Editor’s Column

Two World Premieres of Emperor and Galilean, Updating Hedda, and Post-Modern Ibsen Productions

Ibsen’s epic Emperor and Galilean (1873) had to wait twenty-three years for its premiere, in Leipzig, in 1896, and it has been staged very rarely since. Still, given Ibsen’s continuing high status in England, where his plays have always been staged with great regularity both in London and in the provinces, most Ibsen scholars were probably surprised to learn that the production of Emperor at the National Theatre in 2011 was the work’s British premiere. (more…)

Stage: An Enemy of the People (NYC)

Manhattan Theatre Club/Samuel J. Friedman Theatre; New York City; September 27 – November 10, 2012

One of the most striking features of the plays of Ibsen’s middle period is the power with which they address major social issues, a feature which of course attracted the warm but ultimately misguided praise of Bernard Shaw, who praised Ibsen for his move from ambitious dramatic poems to “the most obviously transitory social questions.” As a result, Shaw famously concluded: “A Doll’s House will be as flat as ditchwater when A Midsummer Night’s Dream will still be as fresh as paint; but it will have done more work in the world; and that is enough for the highest genius, which is always intensely utilitarian.” (more…)

Stage: Emperor and Galilean (Buffalo)

Torn Space Theatre; Buffalo, New York; March 1 – 21, 2012

Although Ibsen is famously reported to have remarked on several occasions that Emperor and Galilean was his major work, this epic drama has never developed a significant stage history, as have his two other epic dramas once considered impossible for the stage, Brand and Peer Gynt.

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Stage: A Cross-Dressed Doll House

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral; Santiago, Chile; June – August 2012

Ibsen is not nearly so frequently represented on Chilean stages as he is in neighboring Argentina. In the new century I was able to find records of only two productions in Santiago, a 2004 Lady from the Sea, sponsored by the Norwegian Cultural Center, and a production at the theatre of the University of Santiago of Enemy. On June 15, 2012, Santiago’s Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center added to this number with an adaptation of A Doll House, entitled Persiguiendo a Nora Helmer (In Pursuit of Nora Helmer) which enjoyed a run through most of the winter season.

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Stage: Hedda Gabler (Shaw Festival)

The Shaw Festival; Niagara-on-the-Lake; July 28 – September 29, 2012

Hedda Gabler was certainly welcome, perhaps even overdue, at the 2012 Shaw Festival—“The Shaw”—which is devoted in its non-Shaw selection mostly to plays from Shaw’s own period. Ibsen, unfortunately, has not been done as much as one would think, about once every nine or ten years.

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Stage: A Tale of Two Hedda Gablers

The Shaw Festival; Niagara-on-the Lake; July 28—September 29, 2012
The Old Vic Theatre; London; September 12—November 10, 2012

Perhaps “A Tale of Two Judge Bracks” would a better title for this review. But first, as financial journalists are wont to say, there must be full disclosure. I am a member of the Shaw Festival company, with the quaint title of “Corresponding Scholar,” a title that goes back to the days when scholars wrote letters.

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Stage: Ghosts (Copenhagen)

The Royal Theatre; Copenhagen; December 2011 – February 2012

The Royal Theater in Copenhagen is undergoing a financial and administrative crisis. In the midst of its dire straits, it has chosen to showcase German director Michael Thalheimer’s powerful staging of Ibsen’s Ghosts. Ghosts are figures of repetition, and as Lilian Munk Rösing suggests in the program, they haunt not only human characters but every “culturally inherited construction.” The Royal Theater being a case in point, one can only hope that its powers that be have the smarts to take note of their own production.

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Stage: Ibsen in Berlin

John Gabriel Borkman and An Enemy of the People; Berlin Theatertreffen; May, 2012
A Doll House; Maxim Gorki Theatre; Berlin; May 4 – 21, 2012

 The situation of professional productions of Ibsen is today totally different in America and Germany, and neither tradition can be said to be very encouraging for those who love and admire the dramatist. In major United States professional theatres, Ibsen is simply no longer done. The productions are imported from elsewhere, usually England or Australia, and these, though often well acted, are both infrequent and highly conventional. In Germany, the situation is almost reversed, but not to the advantage of Ibsen.

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