Exploring Social Boundaries



Mollie Reilly

From October 29 to November 3, University Theater is presenting a performance of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Weaving together the universal themes of class, gender and sexuality, the play is highly relevant despite being written in 1888.

The play is set in a Swedish count’s home in the 18th century. On Midsummer’s Eve, the title character sleeps with her father’s personal servant, Jean, despite their obvious class difference and Jean’s engagement to fellow house servant, Christine. As the play unfolds, the audience is welcome to explore the characters’ psychological conflict. At the end of the play, three lives are left in tatters as a result of the clash between sexuality and class.

Over the past 120 years, Miss Julie has taken on countless forms. From its original production in Copenhagen to a film version featuring Helen Mirren, directors have taken the story and transported to many settings and time periods. Associate Professor of English and University Theatre Director Adrian Giurgea’s vision of Strindberg’s script added another style to the list of ways Miss Julie has been produced.

The play was performed in two parts, each featuring the entirety of the script but showcasing different actors, sets, and time periods. To add to the sense of division between the two parts, the first performance took place in Brehmer Theater and the second was performed immediately following the first in Ryan 212.

The first piece was set in contemporary times, with junior Kelly McKay as Miss Julie, junior Raymon Taft as Jean and senior Kristin Kwasnik as Christine. All of the actors seemed highly comfortable on stage, and stirred up the audience’s sympathy for the characters despite their various and often highly immoral misdeeds. The performance featured an extremely detailed set designed by Marjorie Kellogg.

Next, the performance physically moved to the sparse set of Ryan 212, which featured a table, several chairs, and a few wayward props. With sophomore Ming Peiffer as Julie, junior Alex Korman as Jean and sophomore Arianne Templeton as Christine, the play was set in its original era. Once again, all of the actors were very talented, and seemed invested in their roles.

The differences between the two plays were subtle, yet meaningful. With less reliance on set and props, the second performance seemed to move at a much quicker pace.

“The juxtaposition of these two different sets brought out the similarities and differences in each cast and highlighted the transience of emotion. It’s all about money making the world go round,” said Assistant Director, sophomore Carolina Van der Mensbrugghe.

As van der Mensbrugghe sat in on all rehearsals and watched Giurgea’s decisions about the performance unfold, while also adding some of her own input. She also worked one-on-one with the actors to help them better encompass their roles.

“Each cast breathed life into their roles, transcended the script, and made their parts unique,” van der Mensbrugghe said. “Despite the different layers that comprised their being, the same themes of love, betrayal, greed and lust were exposed.”

While the artistic merits of the dual performance are important and add a key layer of meaning to the production, the length of the play detracts from some of the entertainment value. At just under three hours, attending Miss Julie is a large time commitment for the average student. However, it is certainly one well spent.

Performances of Miss Julie will run through this Saturday evening in Brehmer Theater and as well as in Ryan 212 starting at 8:00 p.m.