Bente Lay – that’s a rare German name... Oh, you’re Norwegian? But you speak perfectly German! This is how a typical conversation starts when I get to know somebody new in Germany.
But let’s start from the beginning: I was born in Norway on June 11th at sunny 3 a.m. The year is not so important right here. “You are a real Sunday child”, my German mother used to say, who had met my Norwegian dad in Munich and now lived with him in Oslo. On my second birthday we moved with our new elghound puppy named Passopp to the country side, into an old, white wooden house overlooking the fjord. Like in an Astrid Lindgren book, though she is Swedish.
These were good years, followed by an intermezzo in Heidelberg, Germany, where I started school, then a quick move to Offenbach and then back to Åros, Norway, where I could end my first school year after passing an IQ test with 130 points, to the surprise of my teachers. So this is where I grew up, with a dog as a brother, a playful father who taught philosophy at the University of Oslo, and a German mother who never got rid of her accent but raised me as a bilingual.
After graduating from high school I wanted to do something practical. I started out as a professional strawberry picker, before I traveled as a street seller for encyclopedias across Norway to the very north of Hammerfest, until I finally ended up in a shipping company in Oslo. They still had telex, and the computer filled up an entire room.
My mum started longing for Germany again, so we rented an apartment in famous Schwabing, Munich for 2 months. She stayed for a year and moved back to Norway, but I stayed practically ever since.
I moved into a shared apartment, studied business administration during the day and went out partying during the night. This combination didn’t go well too long. I chose nightlife and worked at a café having lots of tequila and fun. After a while though, I felt more like doing something decent with my life: I started to learn French and Italian as a trilingual secretary. Then I went to Paris for 6 months, studied at Sorbonne and lived in the Norwegian House at the University City.
Back in Munich I started an apprenticeship as a freight forwarding agent (I always loved boxes), and at the same time I started to play theater. At an ambitious amateur group that had their appearances at the big cultural center called Gasteig. My first role was as a dead body in "The Siege State" by Albert Camus. I quickly moved forward and had a leading role in the next production.
I also continued my career in freight forwarding; I got my own department for air and sea freight, sat in a smoky open-plan office in the North of Munich and talked on the phone with Hong Kong. And played theater in my spare time. Until one day I couldn't stand “spare time” anymore and quit my job to become an actress. In reality, I worked as billsticker under bridges at night with glue and a broom. Not very glamorous! But then I won a new Audio A4 in a gaming show, sold it and had money to finally realize my two biggest dreams: Travel to Brazil and go to acting school! I went to the travel agency and auditioned at the Schauspiel Studio Munich on the same day. They wanted me both.
After my degree I was cast by the newly founded corporate theater vitaminT, and this is where I earned my first money as an actress. I also had some voice over jobs and other stuff. And I passed the state recognized exam as an actress and was allowed into the National German Agency (ZAV), even though I was quite tall for a woman, as one of the examiners remarked to his own astonishment. I was full of hope and without a plan.
I moved to Wiesbaden temporarily for love reasons and worked as a bus tour guide in a short, sexy uniform at Frankfurt Airport. Standing in the front of a bus I practiced presentation and balancing skills, until I moved back to Munich in a shared apartment with another actress. Slowly, I started getting more acting jobs in theater, film and voice over, along my waitress job to help me financially. Life was easy and quite ok.
Then came 2006, a turning year in so many ways. My mum got cancer and I got loads of work, and I flew back and forth between Munich, Oslo, Berlin, Lisbon and elsewhere. There was lots of sorrow but in the end there was also happiness: I met my husband of today at the Titty Twister Bar in Munich, a dark haired man from the North East of Germany. We moved in together, got married and got a dog. I always wanted a dog. Now I have three.
There we are, living across the slaughter house in Munich, becoming vegans. I have my own speaker’s booth and work a lot from home when I don’t travel through space and time. Or you find me in Puglia, Italy, in our vacation home, where I work remotely. I have found my way, but the end of the road is not yet there!