Sami actress on tour

Sara Margrethe Oskal is outstanding in her one-woman show, “The Whole Caboodle”

Photo: Emma Elliane Oskal Valkeapää Sara Margrethe Oskal.

Photo: Emma Elliane Oskal Valkeapää
Sara Margrethe Oskal.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Sara Margrethe Oskal presented an amazing one-woman show at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. In this show, entitled “The Whole Caboodle,” Oskal narrated three traditional Sami stories, using both the spoken word and the unique Sami chant yoik. She skillfully played multiple roles in each tale.

The first story, “The Maidie,” is about a girl of marriageable age. Her first suitor comes calling. The encounter is a hilarious disaster because Maidie doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to follow) the proper rules of courting. In particular, she does not practice smuhččat. Girls are supposed to try to make their mouths look as small and pretty as possible. But Maidie opens her mouth wide when talking and eating. When he has the chance, her suitor flees in horror!

The second story is “Reindeer Snoop Deer,” and Oskal is especially brilliant as the main character, a very intelligent (and lovable) reindeer who wants to escape the butcher’s knife and become a heargi, a tame reindeer trained for domestic use. He fortunately succeeds in outsmarting the Boss Man.

Oskal plays a grandmother in the final story, “Granny.” This lively old woman of 106 recounts many amusing anecdotes of her long life. She informs us that, when she was young, she became convinced that she was a changeling. She longed to return to her people, the hulders, the earth dwellers. These people frequently exchanged their greedy, old parents for beautiful human babies they found in unattended cradles.

The humans would be able to get their own children back if they beat the changeling so mercilessly that the hulder could not stand it anymore and would return to take their parent back. So Granny was as naughty as she could be and received many severe beatings. But no hulder ever came to rescue her so she conceded defeat and tried to adapt to life on earth.

Sara Margrethe Oskal has an interesting background. She grew up in a reindeer-herding family in northern Norway. She then earned a doctorate in Performing Arts at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts where she investigated humor in traditional stories and in yoik. She is also an established writer. She has written scripts for television and the theater and has published books of poetry. She has directed some theater performances. She is currently working on her first short film, “Aurora Keeps an Eye on You.”

Oskal is committed to preserving the traditional Sami stories. With her show, she certainly gives audiences outside of Norway a rare and enjoyable opportunity to learn about her unique culture. She will hopefully continue to travel the globe, sharing her whole kit and caboodle of Sami yarns!

“The Whole Caboodle” by and with Sara Margrethe Oskal will hit Seattle on October 26, at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. The tour is funded by the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, the Sami Council of the Arts, and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.