Friday, February 27, 2009

Pics from CFANN!

On January 31, 2009 Red Tape Theatre hosted the first Chicago Fringe Artists Networking Night (CFANN). The event brought dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors, performing artists and playwrights into our home for one amazing night.

In addition the artists from the Fresh Eyes project had the opportunity to share excerpts from their new work. Thanks to all who attended and participated in this fantastic event!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ibsen's gifts thrown into the mud

In the play An Enemy of the People, (1882) Henrik Ibsen's protagonist, Dr. Stockman, delivers a polarizing lecture to the citizens of his town outlining their faults. At a recent workshop of Red Tape's adaptation this lecture was analyzed from many angles. Ibsen could be very shy until provoked, and delivered a few harsh truths of his own.

In Michael Meyer's fascinating biography, Ibsen (1967) an incident is described that merits attention. In 1878 Ibsen resided in Rome where he spent many days at the Scandinavian Club. He proposed that a woman be allowed to apply for the position of club librarian and that they vote on all club matters. The first request was accepted, the second failed by one vote. Gunnar Heiberg, who attended the clubs subsequent Gala writes that Ibsen rose before the crowd to lecture them on their failings.

Ibsen "had wished to do the club a service, he might almost say a great favor, by bringing its members abreast with contemporary ideas. No one could escape these mighty developments. Not even here - in this community - in this duckpond! He did not actually use the word duckpond but the contempt around his mouth proclaimed it loudly. And how had his offer been received? As a criminal attempt! Rejected by a paltry couple of votes. And how had the women reacted - the women for whom his gift had been intended? They had intrigued and agitated against him. They had thrown his gift into the mud. What kind of women are these? They were worse - worse than the dregs, worse than scum... Thump! A lady, Countess B., fell to the floor."

As Ibsen's speech continued his anger grew, shaking his head and thrusting out his underlip. When he was done he left in silence.

Ibsen clung to ideals of human conduct that he could not achieve in his life. He struggled between his desires for society and isolation as the world failed to live up to his moral code. He shared these struggles with many of his characters including the mighty Dr. Stockman. Red Tape looks forward to exploring these ideals as we adapt the work to a contemporary setting.

An Enemy of the People performs May 4-30, 2009.
Tickets will be on sale at

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ibsen vs. the Status Quo

In Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (1882) the protagonist, Dr. Stockman, discovers that the town's lucrative baths are polluted. When the town officials attempt to cover this up he lambasts the public in a town lecture hall. Stockman's speech causes controversy both within the play and with audiences. In my research I'll be examining various interpretations of the government Stockman is proposing.

Stockman's views on "the compact majority" reflected many of Ibsen's own. The following passage is from a letter he wrote ten years before "Enemy." His colleague, Georg Brandes, had been denied a position at Copenhagen University for his statements that Danish thinking was "reactionary and divorced from reality." Ibsen offered Brandes his full support.

4 April 1872

"My dear friend, the liberals are the worst enemies of Freedom. Spirtiual and intellectual freedom flourish best under absolutism; that was proved in France, then in Germany and it is now being proved in Russia...

"You say everyone in the faculty of philosophy is against you... If they did not bar the door against you it would show that you had failed to frighten them...

"How this mortal combat between two epochs will end, I do not know; but anything is preferable to the status quo - of that I am certain. I do not promise myself that victory will result in any permanent improvement; every historical development has been but a lurch from one delusion to another. But the battle itself is good, healthy and invigorating; your revolt is a mighty and emancipating declaration of genius...

"Do not rely implicitly on everyone who joins you; what matters is whether they do so for the right reason... my own conviction is that the strongest man is he who stands most alone. But I sit here outside it all while you stand there in the midst of the storm; that makes a big difference."

The latter statement was to become Dr. Stockman's battle cry as the press, the government, the town, and members of his family abandoned him. I shall continue to research how Ibsen's views on absolutism developed in his own life.

Quotes cited from Ibsen by Michael Mayer, Penguin Books 1967

Red Tape Theatre's adaptation of Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009.
Tickets will be available through our website:

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge
Red Tape Theatre Company

Friday, February 6, 2009

Quotes on Ibsen's Early Work

The following quotes highlight stages of Henrik Ibsen's early growth as a playwright.

