RED OAK — In an avant-garde production of a literary classic, Red Oak High School’s Hawk Theatre is kicking off the 2017-18 drama season with “A Doll’s House” this weekend.
“It is a classic, and one of the first plays where the action was done realistically, and the emotions were meant to represent real, true emotions,” explained Chris Rogers, Red Oak High School’s Director of Theatre.
“It has kind of a Tim Burton feel, so it’s a lot of weird colors, they’re [the cast] all going to look sort of similar to dolls and it all goes into playing the emotion side, as opposed to playing the realistic side,” he added.
Written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879, the Norwegian play has received a wide range of activity, translated into both film and an international stage plays.
Receiving accolades since its first performance in the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen to being nominated for two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, and winning a Taormina International Film Festival award, the play has been additionally recognized with four Tony awards for its multiple Broadway performances.
“One of our goals was to start exposing the students to different types of literature,” Rogers acknowledged. “I didn’t read ‘A Doll’s House’ until I was in my undergrad, and for a project, we were given the style of German Expressionism to adapt this show to, and I was like, ‘This would be really cool to do this production in real life.’”
“And so we told the kids the concept, and they were like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of weird, but yeah! Let’s do it,’” he chuckled. “This is something you won’t normally see at a high school level.”
According to the National Library of Norway, “A Doll’s House” is a story about Nora Helmer, who is apparently happily married to Torvald, a lawyer who is about to take over the post of director of the Joint Stock Bank.
Though Nora has a secret that began early in their marriage when Torvald became seriously ill, she committed forgery to obtain a loan and save her authoritarian husband's life.
Trying to pay back the money, the drama unfolds in a downward spiral of deceit when Nora’s old friend, Mrs. Linde, arrives looking for work and Nora presses her husband to give her a post at the bank.
But this means that Torvald’s former student, Krogstad, who loaned Nora the money in the first place, is dismissed from his post at the bank, and in desperation, he blackmails her with the truth.
Living in fear of her husband finding out, and the possibility of ruining his career, Nora is stuck at a crossroads where she is shocked to learn where her husband's affection lies.
Performing the three-act play in the school’s black box “theater in the round,” Rogers notes that audiences will be immersed alongside the actors, surrounding the stage in a more intimate setting.
“In the black box, it’s really cool because it’s a lot closer and it gives us a more of a chance to do productions in a more experimental way,” Rogers recognized. “We’re actually going to have the audience seated on three sides of the stage, so our kids haven’t worked in a ‘thrust setting’ before, so that’s kind of fun and new for them as well.”
“The other interesting thing we’re doing with this show because the show itself is really old is that we’ve taken some liberties and not presenting it in the normal, realistic way. We’re actually doing it in the style of ‘German Expressionism,’” he noted from his previous experience.
According to The Art Movements Directory, German expressionism is used to denote the use of distortion and exaggeration for emotional effect, which first surfaced in the art literature of the early twentieth century
Stemming from a short-lived art movement in Germany from 1905 to 1925, the style was birthed out of a rebellion against realism and naturalism in theatre and is commonly associated with dreamlike surrealism. The focus of the medium was to express inner qualities of a protagonist, rather than “surface details” that naturalism is inclined to lean on.
“It’ll get you into the mood of seeing things differently and getting out of your head and getting more of an emotional reaction to what’s going on,” Rogers expounded.
“Hopefully audiences will get into the show and be more interested in the mystery of what’s going to happen, and they’ll open their minds and grow and experience something new,” he emphasized.
As the weekend nears, Rogers invites the community to support his students and enjoy a unique twist on a timeless production.
“If the community has time this weekend to come on out and open their minds and experience a classic piece of literature done in a new and interesting way – it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Rogers concluded.
The production of “A Doll’s House” is scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Sept. 28-30, at 7 p.m. at the Red Oak High School’s Black Box Theater on 220 South State Highway 342, Red Oak. Tickets can be purchased at the door or preordered on redoakhs.seatyourself.biz. For more information, visit rohs.redoakisd.org or call (972)-617-3535.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer