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Garbo at Dramaten


Greta always loved the theatre. Since she was a child, she always told her friends that she wants to be an actress. In school her favorite subject was history. She often daydreamed about fantastic adventures in class while reading her text books. With 13 when she formed her own theatrical company called The Attic Theater. Little Greta played theater whenever she had a chance.

The Dramaten Theatre in the 1920's

Greta's dream world of theater

Greta loved the theatre and wanted to be an actress. She and her friends played theatre whenever they had a chance. With 13 when she formed her own theatrical company. It was called The Attic Theatre. She arranged her friends to bring old furniture from their homes to serve as props and for costumes they used anything they could find.

Greta in front of her school

Their first show was a musical revue. Greta portrayed everything from the Goddess of Peace to a Three-year-old. The youngest Gustafsson was already living in two separate worlds, juxtaposing the grim reality of home life with the dream world of theater. And there can be little doubt which one was more important to her – or where she felt more understood. It is written that little Greta one day said: "I am going to be a prima donna or a princess and when I'm rich I'll give all I can to poor children."

The Dramaten's School and Theatre

The Dramaten is the Swedish Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern. In English it means: Royal Swedish Dramatic Theatre. It is mostly known in Sweden as Dramaten. The theatre located in the Art Nouveau building in Nybroplan, Stockholm since 1908. The theatre was built by the architect Fredrik Lilljekvist. Famous artists like Carl Milles and Carl Larsson were involved in making the decorations. Some of the interior decorations were made by Prince Eugen.

The theatre's acting school is, Dramatens elevskola. This is the Royal Dramatic Theatre Academy (The Kungliga Dramatiska Teaterns Elevskola). It produced many famous actors and directors. Many would go on to be famous, including Gustaf Molander, Alf Sjöberg, Signe Hasso, Ingrid Bergman, Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow, and Bibi Andersson. From 1922 – 1924, Greta went to the Dramaten elevskola (The Acting School). From 1922 –1924, she also appeared on stage at the Dramatiska Teatre (The Dramatic Theatre).

Greta and other students at Dramaten 1922/23

The Scholarship for the Dramaten School

In 1922, Greta left the PUB to film her first feature film Luffar- Petter. Her director Erik Petschler advised Greta to do an audition for a scholarship at the Dramaten School. The Royal Swedish Dramatic Theatre Academy is mostly known as the Dramaten Skola (school). The Skola was one of the worlds finest acting Schools. Greta was told that audition for the next year, would be held in late August 1922. Petschler promised her to arrange a meeting with Frans Enwell. Enwell was once he head of the school and now worked with young students privately, to work wit her. After their first meeting, Enwall agreed to coach her for the audition and after filming Luffar-Petter was completed, Greta and her coach had less time, to work on the scenes they had chosen, for the audition.

Greta and other students at Dramaten 1922/23


The Audition for the Dramaten School

Greta worked hard for the Audition. She studied three scenes with F. Enwal and they had chosen:

Dunungen (The Fledgling)
by Selma Lagerlöf ( a monologue)

Madame Sans-Gêne
by Victorien Sardou (a wench of Catherine's speech in Act 1)

The Lady from the Sea
by Henry Ibsen (a whisper of Ellida)

In late August of 1922, the day of her audition had come. Greta was frightened to present them to the 20 jurists who were waiting. She heard her name called and walked onto the main theatre. Greta began reciting her speech and scenes perfectly. At first she recitited the Selma Lagerlöf monologue. Secondly the jury had chosen a scene of Sardou's Madame Sans-Gêne. Greta didn't even completed her scenes, she was told that she didn't need to go any further. They told her that she would hear back from the committee in three days.

Greta thought she was being dismissed. A telephone call finally told her the news she wanted to hear. She had been accepted. Greta was so happy and thought she would almost die, after hearing the news. Greta returned to the Academy on September 18, 1922, for registration. It was Greta's 16th Birthday. Now she was on her way to become a real actress.

Portraits for the Dramaten

The Public Performances at the Dramatic Theatre

After school, students also participated in Dramatic Theatre productions in small or even bigger roles. The Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern in Stockholm is mostly known as Dramaten or Dramaten Teatre. They often were at the theater from 9:00 A.M. until 0:00 P.M.. Greta was part of many public performances for the Academy.

