Hedda GablerGAMBIER, Ohio (January 28, 2013)
Hedda Gabler brings to the Kenyon main stage one of theater's most intriguing female characters in an adaptation written and directed by Brant Russell '02.
Russell, visiting assistant professor of drama, decided to adapt the 1890 Henrik Ibsen play to take the "stuffiness" out of the language without taking the stuffing out of the play, which will be shown at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
"Part of the thing about Ibsen and especially about Hedda Gabler is the style - the stuffiness of the language and the stuffiness of the environment. It's important to the world of the play. It is, in many ways, the thing against which Hedda Gabler is struggling."
A tragedy with a darkly comic tone, the play unfolds with a lead character ambivalent about her marriage and frustrated in life as she encounters a former lover who is now her husband's professional rival.
"Any actor has a hard time speaking lines that are not only stuffy but would have been stuffy 100 years ago and that were trying to be stuffy 100 years ago," Russell said. "How do we accomplish the same task but with language that is a little bit more accessible?"
Russell pulled it off, said Grace Gardner '14, who plays Hedda Gabler. The adaptation, she said, "is sort of brilliant" in its natural sound but with concessions to the period. "There's nothing that sounds overly clunky," she said. "It captures the spirit of the original language but doesn't try to maintain the linguistic structure of that language. He did a great job."
Gardner of Greenwich, Connecticut, has long been fascinated by the role. "I thought she was such a different character than I had seen before," Gardner said. "This is an opportunity to do this play that I had enjoyed a long time. A lot of what Ibsen does in his work is this idea of the changing role of women in society, and the two female leads in this particular play are interesting opponents, worthy opponents.
"Hedda is such a smart character," she said. "I think really strong female characters are important to see."
The depth of the female characters is part of the attraction for Russell. "I was also interested in, frankly, the challenge of doing something so difficult," Russell said. "Hedda Gabler is a difficult play with any cast. I thought the challenge of doing it with undergraduates would be fun.
"Hedda Gabler is not an accessible character. Her character can be difficult to understand. She is historically inscrutable," Russell said. "It's about the strictures we ... place upon gender lines and that we don't talk about. It's about our inability to accept somebody who is living a little bit outside our time."
"It's going to be fun to watch," Gardner said.
The cast also includes Isaiah Polstein '15 of Maumee, Ohio (George Tesman); Olivia Strauss '13 of Pelham, New York (Julia Tesman); Sarah Johnsrude '13 of Prospect, Kentucky (Berte); Anna Yukevich '16 of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts (Thea Elvsted); William Quam '14 of St. Paul, Minnesota (Judge Brack); and Kenneth Fedorko '13 of Baden, Pennsylvania (Eilert Lovborg). The production stage manager is Gregory Culley '14 of Lakewood, Ohio. Martha Pen?aranda designed scenery and costumes. Assistant Professor of Drama Rebecca Wolf is the lighting designer. Quam and Julia Colpitts '16 of Norfolk, Virginia, are the sound designers. Taylor Sweeney '15 of Pittsburgh is the props designer.
Ticket prices include $7.50 general admission; $5 per person for groups of ten or more; $4 for those over sixty-five, non-Kenyon students, and children under twelve; $2 for Kenyon students. The box office (740-427-5546) is open each day the week of the show from 1:00-5:00 p.m. and an hour before the performance.