Meet The Artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: Delta Rae Giordano

Delta-web blogDelta Rae Giordano will portray Jarnsaxa Rising’s alpha and omega of magic and theology. As Sister Margareta, she’ll dispense early Christian justice via a witch trial.  As Vala, she’s the spiritual seer, official speaker, and legal advisor to Thrym, King of Jotunheim.  That’s a lot of power, but she’s a powerhouse.

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Viking society depended on women for strategy and cultural cues. The oldest and best known poem in Scandinavian culture opens The Poetic Edda. This poem, The Völuspá,  is a seeress’ vision of the creation and end of the world, told to Odin. These prophetesses went by several different titles: völva (wand carrier), fjolkunnig (magical knowledge), or spækona (seer). As followers of Freya, they travelled, often in groups, to provide advice and ritual, particularly in time of crisis. Not only were their rituals performed with wands, but also the distaff and loom were used, to spin or knot spiritual threads. The Osenberg ship, one of the best-preserved archaeological relics of Viking culture, included the bodies of women, one or both of whom may have been a völva (relics found included a wand made of wood).  Vala, seer to the King of Jotunheim, does not travel, but has nearly the same status as the king. Her visions give her authority over public policy and The King’s decisions. However, visions are not always perfectly clear, and Vala’s interpretation may be biased by opportunism.

two nuns carrying books
“Hey, I got this new book. it’s called, How To Drown A Witch-“
“Boring.”
“-In FROZEN WATER.”
“Now you’re talking!”

Sister Margareta represents some of the early Christian influence in Scandinavia. This process had a longer establishment than on other parts of the world; maybe because of the cold, maybe because early Scandinavians were very happy with their system of beliefs and resisted change. During the middle ages, many missionaries found compromise with pagan beliefs worked better. Places sacred to the Norse Gods were consecrated to saints, and imagery of Mjölnir was incorporated with the cross.  This character is named for Margareta, a Swedish missionary who practiced in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. She was from the Sami people (also known as Laplanders)m and fought hard to convert them from polytheistic paganism. This hard fight worsened when Thomas Von Westen burnt  their sacred objects and destroyed many of their sacred places in the 18th century.  Margareta was said to have visions, for which the church investigated her, unable to determine if the visions came from God or Satan. She must have been a fierce woman.

Delta Rae Giordano is pleased to join the cast of JARNSAXA RISING and embark on her first collaboration with writer Lindsay Harris-Friel and first podcast project.  As a freelance actor in the Twin Cities, Delta has performed with Theatre Pro Rata (EMILIE: LA MARQUISE DU CHATELET DEFENDS HER LIFE TONIGHT, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW), Illusion Theater (three tours of MY ÁNTONIA, FRESH INK: MIRANDA), as well as Teatro del Pueblo, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Nimbus Theatre and several others.  She was a company member with Theatre Unbound from 2004-14 and appeared in more than a dozen productions including the world premieres of SILKWORMS: A NUN PLAY, THE GOOD FIGHT and FRANKENSTEIN INCARNATE: THE PASSIONS OF MARY SHELLEY (directed by Carin Bratlie).  Most recently she participated as an actor and an adoptee in the ADOPTION PLAY PROJECT with Wonderlust Productions.  Originally from California, Delta is a graduate of Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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

It was a chance to work with Theatre Pro Rata again, as well as some firsts for me — working with writer Lindsay Harris-Friel, learning more about Norse mythology, and doing a science fiction audio drama.

Who’s your favorite character from Norse Mythology?

Skadi_Hunting_in_the_Mountains_by_H._L._MI don’t think I know enough to say I have a favorite, but maybe Skade who is described as the “goddess of skiers.”  I was reading about how she loved the mountains but had to marry Njord who loved the seashore.  They tried living at the beach and then in the mountains, and later decided amiably to live separately in the places they loved.  I’m from southern California originally and love the coast but I’m in awe of people who can ski well.

What are you reading these days?

I’ve been to California a few times recently, and I like to read stories about places where I’m traveling, so I’m finishing up one of the Lew Archer novels by Ross Macdonald, The Way Some People Die.  Archer has to track a case from L.A. to Palm Springs to San Francisco and gets into some dicey situations.  MacDonald’s descriptions of people and places are physically detailed with some social commentary thrown in.

Also I checked out D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths from the library as research for this project, and as soon as I saw the illustrations I realized that I must have read this book when I was a kid.

What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual?

It depends on the material — I might spend more time warming up physically and vocally for some shows than others.  I usually try to have some quiet time before jumping in.

What’s under your bed right now?

Mostly clothes, but not a random pile o’ clothes because we have a bed with storage drawers.

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You can become a member of the Jarnsaxa Rising army. Only TEN DAYS are left in our campaign. You can get a handwritten letter from one of the characters, and have your name in the podcast credits. Join us! 