Here is a list:

The Beautiful Adventure (November 1922)
A comedy by G. Armand de Caillavet, Greta in the role of Madam de Ligneray, she had only one line.

The Admirable Crichton (October 1923)
By J. M. Barrie, Greta played Fisher.

Mother's Rival (La Malquerida ) (April 1924)
By Jacinto Benavente.

Madame Sans-Gêne (April 1924)
By J. M. Barrie, Greta played Madam de Vintermille.

Min vän Teddy (My Friend Teddy) (April1924)
Comedy by André Revoite and Lucien Besnard, Greta played Mathilde.

Höstens violiner (The Violins of Autumn) (September 1924)
By I. Surgutsjev , Greta played a “Guest” .

Den osynlige (The Invisible) (Oktober 1924)
By Pär Lagerkvist, Garbo played a prostitute.

Knock or le Triomphe de la Médecine (Knock or The Triumph of Medicine) (November 1924)
A French farce by J. Romains, Greta provided the offstage voice of Mariette, the doctor's receptionist.

The Tortoise – Shell Comb (April 1923)
A comedy by Richard Kessler, Greta had the role of Frau von Brandt.

The Winter's Tale (no year is known, probably only student project)
By William Shakespear, Garbo had a small part as Hermione.

A Farewell Supper (no year is known, probably only student project)
A german comedy by Arthur Schnitzler, Greta had a small role.

Resurrection (no year is known, probably only student project)
By Tolstoy, Greta played Amman.

The Power of Darkness (no year is known, probably only student project)
By Leo Tolstoy.

Daniel Hjort (no year is known, probably only student project)
A Finnish play, Greta played a girl named Katrin.

Program of a student production

Greta's Time at the Dramaten School

The Dramaten school was a two-year program were they were taught:

reading Play
Set Design

Greta later said, that the life on school was wonderful and they had great teachers. The students received 50 Kronor a month but were not allowed to take any outside work in between terms. Class hours were 9:00 to 5:00.

A Page from Garbo's Dramaten notebook

Greta's student colleagues at the Dramaten School

Greta became good friend with her student colleagues. Mona Martenson, Arnold Sjöstrand, Barbro Sjöstrand,Tore Lindwall, Vera Schmiterlöw, Georg Funkquist, Alf Sjöberg, lena Cedarström, Carl-Magnus Thulstrop, Laurin Laurin, Mimi Pollak. Her best friends were Mimi Pollak, Vera Schmiterlöw and Mona Mårtenson. They called her "Gurra". The name "Gurra" is related to the name – Gustav.

Greta's Print Ad for the Dramaten

Greta and her student colleague Vera Schmiterlöw made some extra money. They appeared in an advertisment for a new Lancia Lambda. Both were paid 75 Kronars.

Lancia Lambda

Greta and Mimi

Swedish actress Mimi Pollak was born on 9 April 1903 in Karlstad/Sweden. She was a long time friend of Garbo and died on 11 August 1999 in Stockholm/Sweden. Mimi and Greta met for the first time in 1922, when Greta did an audition for a scholarship at the Dramaten School to study acting.

Mimi, 1922

The girls had a close friendship and after Garbo left Sweden and went to Hollywood, she and Pollak maintained a mail correspondence for 60 years. Mimi kept most her their letters and in 2005 they were given free to public. Two exhibitions in Sweden were held and a book was released about the letters. Mimi made her first Swedish film in 1922 and her last one in 1991.

She was a lead actress in a major films and went on to become an important actor, director, and teacher at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. Mimi died in sommer of 1999 due of natural causes. More Infos  HERE!

Famous students

The most famous students at Dramatens elevskola includewere: Signe Hasso, Greta Garbo, Gunnar Björnstrand, Ingrid Bergman, Max von Sydow, Jan Malmsjö, Gunn Wållgren, Börje Ahlstedt, Bibi Andersson, Eva Dahlbeck, Gerda Lundequist and Lars Hanson.

The Dramaten Today

The Dramaten Book

Om igen, Herr Molander! – Kungl. Dramatiska teaterns elevskola 1787 - 1964, was written by Ingrid Luterkort and released via Stockholmia Förlag in 1998.

Karen Swenson – A life Apart
Barry Paris – Garbo


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