"The Stavig Letters: The Story of a Norwegian Immigrant," will be performed at Bergen Lutheran Church on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 2:30 p.m. in the church fellowship hall as part of their annual Come to the Table event. The program, open to the public, is sponsored by Bergen Lutheran WELCA and receives funding from the South Dakota Humanities Council.
In 1876 Lars Stavig, his wife Maren, and their three young sons, rowed 30 miles down a fjord on the rugged west coast of Norway to reach an ocean steamer leaving for America. Knudt stayed behind in Romsdal, Norway. The brothers never saw each other again.
The brothers did, however, keep in touch over the next five decades through the exchange of nearly 200 letters which reflect not only their own lives but the experience of countless other families separated by distance, language and the struggle to survive whether in a new land or in the old country. The letters have been translated and condensed into a dramatic performance.
Lars' letters from America offer an authentic first-person perspective of the events of his life, including the arrival of the railroads on the prairie, changes in agriculture, World War I, and the Great Depression. Knut's letters from Norway reflect on of the state of the Norwegian economy, the dangers of traditional fishing practices of the period, and changes that occurred over the years in Norwegian culture. Woven throughout the letters are the personal triumphs and tragedies of the two brothers and their abiding faith in God.
Harold Torness, the grandson of Lars, collected the letters from Norway and America and had them translated from Norwegian into English. Excerpts from the letters were shaped into a readers' theater drama by Dr. Wayne S. Knutson, professor emeritus at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. The performance has been given more than 50 times. Readers for this performance will be Jane and John Rasmussen of Sisseton and Gary Westgard of Watertown. Jane is a great granddaughter of the immigrant, Lars Stavig.
Come to the Table has been an annual event at Bergen Lutheran for a number of years. The public is invited to attend this history rich performance at Bergen Lutheran. The church is located seven miles west of Vermillion on Timber Road.