Audio Drama Sunday!

Ills bu Arthur Rackham, 1910

All episodes of Season 1 of Jarnsaxa Rising are available for your Audio Drama Sunday listening pleasure. Listen now on iTunesPocketCasts, or whatever your preferred purveyor of pod entertainment may be.

How many people work 9-5, Monday through Friday jobs? How many people see Sunday as the day of last-ditch effort, to get a few things accomplished for themselves, maybe stir their imagination a bit, before returning to the weekly grind?

Audio Drama lets you do both. Pop in your earbuds, or crank up the G-Boom, and you can have as much action, adventure, romance, comedy and joy as you can with hours of Netflix or Hulu, but without the sitting on your butt that can cause sciatica.

Thrym King of JotunheimThrym, King of Jotumheim, says that audio drama pairs well with knitting. Whatever you’re up to today, make it dramatic.

 

Episode 3: The Voice In The Turbine

dark-668767_640 by natalie93 at pixabayEpisode 2: The Voice In The Turbine

Listen using iTunesPocketCasts, or Libsyn!

Agent Bachman investigates the wind turbine, finds the corporation’s impact is more deadly than expected, and the target on her own back.

Cast in order of appearance:

Agent Bachman: Katherine Kupiecki

Dr. Aspinall: John T. Zeiler

Mrs. Wallace: Molly Pach Johnson

Loki: Ethan Bjelland

Written by Lindsay Harris Friel

Directed by Carin Bratlie Wethern

Sound design, engineering and music by Vincent Friel

Dramaturgy by Kit Gordon

This episode of Jarnsaxa Rising was sponsored by Sue and Scott Bjelland.

Subscribe, review and rate us on iTunes! We want to hear from you.

Episode 2: The Hungry Place

Rocky Shore at Ballintoy by Andrew Wood

Episode 2: The Hungry Place

Listen using iTunesPocketCasts, or Libsyn!

Agent Bachman and Dr. Aspinall meet the devastation caused by the Hei Shui corporation, and a harsh landscape, where figures appearing from the mist bring more questions than answers.

Cast in order of appearance:

Agent Bachman: Katherine Kupiecki

Dr. Aspinall: John T. Zeiler

Mrs. Wallace: Molly Pach Johnson

Björn: Derek Meyer

Written by Lindsay Harris Friel

Directed by Carin Bratlie Wethern

Sound design, engineering and music by Vincent Friel

Dramaturgy by Kit Gordon

Special Thanks to Dagny of the Åland Islands Tourism Bureau for assistance with language and dialect. Tack så mycket!

This episode of Jarnsaxa Rising was sponsored by Brian Watson-Jones.

Subscribe, review and rate us on iTunes! We want to hear from you.

For more information, visit JarnsaxaRising.com.

Meet The Artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: Katherine Kupiecki

KKKatherine Kupiecki will portray Jarnsaxa Rising’s archetype that no sci-fi fantasy story can exist without. She’s the military-grade, black-ops, gritty female warrior. Sumner Bachman’s official title for the Corporation is “Technical Support Agent.” What does that mean? She could tell you, but then she’d have to kill you.

Anything which poses a threat to the stability and profitability of the Corporation, especially its Brand Image, is Agent Bachman’s domain.  She’s a fixer. When Kristy Wallace identifies a threat to The Corporation, she sends Agent Bachman to make it disappear without a trace. As a result, she and Mrs. Wallace have a very intense, close, complicated relationship. However, once Jarnsaxa shows Agent Bachman what she’s been sent to erase, Sumner has to make some difficult choices about where the threat really lies.

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Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien. “I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them f*ing each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

Sumner Bachman comes from a long line of sci-fi lady warriors. After the first draft’s staged reading, respondents kept referring to her as “Ripley” by mistake. Like Ripley, Sarah Connor, and the most recent incarnation of Starbuck, she’s had to squash her emotions to make some ugly choices and dispense violence. Katherine looks like an elfin creature, but she’s got a bite and gravitas, so I’m excited about her portrayal of Agent Bachman.

Katherine Kupiecki has worked worked in Twin Cities theater for over a decade. Favorite roles include Sharla Smith in KILLER JOE with Theatre Pro Rata, Jeanne Becquet in GABRIEL with Walking Shadow Theatre Company, and Ruth in THE HOMECOMING with Gremlin Theatre. She has also worked with Penumbra Theatre Company, Workhaus Collective, Stages Theatre Company, Open Window Theatre, and many more.

Sarah_connor_05
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. “Everything needs to be destroyed. Everything.”

