Darling Nora enjoys a comfortable life with her family and loves her husband Torvald above all else. So much so, that she’s risked a small lie in order to save his reputation and protect their cozy existence. When the truth worms its way out with a threat of blackmail, Nora begins to question her devotion and find herself forced into making a life-altering decision: honor her marriage or pursue her duty to herself. PRODUCTION TEAM Craig Wollam (Scenic Designer), Pete Rush (Costume Designer), Tim Wratten (Lighting Designer), Jay Weinland (Sound Designer), Marleigh Driscoll (Properties Designer), Laura Ferri (Choreographer), Rod Pilloud (Stage Manager). CAST (in alphabetical order) Mia Banham (Emmy), Leah Fishbaugh (Maid), Jennifer Sue Johnson (Nora Helmer), Jody McCoy (Anne-Marie), George Mount (Dr. Rank), Peter Dylan O’Connor (Nils Krogstad), Michael Patten (Torvald Helmer), Betsy Schwartz (Mrs. Kristine Linde), Tessa Weinland (Catherine).
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A Doll’s House has been getting remarkable reviews since it opened earlier this month. Here’s a round up of what local theatre critics have been saying about the show.
At the first rehearsal for Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Doll’s House,” Artistic Director George Mount welcomed everyone to the room. “A Doll’s House” is Seattle Shakespeare Company’s first production of a play by Henrik Ibsen and it will be directed by Russ Banham. “One of the great pleasures of my job it so give artists the opportunity to do dream projects,” said Mount. “Russ and I had a great meeting about a year or so ago and he was just over the moon enthusiastic about this show.” Mount sees “A Doll’s House” as a good follow up to “Pygmalion” which the company produced in March of 2012. “‘A Doll’s House’ deals in similar themes as and was some of the inspiration for ‘Pygmalion.'” Seattle Shakespeare Company is premiering a new translation of “A Doll’s House” by Sean Patrick Taylor.
It’s A Doll’s House!Consistently it is the most performed of Ibsen’s plays and it was the most famous play – in any language – of the nineteenth century. From its first production, A Doll’s House has sparked debate. It is so well constructed that every scene puts more and more pressure on Nora until she’s pushed to the breaking point. If you didn’t encounter the play in high school or college it’s likely that your kids will at some point.
The Man with the MuttonchopsNot only did Henrik Ibsen rock the best facial hair of any playwright ever, he brought theatre into a new era by exposing the realities behind the facades of family life during his time period. He is consistently ranked as the most performed playwright in the world next to Shakespeare. In 2012 there were more than 125 productions of Ibsen’s plays produced around the world.
Scandalous!A Doll’s House was Ibsen’s first major success as a playwright, but the play so scandalized Victorian society that many theatres refused to stage it. They’d never seen a woman walk out on her family on stage! Succumbing to pressure, Ibsen wrote an alternate ending where Nora stayed, but he would occasionally have the last say by submitting last minute “corrections” to actors on opening night that replaced the new ending with the original.
So You Think YOU Can Dance?In a climactic scene, Nora literally dances to save her life. The Tarantella was an Italian dance named after the tarantula spider whose poison was once believed to induce an uncontrollable urge to dance. Oddly, the cure prescribed was for the poison victim to dance to exhaustion.
This Show is a Family Affair…LiterallyWe’ve never had this many family connections on stage in one play. Russ Banham directs his wife Jennifer Sue Johnson in the role of Nora Helmer, and their daughter Mia Banham will play one of the Helmer’s daughters. Sound designer Jay Weinland’s daughter Tessa Weinland will play their other daughter. Newlywed husband and wife actors Peter Dylan O’Connor and Betsy Schwartz will play Nils Krogstad and Mrs. Linde. Michael Patten as Torvald and George Mount as Dr. Rank round out the cast. Interestingly, Michael and George played husband and wife Petrucchio and Kate in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s all-male The Taming of the Shrew.
