The Suttung Theatre

The Suttung Theatre is a theatre project based on Tangen in the county of Hedmark, springing out from the cultural work of Ingeborg Refling Hagen, called Suttung, which she started after World War II. According to Norse mythology, Suttung was a giant, and his mead gave whoever drank it the ability to create poetry.

The theatre part of the work called itself The Suttung Theatre (Norwegian: Suttungteateret) when it took its place in the new community centre called Tangen Samfunnshus in 1965.

As advised by the politician Odvar Nordli, who also hailed from Tangen and knew Ingeborg Refling Hagen's work, the community centre was equipped with a stage corresponding to the needs of The Norwegian Touring Theatre at the time.

The enterprise's motto was and is "The theatre for the poet, and the poet for the people". The primary emphasis was on drama neglected by theatre institutions.

All plays were staged in full, without deletions, and with the text as the fundamental element. The productions were made on a non-profit, no-pay basis, and they were performed for free. Initially, all income stemmed from the sale of raffle tickets, but eventually the theatre was in part funded by the municipality and the government.


(Objekt ID 27044)
Object type Organization
Organization type Theatre company
Main focus Theatre
Established 1958
Website WERGELAND 2008

Contact information

Country Norway

Other information

Legal entity Other

The history leading up to The Suttung Theatre:

The Suttung Theatre had a history prior to being founded, in the 1920es and 1930es. At the time a group of artists and cultural workers started working together in Ekeberg in Østre Aker (now part of Oslo), calling themselves De unge (literally: The Young) or Kinck-Wergelandteateret (literally: The Kinck-Wergeland Theatre). The media gave them the moniker Ekebergkolonien (literally: The Ekeberg Colony).

Ingeborg Refling Hagen was the driving force behind the group, in collaboration with the painter Birgit Abrahamsen, who had some experience from the theatre. They tried to convince The National Theatre to stage Hans E. Kinck's lyrical drama The Wedding at Genoa, but when they didn't succeed, they decided to stage it themselves. Some of the people involved had acting experience, others not.

Birgit Abrahamsen mostly took care of the actors' instruction and direction, whereas Refling Hagen took responsibility for instructing pronunciation. In 1926 The Wedding at Genoa was produced at the theatre called Majol in Oslo. The sculptor Gunnar Janson was responsible for the decorations, and Eivind Groven had composed music. In 1930 the group staged Wergeland's poetic work The Spaniard.

Theatre historian Kristin Lyhmann writes the following:

"One may say that the whole thing started with Kinck-Wergelandteateret during the 1920es. But one also may say that it started in 1932 when Ingeborg [Refling Hagen] published her first poetry collection, Jeg vil hem att (literally: I want to go back home). From then on she set herself free onstage as a reader. She wrote monologue after monologue for one woman. Think about Lørdagskveld (literally: Saturday Night), Jeg har møtt en engel (literally: I have met an angel), Hvor kom vi fra (literally: Where did we come from), Den syvende dag (literally: The seventh day). These poems must have been intended for the theatre - and that was how she used them. [...] When the Suttung work started after the war, not much time went by before these poems were staged as dramas. [...] The history of The Suttung Theatre is meticulously connected to the way Ingeborg always searched for new ways to convey spiritual life."

About the theatre work prior to the German occupation 1940-45, one may read Ingeborg Refling Hagen's book De unge (literally: The young) (1979). About her work after the occupation she has told in Løftet må holdes (literally: The promise must be held) (1981).

The home theatre of Suttung:

Part of Ingeborg Refling Hagen's literary work for children and adults after the war consisted of creating stage performances of poetry, prose texts (such as short stories and novels), scenes from plays and complete plays. During this period the work was made as mobile home theatre, performed in private homes and public spaces.

The living room floor in Refling Hagen's home Fredheim doubled as a stage for many performances. From the end of the 1940es the theatre work was managed by Refling Hagen, but from time to time the visual artist Birgit Abrahamsen was part of the picture as an instructor. She died in 1961. At Fredheim they staged Hans E. Kinck's play The Last Guest in 1963. Earlier they had performed the first act, then two acts, but in 1963 the drama about the Italian scandal writer Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) was performed in full.

The next giant project was Mot karneval* (Towards Carnival) by Kinck. This performance, too, was constructed gradually, over two years. It was performed in full at Tangen community centre at the centenary of Kinck in October 1965. At the time Refling Hagen had found a collaborator in Torleif Kippersund, who was increasingly capable of assisting her in instruction and direction.

As part of the annual Wergeland celebration June 17 farces by Wergeland were often staged. Some of these were also performed outdoors.