She was a proud member of the  2012 Ivey Award Winning production of Theatre Unbound’s all-female Julius Caesar, in which she portrayed Mark Antony.   This summer she takes on the literary icon and title role in CHARLOTTE’S WEB with the Old Log Theatre. Katherine can also be seen in the Theater People web series, the upcoming movie Witch, with Oxford Comma Film Cooperative, and many other film, commercial, and voice projects.  Coming soon: https://katherine-kupiecki.squarespace.com/.

What made you decide that you wanted to do this project?  

I did the staged reading a few years ago and I remembered it being very creative and interesting. When the podcast opportunity came along, I thought it would be a great way to add to my voice work and support a new script, which I really love doing.

Who’s your favorite character from Norse Mythology?

Loki-tom-hiddleston
Inescapable.

Loki. He was my junior high mascot (I don’t think they allow such things anymore) and well. Tom Hiddleston.

What are you reading these days?

Scripts for my current shows! But I hope to finish THE SECRET KEEPER by Katie Morton and start GIRL ON A TRAIN before the summer is over. I like historical, romantic mystery novels.

What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual?

starbuck1
Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck. “Semper frakkin fi!”

It’s a version of what Sir Lawrence Olivier was rumored to do-  stand behind the curtain and talk to the audience (whisper, actually). I like to stand backstage so I can hear and feel the audience energy. It preps me for when I do step on stage. I know more of what to expect.

What’s under your bed right now?

My cat Penny. A sock.

We want to bring a story to your ears that you’ll never forget and won’t hear anywhere else. Be part of our community, and get benefits such as a handwritten letter from the character of your choice, and/or your name in the show’s credit. Join us!

Who Is Jarnsaxa?

Jarnsaxa is one of the lesser-known characters in Norse mythology, but her mystery is only one of the things that makes her the most interesting. When Carin game me the original writing prompt, I started researching the spot she described.

View over southern part of Sottunga, in the Aland Islands. North of the 60th parallel in the Baltic is The Aland Islands. During the summer, they’re a popular destination for tourists seeking rustic peace. Mostly, they’re known for iron mining (abandoned in the 1800s), beets, and cows. In ruminating on the most concrete elements (wind, waves, iron) and doing some meditative web-surfing, I found Jarnsaxa. She’s a creature who comes up in important ways in Norse mythology, but much is left out. Jarnsaxa makes ripe material for contemporary imagination.

"The three maidens swam close to the shore" by the German painter Ferdinand Leeke, 1905We know a little bit about her and what she does. Her name is a portmanteau of the Swedish words for iron, axe, and scissors (jarn, yxa, and saxa, respectively).  In the Poetic Edda (considered one of the oldest texts of Norse culture), we learn that she is one of The Nine Mothers of Heimdall. These Wave-Maidens were responsible for turning the mill which runs the wind and the waves. After Heimdall leaves his mothers to seek his fortune, Jarnsaxa disappears from the Eddas for a while.

She reappears as Thor’s lover. Like before, as a Wave-Maiden, she is a giantess.  We learn that she is a Jotun, the same race as Loki. She is also the mother of Thor’s sons, Magni and Modi (respectively named for physical strength, and the desire to fight and kill).  It is prophesied that Modi and Magni will eventually inherit Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer, when it is thrown at the end of Ragnarok (the Old Norse apocalypse).  We also know from other places in the Eddas that Thor’s official wife is Sif, the goddess of fertility.

Kråka, daughter of Sigurd (royal name: Aslaug). Painted in 1862 by Mårten Eskil Winge. So, what can we assume, based on this information? Jarnsaxa has been called Thor’s mistress, lover, even co-wife, but never does she have the role that monogamous marriage confers. Sif is a fertility goddess, associated with summer and the harvest, so she must cover Thor’s aspect as a thunder god and bringer of rain. Therefore Jarnsaxa must cover his warrior aspect. Jarnsaxa’s children embody a warrior’s best qualities, and it’s safe to assume they didn’t only get this from their old man. Shield maidens were an acceptable role in Old Norse culture, a way that women could fight alongside their community, without the official title of Viking. Jarnsaxa’s fighting qualities can be supposed not only from her name, but also her surroundings. Since the Aesir generally looked down on Jotuns, as uncouth and wild, but she snagged Thor, she definitely had to be smoking hot and a lot of fun to be with.

Hervors død by Peter Nicolai Arbo, Loki and Thor share many adventures, generally stories in which Loki and/or his Jotun comrades are harmed. Since Loki and Jarnsaxa are both Jotuns, it’s safe to assume they share a bond. Loki will eventually helm the ship that sails against the Aesir in Ragnarok, and Jarnsaxa’s children will directly benefit from Thor’s defeat.  Since she’s bearing Thor’s children without The Aesir’s blessing or status,  and will benefit from the destruction of the Aesir, all that can come in the middle is a desire for revenge.

