The power of \Pippi

When Cicilia Sedvall first came to the United States from Sweden to take part in a cultural exchange with the New York State Theatre Institute, she was able to lean on other actors to help overcome her unfamiliarity with English.

There were people all around me, she said. "My lines were in answer to something."

There's no such safety net now, as Sedvall is alone on stage for NYSTI's latest production, "Letters from a Window in the Sky."

"It's very much fun, but the thing that is difficult is that it is not my language," she said.

The play by NYSTI guest artist Mary Jane Hansen is about a young girl named Cicilia -- written with Sedvall in mind -- who is home bored one day and is inspired by a Pippi Longstocking book. The show coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of "Pippi" author Astrid Lindgren, who is something of a hero to Sedvall and fellow Swedes.

"She's like holy in Sweden," Sedvall said.

She's thrilled to be taking part in a show commemorating Lindgren's birth, but even more so to be doing it outside her own country.

"I'm so proud to be doing it here," she said. "You know 'Pippi,' but you don't necessarily know all the other books. I'm so proud to have the opportunity to spread her name out."

Sedvall, whose favorite Lindgren book is probably "The Children of Noisy Village" and not any of the books about the orphaned, pig-tailed Pippi, said the attraction in Lindgren's books is that she treats children like "small-sized people."

"She doesn't look at children and see children," she said. "She tells us, 'Don't forget about the kid in you.'"

That theme resonates in "Letters from a Window in the Sky." Restless on a rainy day, Cicilia pulls out a Pippi Longstocking book, but she soon puts it aside, thinking she's too old for it. She's feeling trapped and friendless.

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