The golden days of The Suttung Theatre:

During the 1960es and 70es The Suttung Theatre expanded. Some of the actors were allowed to test themselves as directors, including Torleif Kippersund, Svein Gundersen, Gudmund Groven, Kjell Larsson, Kristin Lyhmann, Ingrid Elise Wergeland and Sigrid Salen. Anne Jorunn Kydland Lysdahl staged Lyv ikke* (Don't lie) from 1976, Johanne Louise Groven Michaelsen staged Refling Hagen's poetry cycle against capital punishment and Frøydis Alvær staged H.C. Andersen's play The Flower of Happiness in 1978.

Visual artists such as Ingrid Book, Petr Klastersky and Tore Lahn provided stage designs. Musicians, writers and students took part on equal footing with the actors. Staff grew, and several eventually were educated within the theatre. But for as long as Ingeborg Refling Hagen lived, she was the artistic director of The Suttung Theatre.

The theatre had approximately 4-7 premieres every year in its most active period, with reading and rehearsals during evenings, rehearsals from Friday to Sunday throughout the year, and weeks with rehearsals and studies during all vacations. Gudmund Groven, who was employed at Telemark Theatre, now Ibsen Theatre in the period from 1975 to 1980, commuted weekly with his wife and children to rehearsals and performances. The same did other central actors, such as Torleif Kippersund with his family.

The drama by Wergeland, poetry by Wergeland and large parts of Wergeland's cosmological poem Man, were also performed onstage.

Among the highlights of the theatre's history are two different productions of Kinck's The Drover, both with Torleif Kippersund in the leading role, Wergeland's tragedy The Child Murderess and a stage version of Ingeborg Refling Hagen's novel Vi må greie oss selv (literally: We have to manage by ourselves), staged by Aslaug Groven Michaelsen.

The activity was funded in part by the public grant given to Ingeborg Refling Hagen personally, in part by support from the government, county and municipality, fees from public lectures or performances by the actors, plus contributions from parents of the youth connected to the enterprise, and from interested audience members.

At any time a core of staff lived at Fredheim. This staff worked with studies, culture and theatre work, and managed the publishing house of Suttung.

More recent history:

After Ingeborg Refling Hagen's death in 1989 the theatre worked on, and the enterprise was kept up with support from the government. Among the productions were Wergeland's fairytale farce Lyv ikke! (Don't lie!), Christendommens første store Seier* (The First Great Victory of Christianity) from Man, and a series of dramatised short stories by Kinck. The performance venue still was Tangen community centre. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, however, got its first performance in Oslo, in the theatre hall in Rosenkrantz gate.

A driving force was Aslaug Groven Michaelsen, who also created a museum in Ingeborg Refling Hagen's home, and she was able to raise a new building to replace the old barnhouse on the farm. It may be characterised as a barn theatre. In 1999 she received the Stange award.

When the governmental funding ceased, the efforts concentrated on keeping up the annual Wergeland celebration June 17, with some public support from the municipality of Stange. The new barnhouse, called Uteksti, makes the frame for readings, different stage performances and lectures.

Several of the actors from the golden days of The Suttung Theatre now manage enterprises of their own. For instance Torleif Kippersund and his son Anders Kippersund have worked with theatre for youth in Tangen for a number of years. For many years Torleif Kippersund also has maintained a short story salon, in which he has regularly performed short stories by Kinck. A result of this enterprise is an audiobook with the eleven short stories from Flaggemusvinger (literally: Bat Wings) (1895).

Anders Kippersund has led Turnékompaniet from the early 1980es, and now manages Hamar Theatre. Among other things, Svein Gundersen has been connected to Hedmark Theatre, Klomadu Theatre, Kulturproduksjoner and led UNIMA Norway. Gudmund Groven is an employee of Østfold Theatre, Kristin Lyhmann is a theatre historian and playwright, whereas Frøydis Alvær, Karin Sveen, Heidi Bonde, Kirsti Birkeland have continued writing.

The actors Svein Hellesøy and Hilde Kveim started Teater 82 and managed this group for some years, whereas Karen Høie joined Teaterverkstedet in Oslo, later also Klomadu Theatre and Kulturproduksjoner. Many of the actors have been doing literature and/or theatre work for children in addition to their own activity, including Ive Skalmerud Larsson, Anne Jorunn Kydland Lysdahl, Frøydis Alvær, Johanne Louise Groven Michaelsen, Brita and Oddvar Halrynjo, Beate Kraggerud and many others.


Wikipedia,, 29.02.2012,

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.

Contributors (6)
Svein Gundersen (teater) – Actor ( til 1989)
Svein Gundersen (teater) – Lighting designer ( til 1989)
Aslaug Groven Michaelsen – Artistic director (fra 1985)
Karen Høie – Actor (fra 1970 til 1989)
Svein Gundersen (teater) – Director (fra 1969 til 1989)
Ingeborg Refling Hagen – Artistic director (fra 1958 til 1985)