Returning to the original proposition, we can take a look at a sentient wind farm, and wonder how it got that way, and what it wants.  The world of Old Norse culture lends itself to liminality, a flexibility of boundaries between the past and present, natural and supernatural worlds. This is a place with Northern Lights and white nights, and the states of dreaming and being awake can become blurred. How does Jarnsaxa fit into this scheme?

The Draugr is the Old Norse version of the walking dead. This is just one version of the ways in which souls can transcend the mortal experience. Sometimes, if a dead person is not properly buried, or has unfinished business, their body can live on after them, or, simply, their will. It can inhabit animals, attacking the living until it gets what it wants. In the Eyrbyggja Saga, the will of a dead woman inhabited a seal, attacking humans until its bedclothes were burned, as the departed woman had requested. This story is a precursor of the Irish and Scots folk creature, the Selkie.

Many undead Norse were lost at sea.  More common are the souls of corpses washed up on shore. Having committed no crime, but without a proper funeral, their soul would wander until their body was properly buried. If a living person were to pass the body without trying to help its soul, the ghost would follow and hunt them until it received satisfaction.  Stories of supernatural women taking over untended farms at The Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve (the darkest time of the year in the Northern hemisphere),  are popular in Old Norse culture. In some cases, the woman is disguised as a quiet farm girl, who refuses to go to Mass, but instead turns into an Elf Queen and throws a secret party for all of her elvish friends. In other cases, the quiet farm girl reveals a murderous nature, slaughtering livestock and whoever might try to stop her. Christian ritual is often not enough to stop restlessness. In the Eyrbyggja Saga, Thorgunna receives a Christian burial, but returns to tell everyone how cold her resting place is, until they finally fulfill her request to burn her bedclothes. As scholar Kirsti Kanerva says, the ghost is there to shine a light on past wrong, and get things in order, not because of the presence or absence of any particular religion. “The ghosts and wonders manifest the mental and social disequilibrium inherent in these situations…indicating in a concrete way the shadows of the past, deeds that have caused the balance of the minds of men and the order of their society to be shaken by the dead through fear, lunacy, illness, and death.” Like the ghosts in Macbeth and Hamlet, the undead in Old Norse culture are there to push the living to truth and justice.

So, how does a re-animated Jarnsaxa, fueled by revenge, fit into contemporary imagination?

She wants revenge on the Aesir. Like a corporation, this network of gods controls everything, from the seasons and weather to choices about food, shelter and sex. They set rules, and demand loyalty and homage. They can punish or reward, according to their whims. They can use and destroy the natural world however they please, and re-create it in their own image. An ancient giantess, turning a mill which feeds the wind and ways has its mirror opposite in a graceful silvery wind turbine, towering over land and sea to harness the wind’s energy. What comes around, goes around, literally.

cropped-7340720552_af85218ee9_k1.jpg Jarnsaxa gives us a means to explore themes of betrayal, sustainability, and revenge through an ancient metaphor. Norse mythology allows us the opportunity to explore time and space in a way which lends itself well to audio drama.

Currently, I’m working on the ninth and tenth episodes of the script, and in 31 days, Vince and I fly to Minneapolis to record with the cast. Soon, I’ll post updates about the artists with whom we’ll be working, and more about the characters in this audio drama.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in what you’ve read so far, please consider contributing to our fundraising campaign at Indiegogo. We’re 8% funded right now, and part of our goal is to make this story accessible to all for free while compensating our artists. Please consider donating; if you can’t, but still want to help, spread the word.

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About Warrior Queens

Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Increasingly (finally), our media and fiction centers around powerful women, sometimes in positions of leadership. Characters such as Marvel’s Black Widow, Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck or President Roslyn, and Orphan Black’s entire cast, take up some hot space in mainstream entertainment. Besides the contemporary settings, we’re also seeing a lot of ancient and/or fantastic women, such as in Game of Thrones or Vikings.

When our mainstream media concerns itself women with power, in ancient or fantastic settings, we talk about women and power in a non-threatening way. This allows us to experiment via imagination, to examine our own social actions.

How are ancient, science fiction, or fantasy stories non-threatening? By setting a story in a place far removed from contemporary reality, it gives the audience freedom. Shakespeare set his plays on fictitious islands, or far from England in Italy, to:

  • catch audience attention and pique their interest
  • examine social morals and manners
  • allow for experimentation and behavior without it affecting his social or political standing (“it’s only a play that takes place on a pretend island.”)

