Changing the View From A Doll’s House

Mollie Reilly

Over a century has passed since Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House first made a stir in the theatrical world, yet the controversial work is still making waves today. In its latest reincarnation, the Norwegian drama was given a few modern touches by senior Connolly Butterfield and sophomore Kat Yen, co-directors of the upcoming performance.

Set in Norway in the 1870s, A Doll’s House tells the story of Nora and Torvald Helmer, a fairly well-off couple whose relationship is strained by Torvald’s condescending attitude toward his wife. Their relationship is further complicated upon the arrival of Nora’s old friend from school, Dr. Rank, a young banker from Torvald’s office and Torvald’s best friend, who falls in love with Nora. As the play reaches its climax, the audience realizes that Nora is not a typical 19th century woman, but instead one with strength and self-respect. While this sort of message did not resonate well with its original audience, over time Ibsen’s daring work has become beloved for its revolutionary theme of female independence.

Butterfield and Yen are taking this theme one step further. Under the sponsorship of Advocates, Colgate’s queer-straight alliance, the play will explore still relevant issues with its unconventional casting. For example, the role of Dr. Rank, which is usually played by an older gentleman, will be portrayed by a woman. Additionally, the directors seek to have a racially diverse cast perform the play.

“We’re interested in building on the original subjects of women’s rights and domestic abuse, and delving into stereotypes and tensions regarding minority communities, particularly racial and sexual minorities,” Butterfield said. “We feel that racial and sexual minority issues are something that is very important to explore at Colgate University, which is why we chose to put on this play and take it in that direction.”

As one of the themes of the play is the dominance of the white heterosexual male, these casting decisions will help enhance Ibsen’s message, as well as to instigate new questions about the equality of modern relationships.

“We’re going to work with Advocates and other groups to try and bring in speakers or have discussion panels about many of the issues we’re addressing in the play,” Butterfield said. “Although A Doll’s House is more than 150 years old, it still has so much relevance to a modern audience and that’s what we want to capture.”

The play will be performed April 5-7 in Dana. If you wish to become a part of this production, open auditions will be held Thursday, January 25 from 4-7 in Ryan 211.