Dr. Sveinn Einarsson held a short lecture about the poetry of Guttormur J. Guttormsson. Actors Jóhann Sigurðarson and Halla Margrét Jóhannsdóttir performed the one-act play named Skrifað fyrir leiksvið (Written for the Stage) by Guttormur J. Guttormsson. The evening ended with President Vigdís and Heather Alda reading Sandy Bar, Vigdís read it in Icelandic and Heather in English. It was a real tribute to a great writer.
President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and Heather Alda Ireland.
Photo by Kent Lárus Björnsson
None of his plays have ever been performed, which I think is shame. Though his works have been sold out for years, work is underway to re-release some of his plays and even translate them into English for a broader audience. Some of his plays have been published in periodicals and a few have been read on the radio in Iceland but we can only hope that organizations like Vonarstætisleikhús decide to show some of his plays.
More photos from the event taken by Kent Lárus Björnsson are here.
A Video of part of Sandy Bar: