Ibsen Celebration to Spotlight 'Father of Modern Drama'

Story posted January 23, 2007

Henrik Ibsen is widely regarded as the father of modern drama. One hundred years after the Scandinavian playwright's death, the Bowdoin College Department of Theater and Dance brings him center stage with "Celebrating Ibsen in Classical to Contemporary Performance," a multi-media series of events scheduled for February and March 2007.

"What better way to commemorate and celebrate Ibsen's revolutionary impact on the theater than to present his life and work through a prism of various performance styles and media?" says Sonja Moser, Department chair and lecturer in theater. "The events will capitalize on the multiplicity of voices tackling the man and his work during this 100-year anniversary of his death."

The series will shine the spotlight on Ibsen through film, theater, dance-theater and puppet-theater, a mix that, notes Moser, "provides personal and historical context for Ibsen's work, as well as numerous interpretations of the work itself. We hope that audiences will come to appreciate Ibsen's voice as both a historical and contemporary one, courageous in both form and content."

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Only in the theater...the life of Ibsen through puppetry.

The celebration begins Thursday and Friday, February 1 and 2, with Wakka Wakka Productions' performance of The Death of Little Ibsen — a daring new interpretation of Ibsen's life performed by puppets — at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall, Wish Theater.

"Within seconds ... The Death of Little Ibsen can move from hilarious to indescribably moving," wrote Mark Blankenship at Variety. "That's the beauty of puppetry, which the three-person ensemble blends with their own acting to create an experience that can only be had in a theater: the kind in which a silly little puppet, dressed in Ibsen's enormous sideburns and dour expression, becomes the symbol of something profound."

Admission is free, and no tickets are necessary. Seating is limited.

The 1917 silent film Terje Vigen, directed by Victor Sjöström, will be shown in Sills Hall, Smith Auditorium Thursday, February 8, at 7 p.m.

This adaptation of Ibsen's poem recounts the story of a fisherman (played by Sjöström) who slips through the English lines during the Napoleonic Wars to bring back food for his starving family. Eventually captured and released, he faces family tragedy and an unexpected reunion.

The film is 56 min. in length, and is shown with English intertitles. Admission is free. Call 207-725-3663 to confirm showtime.

Tancred Ibsen, considered the director who modernized Norwegian film, adapted one of his grandfather's greatest plays in the 1963 screen version of Vildanden (The Wild Duck). The film will be shown Thursday, February 15, in Sills Hall, Smith Auditorium at 7 p.m.

The film explores the world of a family whose peaceful existence is fragmented and destroyed in the name of "truth." With its ironic shifting of illusion and reality and its impassioned cry for personal freedom, The Wild Duck remains as disturbing and challenging as ever, and combines, in Bernard Shaw's words, "the profoundest tragedy with irresistible comedy."

The 105 min. film will be shown in Norwegian with English subtitles. Admission is free. Call 725-3663 to confirm showtime.

The powerful drama An Enemy of the People is one of Ibsen's most frequently performed plays. A pair of interpretations will be presented in March.

The Departmental spring theater show, An Enemy of the People, directed by Associate Professor of Theater Davis Robinson, will be performed Thursday through Saturday, March 1 to 3, at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall, Wish Theater.

The play is an incisive look at the personal and political corruption underlying a close-knit coastal town. As Ben Brantley of The New York Times described, "Ideals dissolve when self-preservation is threatened, and normally placid people turn toxic with hostility."

Admission is free, and no tickets are necessary. Seating is limited.

The 2005 film En folkefiende (An Enemy of the People), directed by Erik Skjoldbærg, will be screened on Tuesday, March 6, in Sills Hall, Smith Auditorium, at 7 p.m.

In this present-day adaptation of Ibsen's play, the characters have different jobs, but the basic plot remains the same. A television celebrity returns to the village where he grew up intending to produce the world's purest bottled water in partnership with his brother. Ethical dilemmas arise when tests reveal traces of a banned pesticide in the water.

The 90 min. film will be shown in Norwegian with English subtitles. Admission is free. Call 725-3663 to confirm showtime.

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Die Damen create a new home for old and dismissed fantasies.

The finale of the spring Ibsen celebration will be a performance of Die Eigentümlichkeit, der Exhibitionismus und die Damen von Welt Friday and Saturday, March 30 and 31, in Memorial Hall, Wish Theater.

"We are especially pleased to be culminating our series with Die Damen von Welt, a piece that travels to us from Stockholm," says Moser. "This snapshot of contemporary Scandinavian performance stimulates the question: How will performance evolve over the next 100 years?"

German performer and teacher Susanne Martin and her Swedish dance partner Bronja Novak have been touring Die Eigentümlichkeit since 2005. Martin and Novak call their performance a physical installation, combining choreography, theater, improvisation, and the art of the proper audience warm up.

Admission is free, and no tickets are necessary. Seating is limited.

For more information about the series "Celebrating Ibsen in Classical to Contemporary Performance" visit the Department of Theater and Dance's Web site or call 207-725-3663.

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