A Doll’s House
Jo Strømgren Kompani (Norway)
Sep 4 – 6, 2015
“When domestic disagreements arise any house feels too small.” Jo Strømgren, director
“Physical theater at its very best: daring, dark, unpredictable and charged with compressed intensity.” The Guardian
Restrictions, tensions, explosions.
Nora and Torvald Helmer, Fru Linde, Krogstad, Doctor Rank: the always adventurous Jo Strømgren recreates Henrik Ibsen’s most famous play about trust and kinship, debt and lies, envy and love with a raucous cast of Philadelphia and New York actors. Taking respectfully irreverent liberties with the script, pared down to essence and eliminating archaic language, this Doll’s House revels in the emotional and moral battles in their full glory—the essence of a play that will be forever contemporary.
Playing with physical states that are exaggeratedly constrained and others that exhibit wild emotional release, this theatrical exposé looks at what’s happening inside and outside Helmer’s house. Nora Helmer cannot physically fit into her own home: on stage the house is in miniature, the rooms are tiny, such as any house becomes when tensions rise inside. As the actors enter, they can barely stand without clashing against the ceiling, let alone inhabit the space together. The house flips and turns into different rooms. The rest of the stage is an open apocalyptic landscape, a grey hell where the characters let their innermost anxieties and obsessions loose.
Direction, Choreography, Set Jo Strømgren Written by Henrik Ibsen Costumes Bregje van Balen Lighting Stephen Rolfe Sound Lars Årdal Performers Suli Holum, Trey Lyford, Leonard C. Haas, Mary Lee Bednarek, Pearce Bunting
3 by Strømgren at the 2015 Fringe Festival: FringeArts presents a special retrospective of the Jo Strømgren Kompani: The Border, THERE, and the all-new A Doll’s House. It’s a unique opportunity to see the breadth of work from Scandinavia’s most innovative performing arts company.
A Doll’s House is a co-commission by FringeArts and Riksteatret, and has been supported by The Norwegian Opera and Ballet and The Norwegian Council for Cultural Affairs.
Support for A Doll’s House is provided by The Norwegian Arts Council and the Norwegian Consulate General.
Festival Star Producers Alan and Nancy Hirsig
Co- Producer Jane G. Pepper
About Jo Strømgren Kompani
Jo Strømgren Kompani, founded in 1998, has become one of the best known independent groups in Scandinavia. For A Doll’s House. Strømgren is collaborating with Festival favorite performers Suli Holum (former co-artistic director of Pig Iron), Trey Lyford (Elephant Room, all wear bowlers) along with well-regarded Philadelphia actors Leonard C. Haas, Mary Lee Bednarek, and Pearce Bunting (recently in Theatre Exile’s terrific Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?).
Past Festival shows The Society, The European Lesson, The Convent.
Photos: Josh McIlvain
Interview with Jo Strømgren
FringeArts: Why take on a classic like A Doll’s House?
Jo Strømgren: 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.
FringeArts: How are you treating the script?
Jo Strømgren: A classic text, like Ibsen, can easily become archaic if one has too 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.
FringeArts: What is the set and how are the actors working with it?
Jo Strømgren: There is a tiny house on stage, stuffed and crammed, with hardly any place to move. It’s a simple metaphor. A place one sooner or later has to get out of in order to breath and get a proper life. I think it’s a normal feeling, when domestic disagreements arise any house feels too small. In terms of acting style, it’s always interesting to alter the circumstances in order to avoid a 1:1 documentary style. Most theatre do this in one way or another. I suppose it adds a level of abstraction and abstraction is always good for the spectator – it stimulates association.
FringeArts: What are the themes you are playing with the most?
Jo Strømgren: Interpretations of the play have traditionally been focusing on the gender equality issue. However, I find the other issues in the play more interesting. Like the question of trust and commitment between people. On that level, the play will be forever contemporary.
Jumping Out Of Airplanes: Trey Lyford on theater, life, and upcoming Doll’s House by Courtney Lau, FringeArts Blog
“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.” Read the full article