Ibsen's reviews a colleague's work in 1857 and shares his thoughts on tragedy:
"It has become customary to expect from tragic characters a loftiness, a purification, a greatness of thought and expression, will and action, that shall fulfill the function of the Greek cothurn - namely to give us the feeling that we are outside the realm of everyday life. But this achieves the exact opposite of its purpose. The world portrayed by the dramatist is rendered completely foreign to the spectator... so he cannot fully engage our sympathy."

and on symbolism:
"Every notable human being is symbolic, both in his career and in his relationship to history. But bad writers, misconstruing the theory that the significant phenomena of life should be intensified in art, make this symbolism conscious... Instead of it existing hidden in the work, like a vein of silver ore in a mountain, it is continually being dragged into the light of day."

The director Bjoornstjerne Bjornson criticizes Ibsen's epic fantasy play The Vikings at Helgland in 1858:
"I hope someday to get him to be himself and turn away from all this damned pastiche. The day Ibsen admits he is small he'll become a perfectly enchanting poet... The point is, he's a rather small and gnomish little chap, with no chest or rump, so he feels that as he has no other gifts he has to strain most fightfully when he writes. And so he doesn't write what he'd really like to, and could."

Ibsen begins to write "what he'd really like to" with Love's Comedy in 1863 and defends it from the critics:

"The play aroused a storm of hostility... When, in my comedy, as best I could, I cracked the whip over the problem of love and marriage, it was only natural that the majority should rush shrieking to the defense of those institutions. Not many of our critics and readers have acquired the intellectual dicipline and training which enable a man to recognize delusions... The only person who approved of the play was my wife."

Quotes cited from Ibsen by Michael Mayer, Penguin Books 1967

Red Tape Theatre presents our adapation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, May 4-30, 2009.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Henrik Ibsen - A Brief Timeline

As my research for Red Tape's adaptation of An Enemy of the People continues I will post some information on the life of it's author, Henrik Ibsen. I thought I'd start with a timeline and some links to other Chicago companies producing Ibsen this season. If you know of any other Ibsen works being produced in Chicago this season, please bring my attention to them.

  • 1828 Born on March 20 in the town of Skien on the coast of Norway.
  • 1850 Catiline - regarded by many as Ibsen's first play
  • 1866 Brand
  • 1867 Peer Gynt
  • 1877 The Pillars of Society
  • 1879 A Doll's House
  • 1881 Ghosts (Being produced by Shaw Chicago, 4/18-5/11, 2009)
  • 1882 An Enemy of the People (Being produced by Red Tape Theatre, 5/4-30, 2009)
  • 1884 The Wild Duck (Being produced by the Court Theatre, 1/15-2/15, 2009)
  • 1886 Rosmersholm
  • 1888 The Lady from the Sea
  • 1890 Hedda Gabler (Being produced by Vintage Theatre, 2/6-22, 2009 and Raven Theatre, 4/28-6/27, 2009)
  • 1892 The Master Builder (produced by The Building Stage in Fall 2008.)
  • 1894 Little Eyolf
  • 1895 John Gabriel Borkman
  • 1899 When We Dead Awaken
  • 1906 Died on May 23 after a series of strokes.

From Ibsen by Michael Meyer, Penguin Books 1967 :

"At noon on 22 May he opened his eyes, pressed Dr Bull's hand and murmered: 'Thank God!' A little later the nurse said to others in the room that he seemed to be a little better. From the bed came a single word: 'Tvertimod!' ('On the contrary!'). It was the last word Ibsen ever spoke."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February News

Hello everyone!

I took a break from blogging to workshop my play as part of Red Tape's Fresh Eyes Project. Three playwrights were teamed with three directors and a group of talented actors in an intensive workshop of their scripts. Excerpts from the works were performed on January 31, 2009 at the Chicago Fringe Artists Networking Night (a.k.a. CFANN). The Fresh Eyes lineup was:

  • Mouse in a Jar by Martyna Majok. Directed by Daria J. Davis
  • Demon's Crystal by Paul G. Miller. Directed by Mark Chaitin.
  • Mechanical Angels by Mishelle Apalategui. Directed by Lavina Jadhwani.

The plays were just a sample of the many works presented at CFANN. The event brought over 160 guests into Red Tape's home for an evening of paintings, sculptures, photography, dance, music, improv, sketch comedy and performance art. Red Tape was honored toh ost this wonderful evening.

Next up is our original adapatation of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People by company member Robert Oakes. A doctor's ethics are called into question when pollution is discovered, and covered up, at a town's lucrative spa. I'm serving as dramaturge and will be sharing my research on this blog as I research Ibsen's life and times alongside comparable environmental scandals in our current society.

Stay tuned!

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge