This month at CSUN, theater buffs, feminists and fans of 19th century Scandinavian literature have something in common; they can all look forward to the school’s upcoming production of “A Doll’s House,” written by Henrik Ibsen and adapted by Christopher Hampton.
At first glance, it may seem that a play written by a Norwegian in 1879 would have no cultural relevance in our day and age. However, Garry Lennon, the director of the production, disagrees.
“Despite being over 100 years old, the actors and I keep discovering that it is still very contemporary in many ways,” said Lennon, who has been working at the school for nearly 12 years and has directed six other shows for the department.
“There’s an obvious plot and resolution that I think will resonate with the audience in regards to the way we present ourselves to others and how we interact.”
Ibsen’s somber play centers around a small handful of characters and takes place in Norway, presumably during the 1870s. Although all of the characters have their own agendas and motives, much of the action unfolds around Nora and Torvald Helmer, a couple who begins to discover that not everything in their marriage is what they thought it to be. As Nora realizes her own self-worth, she must question what their relationship is built on and comes to a surprising revelation.
“This really is a monumental show in theater,” said Danny Ross, who plays the role of Dr. Rank. “Ibsen, who was interested in equality between men and women, included an ending that did not sit well with his peers. When it was first performed on stage in Norway, people actually rioted. [Ibsen] wrote it to break the moral constraint of things.”
The theatre department, which decides what shows will be performed each season, chose this play based on a variety of factors, including the works being studied by their students, diversity issues and different styles of theater that should be covered.
“We try to make sure that when a student graduates after four years that they have seen or been involved with a wide range of theatrical experiences,” Lennon said.
The play promises to be an intimate experience in many ways, for both the actors and the audience. The play will be put on on a “theatre-in-the-round” stage in a theater that seats less than 90 audience members.
This performance style presents various blocking problems, in that an actor will often have his or her back to some part of the audience. Yet many consider it to be a more realistic form of staging and it keeps the performers on their toes.
“Performing ‘in the round’ makes it tough, because nobody will have the same experience,” said Travis Schumacher, a senior majoring in theatre, who plays the role of Krogstad. “It’s hard to try and engage everybody when your back is to them. It means you have to act with your body even more.”
The small cast of seven, made up of mostly senior theatre majors, has been practicing since the beginning of August. All have dedicated themselves to daily rehearsals that run four hours, tedious line-memorization and corsets for the ladies.
“It’s very exhausting,” said Siera Casey, who plays Nora. “If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Casey, 22, is a senior theatre major and has been involved in two other shows at CSUN. She described Nora as a “naïve, but smart” woman who loves to play games. Although she’s set to graduate this semester, Casey is grateful for the chance to play such a complex part.
“Nora is a huge character. I am very lucky to end my CSUN career with this role,” she said.
“A Doll’s House” will be running September 17th – 19th, and 22nd – 26th in Nordhoff Hall’s Studio Theatre. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m., except for Sundays performances, which begin at 2 p.m.