An Adaptation of a Classic

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UMD's Fall Production of A Doll's House

UMD students Jayson Speters as Torvald and Katelin Delorenzo as Nora in A Doll's House.
Jayson Speters as Torvald and Katelin Delorenzo as Nora in UMD's production of A Doll's House.  

UMD’s Theatre Department’s fall production brings audiences an adaptation by Tom Isbell, professor in the Department of Theatre, of Henrik Ibsen’s classic A Doll’s House. Performances will take place at the Marshall Performing Arts Center on October 2–11. To order tickets, visit the following link:

The Original
Henrik Ibsen’s most famous play, A Doll’s House, first premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 1879. The play has been described as a realistic problem play or a modern tragedy. The plot follows main character Nora Helmer and her transition from her husband’s “plaything” to a real participant in the world and takes an in-depth look at the marriage norms during the 19th century.

During its time, the original production brought about a great deal of controversy. Before the Elizabeth Stantons and Gloria Steinems of the feminist world came about, women’s rights were left out of the conversation. Ibsen’s production created a near impossible outcome for a woman to leave her husband and children in the pursuit of discovering herself; an idea that seemed unfathomable in a time when women were limited to closed mouths and breath-stopping corsets. Some have said that the theme of this production was not women’s rights, but rather the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person.

The Adaptation
It had been twenty years since UMD has put on an Ibsen play and for Isbell, who is directing the production, this was far too long. Isbell’s outlook on Ibsen’s original piece involves a more modern take that livens up the piece. In comparison to the original, Isbell says, “I have taken out nearly 20% of the text as well as transformed the dialogue to be user-friendly.” The intention of creating an adaptation of A Doll’s House was “to reinvigorate the audiences’ relationship with the play that will really speak to everyone,” he said.

Isbell believes audience members will leave the play pleasantly surprised. Knowing that the stuffy original that they may have read in high school or college has been “transformed into a modern, relative and accessible piece of literature without taking away from Ibsen’s masterpiece,” he said.

About the Art Exhibit
During the production "The Four From the North" art exhibit will be on display in the lobby and will feature local Duluth-area artists: Alison Aune, Ann Jenkins, Ann Klefstad, and Arna Rennan. Their artwork reflects the traditional nature of Minnesotan and Norwegian culture. Ibsen was of Norwegian descent and these artists will illustrate some of his native heritage.

Alison Aune is a native of Amherst, Massachusetts, where she graduated from the University of Massachusetts. She has an MA from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a PhD in Comparative Arts from Ohio University. She is a professor of art at UMD.

Ann Jenkins is a Duluth native. She graduated with her BFA in painting from the University of Colorado, and a graduate degree in library science from Western Michigan University. Jenkins’s work has been exhibited in Minnesota, Canada, and Sweden. A great deal of her work features Minnesotan landscapes.

Ann Klefstad is both writer and a visual artist. She had been immersed in the L.A. art scene before settling in the Northwest where she worked for the Duluth News Tribune as an art reviewer and as the arts and entertainment reporter. Her work is rooted in the water and the forest.

Arna Rennan is also a Duluth native whose parents had emigrated from Norway. She studied art at the National Academy of Art in Oslo, Norway. Rennan’s work also features an immense selection of Minnesotan landscape.



Written by Alexis Knigge, September 2014

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