Get Lost in the TranslationThis is a brand new translation of A Doll’s House by local author Sean Patrick Taylor. During his process of translating the play, Sean got to nerd out on research and learned that it was not written in modern Norwegian as he had previous thought, but in a 100 year old dialect called Dano-Norwegian. Since Norway was a colony of Denmark the dialect was spoken by the urban elite in Norwegian cities. This is Taylor’s second adaptation for the company as he did the adaptation for our 2006 production of Cyrano de Bergerac.
The Pygmalion ConnectionLast season Seattle Shakespeare Company produced George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Shaw was a great admirer of Ibsen and even played the part of Krogstad in one of the first English language productions. Shaw echoed Ibsen’s themes of independence and freedom for women in Pygmalion. Even the last scene of Pygmalion between Eliza and Higgins mirrors the final debate that Nora and Torvald have in A Doll’s House before Nora walks out the door.
The Coriolanus ConnectionReally! Think about it. If you saw last season’s production of Coriolanus, you’ll remember that the main character was basically raised to be just one thing: a warrior. But when that role doesn’t fit any longer, he becomes lost and cast out of his community. Nora was raised to be just one thing: a pretty wife. But as she wakes up to the fact that she’s so much more than that role, she has to cast herself out of her home and into the world to find out who she really is.
At Seattle Shakespeare Company, we start our staff meetings by sharing Bright Spots that have happened to us in the week. These are triumphant moments, both big and small, that acknowledge the positive aspects of our jobs. It’s fun to share them with staff members who may not have been around to experience them directly. This year, we asked our board, staff, and artists to give us their Bright Spots of the past year, and what they had to share is listed below. Did you have a Bright Spot at Seattle Shakespeare Company in 2013? Let us know in the comments section.
A standout for me was the entire production of A Doll’s House. Great director, wonderful cast and very appreciative audiences. Rod Pilloud, Stage Manager
1) Here’s a serious answer: Seeing the energy, skill, dedication, and passion that the Wooden O actors and stage managers brought with them each night to every park — new or familiar — was nothing short of inspiring. 2) And here’s a laugh: Also, if you ever wondered whether or not it’s a good idea to melt chocolate over an open flame that’s propped up on some stones on the grass (or if a tea towel will sufficiently put out the inevitable grass-fire without bursting into flames itself) … it’s not (and it won’t). The Great Flaming Fondue Fiasco of 2013. Never Forget. To all my friends at Seattle Shakes — thanks for a beautiful summer and some lovely lasting friendships <3 Kaeline Kine, Wooden O Site Manager
The most memorable moment with Seattle Shakespeare this year was the final performance of The Tempest , specifically the curtain call. Being surrounded by these amazingly talented people who had inspired and taught me so much, with a lazy summer sun setting in the background casting a pink hue on everyone. I looked around and promised myself to never forget that moment: Holding Pilar’s hand, and George crying harder than anyone else and every face in the audience smiling. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more beautiful moment to recognize that my life had profoundly changed. Kellyn Traeckenschuh, actor
The atmosphere of the rehearsal room over at SCT for A Doll’s House was one of the most supportive and generous that I have ever experience. From Russ down to little Mia, the cast and crew worked so lovingly and honestly on this powerful play. My contribution was small but I felt so honored to be included in the production. Laura Ferri, actor
The War of Kindness between Tempest and Henry 5! Michael Patten, actor
Romeo and Juliet at the Olympic Sculpture Park – how the cast improvised to incorporate the roof top of the temporary house into the balcony scene – also watching casual passers-by stop, astonished, to watch the superb performance. They tore themselves away so very reluctantly. Sarah Alsdorf, Board member
