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SDPB Television

The Stavig Letters

Based on the reader's theater play by Dr. Wayne S. Knutson, this original South Dakota Public Broadcasting documentary tells the stories of Lars Stavig, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1876, and his brother Knut, who stayed behind in Norway. The two kept in touch through letters sent back and forth over the course of 30 years. Those letters help describe the Norwegian immigrant experience from the p

The Stavig Letters Collection
The Stavig Letters, written in Norwegian and translated into English by Bruce and Marta Boyce, are an extensive collection of letters between two brothers, Lars Stavig who immigrated to America and his brother Knut who stayed in Norway. Consisting of more than 150 letters spanning more than five decades from 1881 to 1938, the Stavig Letters give voice and reality to the immigrant experience from the perspectives of both countries.

Readers Theater Production
'The Stavig Letters: The Story of a Norwegian Immigrant' is a dramatic performance of the letters selected, edited and Dramatized by Dr. Wayne S. Knutson, Professor Emeritus at the University of South Dakota. The cast of three includes a narrator and the two half-brothers, Lars Stavig, who comes to the prairie, and Knut Stavik, who remains in Norway. Using direct excerpts from the letters and basic theater props, the play lasts approximately 70 minutes and can be performed anywhere. 'The Stavig Letters' is a program of the South Dakota Humanities Speakers Bureau.

The Television Program
This one-hour program takes the Readers Theater Production in a new direction. It uses footage shot in Norway, Northeast South Dakota, and the coast of Maine. This footage, combined with historic photographs and actor's voices, breathes new life into the immigrant experience in America. While the program focuses on the families and descendents of Lars Stavig in America, and his half-brother Knut Stavik, In Norway, it is a universal immigrant's story.

Music for "The Stavig Letters"

The Norwegian folk music in The Stavig Letters was performed on the Hardanger Fiddle by Ingvild Habbestad and recorded on April 11, 2010 by Trond Kjelsas in Kolborn Church, Oslo, Norway.

All other music used in this program was from American Music Company and DeWolfe Music of New York City. All Rights Reserved under respective copyrights.

Ingvild Habbestad (1983 - ) has a masters degree in violin performance from the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and an Orchestral Diploma from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. During her studies she received scholarships from the philharmonic orchestras in both cities.

From 2008 she has been employed at the orchestra of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, and from 2010 she has a full time position in both the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. At present she is in the rare situation of having to choose between the three of them.

Eight summers in a row she toured the USA with The Habbestad Ensemble, consisting of her twin brother, her sister and her parents, and she frequently gives concerts on a freelance basis. Apart from the violin, she also plays the Norwegian national instrument, the Hardanger fiddle, and the viola.


  • Brudemarsj - Bridal March from Seljord
  • Morfars vise - Grandpa's song
  • Reinlender - Norwegian Dance
  • I himmelen - In Heaven Above, religious folk tune
  • Rotnheimsknut - Knut from Rotnheim
  • Myllargutens bruremarsj - "Myllarguten"s Bridal March
  • Fanitullen
  • Siste laten han Sulhusgubben spela - The Last Tune the Sulhus Man ever played
The Stavig Letters

A Conversation on the Stavig Letters

Dr. Wayne S. Knutson, Playwright, speaks with Rasmus Sunde at the Stavig House Museum. More at

This program was made possible by the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.