The cities of Reykjavík and Jackson may seem worlds apart, but their unexpected similarities are what inspired Andrew Munz and his Tumbleweed Creative Arts collective to produce an original play that reimagines the settlement of Iceland in the year 874 A.D.
Adapted from historical Icelandic manuscripts, myths and stories, the play features plenty of action, handmade costumes and songs sung in traditional Icelandic language.
Written by Munz and directed by Dillon Hanna, “Saga” was created for the Pink Garter Theatre stage and offers an opportunity to experience an outside-the-box production featuring the homegrown talents of an all-local cast.
“SAGA” is finishing up its three-week run in Jackson this week at the Pink Garter Theatre.
Unforgiving winters and family bonds
“SAGA” is based on the historical document called the “Icelandic Book of Settlements,” It features a Norwegian Viking, Ingólfur Arnarson, and his family, who he brought to Iceland after fleeing Norway. Anarson eventually established what is now the city of Reykjavík.
Hanna said the parallels between Iceland and Wyoming are strikingly similar not only for the unforgiving winters they share but for the ever changing landscape.
“‘SAGA’ is a story about community and establishing a home and family bonds,” Hanna said. “The process of breaking new ground and strengthening your connection with people is something that I think we’re always seeking in Jackson.”
Hanna continued, “A lot of what Andrew [Munz] was trying to get at with this show is that this original musical [and] new organization in a constantly changing, constantly growing town is [similar to the story’s characters] finding a way to move forward and settle new territory.”
New director magic
Hanna, a Jackson resident since the age of nine, starred in Munz’s 2021 musical, “Cowboys Like Us,” and said sitting in the director’s chair for the first time offers him a new perspective.
“Acting helps directing and directing helps acting,” Hanna said. “It’s a very give and take relationship. I know what the actors are trying to do, and I can try to talk to them in a way that only helps and doesn’t get them into their heads.”
Hanna said there’s magic within the new play.
“Every scene has some kind of effect or illusion within it, whether that is our rotating stage or our puppet Viking longship that mimics voyaging out in the waves, there is some generally technical element that makes it a little bit more mind-boggling,” Hanna said.
With its sword fights, trust falls and scenes of partial nudity, Hanna said the actors are putting themselves out there in the play..
He also touched on the importance of making the most of what you have, whether that’s money or space.
“The Pink Garter theater was a small little theater,” Hanna recalled. “The stage was taped over. There were really old conventional lights. We get really passionate about [figuring out] how to maximize the resources that you already have. And I think all the magic tricks in “SAGA” are hopefully examples of that.”
Hanna said he thinks Munz’s Tumbleweed Creative Arts collective has a bright future as it offers an opportunity for local artists to shine and something new to the community.
“One of the most important things to keep that fresh and to keep that moving and to keep it quality is to have diversity within that art. Tumbleweed is a space where you can come to make unique art that maybe hasn’t been made before, like ‘SAGA,’” Hanna said. “It’s a space where we’re more invested in maintaining that diversity and giving people the chance to practice whatever it is they do than upholding already proven concepts.”
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Dillon Hanna, director of the original play ‘SAGA’.