Watching audience members cry because they were laughing so hard at the antics of the cast of Taming of the Shrew, then watching Bash supporters raise their bid cards after Kelly Kitchens (our “Kate”) lifted them with her own moving story. I’m proud of SSC’s wonderful works and our fabulous fans!! Sue Petitpas, Board member
Loved the story that Kelly Kitchens shared onstage at this year’s “Bash.” She crystalized the art and idealism that drives Seattle Shakespeare to do what we do. Brilliant. Jeannie Blank, Board member
While performing at Seatac Park this summer in The Tempest, a young man approached me during setup and asked me what we were doing. I told him we would be performing Shakespeare tonight for free. He then asked “What’s Shakespeare?” Inwardly I died a little, but I told him he should hang around and find out. He did. Sitting front row center with a huge smile. He came up after, shook my hand, and said than you. Best moment in my career. Brian Simmons, actor
I suspect that most folks focus on the final product–the art. My highlight of the past year was watching the “making of” disc. George blossoming into his new role; Michelle and Casey coming into their own; John and George on stage opening night doing Martin & Lewis. Phil Miller, Board member
Amy Thone (Prospero) standing on a big mossy rock in the island forest wilderness (the stage stairs/promontory), reaching her long thin arms toward the sky…my idea of an actor, reaching… Susan Wilder, Board member
Making my directing debut with Seattle Shakespeare Company last winter was a time of pure joy and deep fulfillment. Everyone in the Love’s Labours Lost family, both on stage and off, were so supportive, creative and loving that it made the process from first day of rehearsal through closing night unforgettable. On a personal note, Love’s Labours Lost was the first show I directed after conquering cancer last December and I cannot think of a more glorious way to celebrate life and art – my deepest gratitude and love to all of you! Jon Kretzu, Director of Love’s Labour’s Lost
When I cast Brandon Ryan as Biondello in our remount of The Taming of the Shrew… well, I had no idea how far we could go… Because this actor is: CRAZY AND FREAKIN TALENTED!!!! Brandon reminded me: There are very few limitations in the theater… We didn’t have to follow any of the rules! What a joyful experience for a director to work with an actor who is so open to an organic, undetermined process! Seriously – this is truly rare with any sort of actor. Shrew will always hold a special place in my creative heart! Aimée Bruneau, Director of The Taming of the Shrew
The absolutely stunning and poignant production of Taming of the Shrew – the intensity of the emotions and wonderful staging. Shawn Aebi, Board member
Closing night of Tempest and Wooden O’s 20th anniversary season was one of the most moving events I’ve been a part of as an actor. Jim Lapan, actor
It was so fulfilling to do the Fight Direction on Henry V for Wooden O. I had to leave for my honeymoon just before tech. When we returned 3 weeks later, it was an absolute delight to see the show after a few weeks of performances. It seemed that the players had really found their “sea legs” and I we truly loved the experience. Peter Dylan O’Connor, actor/fight choreographer
The remount of Wooden O’s production of The Taming of the Shrew was last season’s highlight for me. The chance to be reunited with such a marvelous troupe of players was glorious. It was a real joy to rejoin Kelly Kitchens and unleash our inner rednecks while spouting the words of Shakespeare! David Quicksall, actor
All the bizarre rituals we created backstage during the run of Love’s Labour’s Lost. They got stranger and stranger as the run progressed. Brandon Simmons
I truly enjoyed the hilariously funny Much Ado About Nothing, with its terrific set and cast. Seeing George Mount on stage as Don Pedro was a highlight! Lynne Graybeal, Board member
Being present in the room at Bill’s Bash as Kelly Kitchens voiced the dreams of a little girl, brought to life by the visual power of live Shakespeare, and realizing Seattle Shakespeare Company has the power and the mission to continue that dream. Roberta Greenwood, Board member
A highlight for me was our Bill’s Bash event this past spring. I was incredibly moved by the tremendous outpouring of support from our patrons and donors. It was a fun-filled night and the most successful fundraiser in SSC’s history, raising more than $210,000 to support our work in the community. Way to go, everyone! Lauren Domino, Development Director