In the same way, playwright Naomi Wallace used 17th-century London, during the Black Plague, in her play One Flea Spare. This metaphor let her show the underlying social causes (income inequality, prejudice) of the Los Angeles riots.

I use the term “Warrior Queens” to indicate women in positions of leadership, who move themselves and their allies toward a goal, over, around or through obstacles to reach goals. What kinds of Warrior Queens are we seeing here, and how do they operate?

Xena Warrior Princess  In the late 1990s and early 200s, Xena cornered the television market for “strong women” in an ancient, fictitious world. The television show Xena: Warrior Princess was unique in that it had a female protagonist who “kicked ass” or succeeded in combat situations. She and Gabriele drove the plot and had agency over their own lives.

tumblr_mz4q3m4ImZ1rkd740o1_5001  Game of Thrones has women as political and social decision-makers. This show lets women showcase different methods of leadership and progress. For example, in the first book:

  • Cersei  Lannister uses sexuality as a villainous means of social mobility. Via subterfuge, marriage and sexual connections, she gets her teenaged son on the throne and becomes Queen Regent.
  • Catelyn Stark gathers support for her clan using her family connections. She captures Tyrion Lannister (believing he conspired to kill her son) and has to negotiate with her sister for his trial. Unlike Cersei Lannister, she uses open debate and trial by combat as a means of social change. To sum up, she calls in favors that have to do with family or status, and uses the power of reputation.
  • Daenerys Targaryen (Autocorrect and I fought about that one for a while) has a little of each woman’s strategy, and something else. She starts out as a gift to Khal Drogo, a sex slave intended to bring pleasure and breed an heir. She end up as the ultimate Other. Her magic power to command fire-breathing, flying dragons is the ultimate trump card. However, having had the status of a slave, she understands the mentality of those on the bottommost rung of society, and can command armies with only her own voice.

vikings_episode4_2-P  Lagertha, on the show Vikings, is based on a heroine of Old Norse legend. Most of the character’s social mobility happens through marriage. However, she becomes the Earl of Hereby because she stands up to her husband, and to rape. By stabbing him in the eye in front of his allies, she gains their support and political office. The real Lagertha commanded armies, and once sent 120 ships to save her ex-husband in battle, so there’s precedent for this character doing well in a fight.

In these stories, we’re seeing women who:

  • overcome obstacles to change their lives and that of others
  • have flaws, but overcome them
  • use empathy to motivate others
  • have social mobility and achieve it through their own actions
  • aren’t afraid of blood.

Why does this matter?  If female-driven television shows and movies drive box office and award-show numbers, aren’t we living in a world where we don’t need stories about women being powerful?

If you’ve read this far, you might be rolling your eyes at how obvious the answer to this question is, but I’ll lay it out for you anyway.

lead_large Every household knows at least one veteran. Women comprise nearly 15% of the Department of Defense’s Active Duty Force. Topics such as birth control and other health concerns for female soldiers, women in combat positions (the AP reports that the DoD had plans to allow women to start training as Army Rangers by the end of 2015, and as Navy SEALs by the end of 2016), and sexual abuse and rape in the military are not just theoretical concerns. They’re real things that happen to real people, and can be upsetting to consider.

Women make up 20% of the positions in the US Senate, and 19.3% of the House of Representatives. 5.2% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. However, the wage gap makes it easier for a company to cut costs by laying off or firing higher-paid male employees, and retaining lower-paid women. The result is that many households have a female breadwinner.

These numbers- 15%, 20%, 19.3%, 5.2%- are ridiculous when you consider that women make up over 50% of the population, earn half of the advanced academic degrees, and nearly 50% of the work force (source.)

Even without considering women’s leadership roles in the military, politics, or business, every woman has her own life. She needs to see herself as a free agent, the leader of her own “army of me” (to paraphrase Bjork). Women need to move toward their own life goals without looking for permission, approval, or that hilarious “wife bonus.”  Stories about Warrior Queens give them the confidence to use strategy to take steps toward goals, and understand the concept of feminism as self-determination rather than a dirty word.

Lathgertha_by_Morris_Meredith_WilliamsWe’re seeing more women in fiction and media because the demand exists. The Hunger Games set box office records for a reason. We want the metaphor, and the social experiment, so that we can look at our own lives and improve them. Myth, saga, epic and fable have always been humans’ system of teaching and learning more about ourselves. These warrior queens metaphorically give us the strength to overcome our own battles.

Jarnsaxa Rising is a podcast about revenge in the future and the past. The story is driven by characters of all genders, and the stakes are world-shattering. To find out how you can be a part of this, visit our Indiegogo page. You can follow our blog with the link above, and you can also follow us on Facebook. Thanks for reading.