Meet The Artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: Sarah Broude

Broude Sarah If the Norse Gods use humans as pawns against each other in Jarnsaxa Rising, then a system of corporate smoke and mirrors can be a weapon as well as a battle field. Sarah Broude gives her voice to that corporate shell game.  As The Interviewer, Sarah evokes a long history of when rational debate can turn ugly.

Giving away too much about Sarah’s scenes in Jarnsaxa Rising would spoil a lot of the plot. However, it’s safe to say that Sarah’s character is drawn from the mood of transcripts of hearings, such as The Benghazi hearings with secretary of State Clinton, The Anita Hill Testimony and the House Un-American Activities Committee. This character is a professional arbitrator in a corporate world, where democracy is less important than the power of profit. As a result, slippery concepts such as “plausible deniability” and “there are known unknowns” become tools to shed blame, and an interview is less a hearing and more of an accusation. Just as The Norns could spin someone’s fate, lawyers and arbitrators like this Interviewer can spin someone’s future.

Sarah Broude has spent the majority of her life in a theater. She writes and directs but primarily performs in many local venues. Her favorites include The House on Mango Street (Park Square), Elephants Graveyard (Theatre Pro Rata), Miracle on Christmas Lake (Yellow Tree), The House of Bernarda Alba (Pangea/Theatro del Pueblo), and Mrs. Charles (Freshwater). Sarah just finished directing for TEASE with Little Lifeboats, and can be seen in Leaving St. Paul and Mrs. Mortimer’s Xenophobic Travel Guide at this years Fringe Festival next month.

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

I love working with Pro Rata, and I love doing V.O. work. So, it was kind of a no-brainer. And super exciting!

Jimmy Page #2 in Madison Square Garden with Led Zeppelin. Photo by Dina Regine. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
“The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands
To fight the horde, sing and cry
Valhalla, I am coming”

Who’s your favorite character from Norse Mythology? 

My only real knowledge of any Norse mythology comes from Led Zeppelin and The Avengers. I’ll go with Jimmy Page.

What are you reading these days? 

I am reading scripts to 2 Fringe shows and Amy Poehler’s book.

What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual? 

Anything relaxing- walking, sipping tea, laughing.

What’s under your bed right now?

Suitcases and storage stuff.

Only twelve days are left to be part of Jarnsaxa Rising’s Indiegogo Campaign! You can receive member benefits and be One Of The Cool Kids when you support us. Join our merry band of noise makers! 

 

 

 

Meet The Artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: MaryLynn Mennicke

Mary Lynn Mennicke headshotTo provide a voice for Jarnsaxa, we need someone of tremendous flexibility. She needs to feel at home in the mid 16th century, the late 21st, and some z axis of time and space that only supernatural beings inhabit. She has to be stormy, but likeable, intimidating, grounded and unearthly at the same time, an avenging angel, a rogue, and unlikely to actually kill anyone. Mary Lynn Mennicke puts the synergy ohm loot in Norse Mythology.

MaryLynn is a church musician, marketing administrator for The National Theatre for Children, and a sometimes-actor in the Twin Cities. Most recently she was seen playing Viola in Theatre Pro Rata’s summer 2014 production of Twelfth Night. She apologizes to Jesus for calling Him a fishmonger and promises she doesn’t mean it. Jarnsaxa seems like quite the wench.

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

Sounded like a good time.

A Random Norwegian Troll, and Mary Lynn.
A Random Norwegian Troll, and Mary Lynn.

2) Who’s your favorite character from Norse Mythology?

Admittedly I’m not terribly familiar with Norse Mythology, but that will undoubtedly change working on this project. But right now I’ll cop out and say Thor. Because shirtless Chris Hemsworth.

3) What are you reading these days?

I just read my Japan travel book practically from cover to cover. Otherwise I’m slowly reading Snow by Orhan Pahmuk.

4) What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual?

Silence.

5) What’s under your bed right now?

Dustballs and cat hair, I’m sure.

—————

Today I fixed a problem in Episode 9, determined who the real villain is, wrote six new pages, and am about to charge into The Big Finale Episode. It’s going to be FIERCE. Join our Indiegogo campaign, and we will put your name in the credits, send you real handwritten letters from the characters, and sing your praises. Be part of the story! 

 

We are fun, and you can join us any time.

Phrenological chart of the skull and brain, 1818
You’re smart. Audio drama helps you stay that way.

Want to be part of something exciting this summer? Of course you do. You should join Jarnsaxa Rising’s Indiegogo campaign. Besides being gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, non-alcoholic and hypoallergenic, here are some more reasons you want to be part of The Next Big Thing.

