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Posts Tagged ‘Jo Strømgren’

Jo Strømgren on “The Doll’s House”

Posted September 4th, 2015

StromgrenFor9-4A while back, Festival information manager extraordinaire Josh McIlvain caught up with Jo Strømgren about A Doll’s House, which opens tonight. Advance tickets for tonight and tomorrow afternoon are sold out, but tix for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon are still available. And hey, it’s at our pretty new(ish) home! Catch up with Jo below, about what it means to interpret and interpolate Ibsen today.

Why did you feel compelled to do a version of A Doll’s House? And now that you’re in it, what has emerged as the most compelling aspect of doing it?
A Doll’s House is probably the most frequently performed play in history, which means that audiences around may be familiar with the story or at least the theme. Common references are always good for directors as it allows them take the audience on off-piste hikes without necessarily causing confusion. In other words, a classic can often give more artistic freedom than new plays.

How are you treating the script? And what does this allow you to do?
A classic text, like Ibsen, can easily become archaic if one has to much respect for the words. By not treating it as literature but as spoken dialogue, I have of course made major changes. Nevertheless, I feel this production is far more true to the original text than many other versions of the play. I have not made major cuts, nor have I chosen to focus on certain scenes to pursue statements or interpretations. It’s Ibsen to the core, and he is not a hostage for my own personal ambitions and ideas. I hope the balance between respect and disrespect will be appreciated.

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Jumping Out Of Airplanes: Trey Lyford on theater, life, and upcoming Doll’s House

Posted July 14th, 2015
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Photo shoot for A Doll’s House. Photo: Josh McIlvain.

“The movement was precise and beautiful,” Trey Lyford says as he recalls the first time he saw Jo Strømgren’s choreography. Lyford is an actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the co-artistic director of rainpan 43 performance group and has performed throughout Philadelphia and New York. This fall, Lyford takes a break from his typical role as a contemporary clown and returns to Fringe Festival in Jo Strømgren’s recreation of Henrik Ibsen’s famous play, A Doll’s House. I recently gave Lyford a ring and we talked about everything from Philadelphia’s theater scene to jumping out of airplanes.

Lyford’s history with Strømgren stretches back to 2005. It all began when Lyford saw Strømgren’s The Department and The Hospital in Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival. Struck by the playfulness and precision of the choreography, Lyford returned to the US with Strømgren’s ideas still in his head. After keeping in touch with the choreographer, Lyford and Strømgren formed a creative partnership. “We got stuck in a four hour traffic jam,” Lyford shares. Those four hours spent trapped in the car marked the beginning of their collaboration. Later on, Lyford was asked to be a part of Strømgren’s production of A Doll’s House.

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Trey’s photo of Jo and his set.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done something this classic,” Lyford says about his part in A Doll’s House. Lyford plays Krogstad, a worker at Torvald Helmer’s bank and the tortured villain of the play. While Strømgren preserves and respects the original play, he also hacks away at the script, eliminating pages of archaic language to reveal a show that is less about a windy narrative and more about a few prominent emotional threads. Beyond the script, Strømgren also tells the story of Krogstad from a different angle. Lyford shares his initial reaction to playing the role and says, “It’s fun to play a villain.” As rehearsals began, however, Lyford gained Stromgren’s more complex view of the villain. “He is the noble heart of the play,” Lyford explains. “Everyone keeps knocking him down.”

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Coffee or Tea: Interview with Norway’s Jo Strømgren about The Society

Posted August 13th, 2013

“Instead of starting with politics itself, I start with a teabag.”

Jo Strømgren looks out a window.

Jo Strømgren looks out a window.

In a European society dedicated to coffee, the shocking discovery of a used teabag threatens to tear the coffee drinkers’ world asunder. Civility turns to conspiracy and fear: how far will they go in order to bring this evil act to justice? Norway’s Jo Strømgren returns to the Fringe Festival with The Society, performed by Norway’s pre-eminent company of contemporary physical theater and dance, the aptly named Jo Strømgren Kompani (previous Festival shows: The European Lesson [2008], The Convent [2006]). Performed in a nonsensical language, The Society takes an absurd, yet all too relatable, look at our turbulent times, when the average citizen is ever more tempted to accept torture, the suppression of minorities, and other violent means to restore order. We caught up with the loquacious theater-maker to get some behind-the-scenes info on the show.

FringeArts: Why is the show called The Society?

Jo Strømgren: The Society is a dry title, and as a title it refers to nothing more than a closed group of people. Which later in the show will be emphasized by the difference between “us and them” when the members of the society are forced to relate themselves to the world outside. I like dry concrete titles in general, since they are sometimes so naïve that they almost become abstract. Almost as in “This is not a pipe” and there is a picture of a pipe. Who was that? Magritte?

FringeArts: What inspired the show? Do you remember where you were?

Coffee cups in The Society, photo by Knut Bry.

Coffee cups in The Society, photo by Knut Bry.

Jo Strømgren: The incident which inspired me was the image I got one day, when trying to find the least common denominator for describing the East and the West—and started thinking about tea and coffee. (UK is an exception here.) They could possibly become symbols of something larger. And then I imagined this hopelessly conservative French society of coffee drinkers suddenly finding a used teabag . . . with subsequent shock. From there on the snowball started rolling. I like these naïve, almost stupid images to start with, as in being a potential for saying something understandable about the complex world. Instead of starting with politics itself, I start with a teabag.

FringeArts: What is the setting of The Society and how does it appeal to your imagination?

Jo Strømgren: Once choosing a setting that is highly fictional, and somewhat exaggerated, the freedom to play with theatrical elements is broader. And we can highlight things as symbols in a different way than a realistic play allows us to. The main symbol in the show—a used teabag—becomes something extremely important when the room is just one big manifestation of COFFEE.

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