National Theatre of Greenland rents a boat and goes on tour | Polarjournal
Citizen's in even the remotest parts of Greenland will now get access to the country's national theatre. This photo is from a previous performance by the theater including the traditional mask dance. Photo: Nunatta Isiginnaartitsiarfia
Citizen’s in even the remotest parts of Greenland will now get access to the country’s national theatre. This photo is from a previous performance by the theater including the traditional mask dance. Photo: Nunatta Isiginnaartitsiarfia

A moldy building in Nuuk and a desire to perform for the country’s remote settlements are behind the decision. The boat tour will start in Qaanaaq in the northeast and will sail south through the summer.

“The idea comes from the fact that Greenlanders are sailors,” Vivi Sørensen, Head of Theatre at The National Theatre of Greenland said.

She is describing the theater’s bold plan for 2024: to go on tour along the entire coast of the country, and perform for audiences in villages that would not otherwise get to experience theater.

“We are going across the whole country and out to the settlements where no one comes to perform,” she told KNR, Greenland’s public broadcaster. 

More reliable than flights

The idea may seem obvious: the national theater should perform for audiences across the nation. And since its founding in 2011, it has, indeed, gone on tour to other parts of Greenland and the world – but it has always been by flight.

However, flights in Greenland are not always reliable. Often, the theater would experience delays and that some of all the equipment it brought would not reach its destination on time. And of course, flights only reach the larger settlements.

“I thought: it would be so nice if we had a boat where we could keep all our stuff, where we could sleep while we were on the way, perform when we arrived, and then sleep again on the way to the next place,” Vivi Sørensen said:

“And thankfully, it seems like it is doable,” she said.

Until June of 2023, The National Theatre of Greenland was housed in this repurposed building in a relatively inaccesible part of Nuuk. Photo: Google Streeview
Until June of 2023, The National Theatre of Greenland was housed in this repurposed building in a relatively inaccesible part of Nuuk. Photo: Google Streetview

Starts north, sails south

The funding for the tour has been secured and the final route of the tour is being planned. It is set to start in the spring and run throughout the summer as the new boat, Kisaq, will make its way along the coast.

The tour will start in Qaanaaq in the northwest and sail south. Only one place is unreachable by boat: Ittoqqortoormiit in the northeast, which will instead be visited by flights. Whether the boat will reach Tasiilaq and other settlements in the southeast is still uncertain.

But the fact that the theater will reach so many places outside the capital of Nuuk is a milestone no matter what.

So far, most of its performances have been held in the same location: a repurposed building in Nuuk, hidden away between warehouses and a bus terminal, on a street with the flattering name ‘Industrivej’ which translates to “Industry Street”.

Nevertheless, the theater has hosted many successes. In 2015, the play ‘Minik’, for instance, made its way to Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada, and to Theater Trier in Germany. And the biggest success, according to the theaters website, was ‘Toqqortat’, which was seen by more than half of Nuuk’s population of 20.000 people.

The play 'Minik' from 2015 was performed in Theater Trier in Germany. It follows the real-life story of a boy from Qaanaaq who follows the explorer Robert Peary to New York where he ends up alone and abandoned as his father days and his body is exhibited in a museum. Photo: Nunatta Isiginnaartitsiarfia
The play ‘Minik’ from 2015 was performed in Theater Trier in Germany, among other places. It follows the real-life story of a boy from Qaanaaq who followed the explorer Robert Peary to New York. In New York, he ended up alone and abandoned as his father died, and later, Minik saw his father’s body exhibited in a museum. Photo: Nunatta Isiginnaartitsiarfia

Moldy building

It took a new Head of Theatre, Vivi Sørensen, who was appointed last year, to bring the theater to sea.

“We can enrich people with art but to do that we need to get around the whole country,” she said, revealing that thinking about the name of her employer – the National Theatre of Greenland – was part of what inspired the tour.

But there is another, less high-minded reason that the theater is now going on tour: In June of last year, mold was discovered in its building on “Industry Street” and the building had to be shut down indefinitely. Now, the future of the theater is unknown. Talks have been held about a brand new building for theater in the center of Nuuk. But nothing has been decided yet.

So who knows, if the nautical theater tour becomes a success, the National Theatre of Greenland may remain permanently at sea. At least the current actors will be ready:

“When I found actors for the tour, I made sure that they were comfortable sailing. Just so they knew what they were getting into,” Vivi Sørensen said, smiling.

Ole Ellekrog, PolarJournal

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