1) Audio drama provides unique sensory stimulation and possibility for imagination not experienced in other entertainment. It frees your mind to supply visual elements, while letting your eyes and hands do other important things, like knitting.

2) You can receive a one-of-a-kind, handmade gift; a thank you letter written to you by one of the characters from the story. If you choose, it can also be a love letter, a poison pen letter, or a memo firing you from the Corporation.  Who doesn’t want to be taunted in writing by Loki?

3) Membership has its privileges. When you join us at the $20 level or above, you get the password to the section of our website containing behind-the-scenes interviews, photographs from the rehearsal and recording sessions, and recordings that won’t be made available to the general public. It’s like going to a backstage party, but without the hassle of transportation or parking.

Aesir maidens disguise Thor as Freya while Loki laughs
Aesir maidens disguise Thor as Freya, while Loki laughs.

4) Listening to podcasts before going to sleep helps your mind wind down, and may cause more exciting dreams. They also make great companions for commuting, exercise, house cleaning, gardening, laundry, and litter box scooping. Night or day, our story is here for you.

5) This podcast will be made available in the fall of 2015, and it will be free for everyone. However, you’ll be one of the people who knew it in its infancy, with a special connection to its genesis. Can you say that about Serial or Welcome to Night Vale? Wouldn’t you love to be able to say, “I made that project possible?”

6) You can have your name mentioned in the podcast credits once, or multiple times if you’re a higher-level donor. If you run a business which relies on word-of mouth advertising, this can get the name of your organization in an awful lot of ears.

7) Wind farms have been described as majestic, helpful, and a nuisance. Just how ugly is the battle for sustainable-energy supremacy? We’re digging around and finding a lot of conspiracy and controversy for this story.

8) Jarnsaxa is one of the more mysterious characters of mythology. Marvel says one thing, SyFy says another. It’s high time somebody dug deeper and let her have her own saga.

9) This project combines the work of artists in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, and has supporters from Devils Lake, North Dakota, to Melbourne, Australia. It’s a wide-ranging community, and we are mighty. You can be part of our team and our story.

girl laughing in a wheat field under a clear sky. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.10)  Every time someone contributes, you make a writer want to stretch her brain further and make this story better.  You help an artist give a unique voice to a rare character, and you give someone a story to lift them out of their mundane life.  You’re rolling positive energy forward into productive action and more great ideas.

 

In nineteen days, we start rehearsing, and in 24, we start recording. Join us! 

Meet the artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: Leslie Vincent

Leslie Vincent Witch trials happened throughout the Western world in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries (and, some would argue, still happen today).  We know a lot about persecution of women as “witches” in England and early America, but we know less about it in other countries. Jarnsaxa has shown up in various guises at different times, and met religious, corporate and personal conflict.

Leslie will be playing Widow Gregersen, an practitioner of a lot of different ideas pervasive in Old Norse and modern-day culture. Though Christianity was not unwelcome in Scandinavia, pagan ideas and processes stayed put when push came to shove. Women were often the first responders in medical situations, and they could use runes and songs along with hot water and herbs for care. Widow Gregersen knows old ways to combat the dragur, or what Christians might perceive as a witch, though she’ll stay on the good side of the Church to keep business going. However, her ability to use old magic may make her more sensitive to it.

Wetterzauber
Everybody loves a nice picnic.

Leslie is an actor, singer, and goofball originally from Washington. D.C. Representative Theatre: Park Square: The Diary of Anne Frank; Theatre in the Round: Godspell; Chameleon Theatre Circle: Blood Brothers; Black Market Doctor: Women’s History Month: The Historical Comedybration (with fabulous prizes); The National Theatre for Children: The Energized Guyz and the Conservation Caper. In her spare time, she plays the ukulele, drinks too much coffee, and binge-watches LOST.

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

Podcasts and science fiction are two of my favorite things!

Who’s your favorite character from Norse Mythology?

Odin. But I’m not as well-versed in Norse Mythology as I should be, and I’m betting there’s someone else out there for me.

What are you reading these days?

I just finished “Bad Feminist” by Roxanne Gay, and I’m thinking about picking up either Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” or Steven King’s “11/22/63”

What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual?

Dancing around to Beyonce’s “7/11”

What’s under your bed right now?

All of my shoes. And probably a bunch of bobby pins.

Me too. 

We know you’re not afraid of witches, and you like women with mad skills, so why not join us? Help us bring this story to everyone’s ears for free.

Meet the artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: Molly Pach

Molly PachOur story takes place over multiple times and places at once, so not all of our characters are Norse deities and monsters. Sometimes the most frightening creatures come from Scottsdale.

Molly Pach will be playing Mrs. Kristy Wallace, Head of Brand Management for The Corporation. She’s in charge of finding and/or predicting all threats to the Corporation’s profitability, and ensuring those threats are eliminated, with the highest degree of security and plausible deniability. This ice queen is hardly invulnerable; sometimes the best attackers have their own dirty little secrets.

