Acting from across the world
Courtesy Photo / Jan Lewis
Brynhild Weihe speaks fluent English, but it isn’t her first language. As an exchange student from the Faroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic Ocean, she has only a hint of an accent.
“It’s one of the smallest countries in the world,” Weihe said. “Only 48,000 people live there.”
Getting used to American culture was easy for Weihe. She was an exchange student at Zeeland High School for a year in 2008, and then returned home. But after a year back in the Faroe Islands, she realized that she loved Michigan and came back to attend Grand Valley State University.
She fell in love with the campus, especially in the fall because of the trees, which are scarce in her home country, she said. She is now a senior at GVSU, studying theatre.
Her theater career began when she was seven years old, and her mother enrolled her in the Sjónleikarhúsið theatre. Weihe said it translates to the “theatre house” in Faroese, the native language of the Faroe Islands.
Since then, her passion for theater has grown. Before coming to GVSU, she played in “Peter Pan” and the musicals “Oliver Twist” and “Hair.”
Her first Shakespeare production was “Macbeth” at Zeeland High School and she’s continued auditioning for them since then. Last year Weihe auditioned for GVSU’s traveling theater group, Bard-to-Go and got a chance to perform a mixture of the plays “Hamlet,” “Merchant of Venice,” and “Taming of the Shrew.”
They performed in front of high school students, who are usually not exposed to Shakespeare. Weihe said to make it interesting, the plays were updated to a more modern version with added humor.
“(People) get to see a different side of Shakespeare, which is awesome,” Weihe said.
Last October, the group traveled to Nassau, The Bahamas and performed for students at several Nassau secondary schools and at the Shakespeare in Paradise Festival. She said the people there were the best audiences because they appreciated Shakespeare, and most of them had never heard of him.
GVSU theatre professor Karen Libman said she thinks Weihe came to GVSU because of all the different experiences she’s been presented – from traveling to the Bahamas and performing “Antona Garica” in El Paso, Texas last spring.
Weihe’s next performance will be part of GVSU’s Shakespeare Festival, when she portrays Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Queen Elizabeth has to deal with her parents and children dying, which is something Weihe hasn’t experienced, “because of her imagination, she is able to embody those roles,” Libman said.
“Richard III” opens Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. and runs three weekends with five evening performances, and three 2 p.m. matinees on Sept. 30, Oct. 6 and Oct. 7.
Libman said Weihe has been a great contribution to GVSU’s theatre department.
“She’s so generous with her time and she is a wonderful collaborator,” Libman said. “She works so well with other people, and she has a wonderful sense of humor, and is just incredibly giving.”
Weihe received the Calder scholarship for the 2012-2013 school year, which is available to any student majoring in the arts. Libman said this year was the first time in a while that a theater major won the scholarship.
Theatre however, doesn’t consume all of Weihe’s time. In her free time she studies different languages. She has been to 25 countries and is fluent in six languages: Faroese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, German, and English. She has taken two years of Spanish and Latin, and is just starting to learn Italian.
“Languages are my passion,” Weihe said. “It just comes from living in the Faroe Islands.”