Paula Stenström Öhman

Paula Stenström Öhman (born 1972) is a playwright, director, and artistic director of Lumor, a Stockholm based performing arts company. She often takes inspiration from documentary materials and uses qualitative social-science methodology in her research work. At first glance, her writing seems to adhere closely to the reality in which her process is grounded, but closer examination reveals an artistic tapestry woven according to a personal, lyrical logic.

Paula received the City of Stockholm Cultural Fellowship in 2006, and the Writers Guild of Sweden awarded her the Henning Mankell Scholarship in 2015. Her 2015 work People Respect Me Now was selected as Sweden’s entry for New Nordic Drama 2016 by the Swedish Performing Arts Coalition. It was also selected to perform at SPAC’s Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts, as well as Swedstage. In 2016 Paula received the Swedish Ibsen Society Prize. In 2019 her production of Ocean was selected and played at the biennial.

Ocean is a dark, existential, comedic play that explores the longing for and fear of intimacy, through three generations. It’s about love, solidarity, and connections. Inherited trauma and narcissism. Porn, violence, sex, addiction, and sadism. It’s about what intimacy truly means. Is it vital? Or can it be lethal?

It all starts with sex and violence. We meet six teenagers, their parents, and the “grandmothers” who live in a senior collective. The threads that make up the fabric of the narrative move through an inherited family trauma with roots in fascism and the Holocaust. Two parents have an affair. A girl is in the hospital. A teacher cries. A boy’s attempt to become close warps into a sadistic game. A survivor and grandmother begins to tell her story for the first time. Time, in Ocean, is broken, and the text oscillates between various appeals and levels of narration. On the surface, it is similar to a documentary reality, but it is constructed according to a particular lyrical logic that depends on the audience’s ability to weave the fragments into a complete story. As the text alternates between direct addresses and acted scenes where the actors move seamlessly in and out of roles, it creates a world in which the audience is invited into the game of theatre and reality is invited onto the stage. Water — the subconscious — flows through the play. An abyss opens in everyday spaces, posing complex questions about our era.

Read the excerpt here.

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