None of the women in this story (except Sif, maybe) are perfect sweethearts.  Flawed female characters are controversial for some people. They also respond to conflict in really interesting ways, and what’s more fun to play, or write, than a woman with a lot of power, an axe to grind, and everything to lose?

President and CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer (Reuters/Jackson)
President and CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer (Reuters/Jackson)

Molly hails from Milwaukee, WI and has made the Twin Cities her home for the past 3 years.  She enjoys ice cream runs to DQ with her husband, snuggles from her black lab, Birdie, and lounging in bed with period British dramas. She is a member of the Minneapolis Catholic Worker Community where she displays her kick ass organizational skills taking minutes and facilitating at  monthly meetings, and setting new records for dish washing at their weekly community meals.  Her most recent interest is finding the perfect recipe for fried chicken.

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

Carin Bratlie. I will never say no working on a project she is involved in. I find her to  be a powerful inspiration for all things life related and one of the best directors I have ever worked with.

Amy Bouzaglo, the mastermind behind Amy's Baking Company of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Amy Bouzaglo, the culinary and business mastermind behind Amy’s Baking Company of Scottsdale, Arizona. (Reddit)

  Who’s your favorite character from Norse Mythology?

THE KRAKEN!!!! I have an intense fear for all things that live in the sea. A giant octopus that lives at the bottom and emerges only to bring you to your watery death?! Yeah, that works for me!

What are you reading these days?

A collection of stories by Colette.

What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual?

Listening to Ke$ha while I put on my makeup. I do it with headphones so no one judges me and the fact that I am listening to Ke$ha.

What’s under your bed right now?

Floorboards. The hubby and I got rid of our last bed frame because it squeaked too much. We sleep on a mattress and box spring.

Want to know how you can be part of this project? You can help all of our artists and make our podcast available for free to everyone by contributing to our Indiegogo campaign.  Join us! 

 

Meet the artists of Jarnsaxa Rising: Amy Pirkl

Amy Pirkl Just who are these people that are lending their voices to audio drama? We think these actors are too good to hide, so we’ll be sharing them with you one at a time (don’t want to overload you too fast, darlings). 

Amy Pirkl will play Sif, the Norse goddess of fertility. Sif is associated with summertime and abundance; as Thor’s wife, she provides his thunderous aspect with a fruitful outlet. The Poetic Edda is full of salacious rumors about Sif and her feelings about Loki, but she claims to be above reproach:

Welcome now, Loki, and take the crystal cup

full of ancient mead,

you should admit, that of the children of the Aesir, 

that I alone am blameless.

She’s such a sweetheart. It’s really a shame that she stole Jarnsaxa’s man.

Amy Pirkl is a Company Member of Theatre Pro Rata. She is a freelance props designer, and has worked at the Guthrie, Park Square, Theatre in the Round, Nimbus, Yellow Tree, and a butt ton of others. Amy also is a member of Brain Punch Games, and a puzzle constructor/operator at Trapped Puzzle Rooms. She loves cats more than is reasonable, and her dog Badger is the best thing to ever happen on this planet. When Amy grows up, she wants to be a firefighter or Godzilla.

Amy is partly excited to be involved in this project because she wants her husband to think she’s a cool kid. He is a sound guy and a Norse Mythology buff.

Amy’s favorite character from Norse Mythology is Ratatoskr because she likes squirrels.

Amy is currently reading A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. Other books on her nightstand include: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Tao Te Ching, the Tarot Bible, and Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book.

Amy’s favorite pre-performance ritual is drinking a goblet of mead, then smashing it so no other mortal can drink from it again.

At this very moment there is a kitten named Gir lurking under Amy’s bed, waiting for her chance to attack the other cat, Kittenvader Zim.

Want to know how you can be part of this project? You can help all of our artists and make our podcast available for free to everyone by contributing to our Indiegogo campaign.  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.

 

Musical cares

Vincent Friel composing music at his computer.Vince is composing and recording Jarnsaxa Rising’s theme music. This process isn’t much to look at, but it sounds amazing.

More proof that I am living in the future: As I type this, pages of sheet music, that Vince has just written and recorded, are coming out of the printer. It’s like flying cars, except the destination comes directly to you.

Tom Hulce as Mozart in Amadeus, perturbed that nobody understands his struggle.

 “You kids have it so goddamn easy. Back in MY day…” 

Right now we’re both at the part that doesn’t photograph well. It’s not glamorous, mostly a lot of typing, scribbling, and/or pointing and clicking. But, the script proceeds, the music is good, and in 42 days, we’ll be sitting down to rehearse with Carin and the actors.

Want to be part of it?

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.