Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ibsen ain't afraid of no Ghosts!

The title of Henrik Ibsen’s play, Ghosts, refers to the outdated social rules and superstitions that hinder the lives of the main characters. Should a wife stay with an abusive husband because she was told to “love, honor and obey?” Should a daughter care for her ailing father even after he’s expressed sexual interest in her? Should a pastor forgo insuring an orphanage and trust in a “higher power” to protect it? Ibsen answered with a loud NO! Ghosts declared that rape, adultery, incest, and venereal disease among the middle classes were issues that existed and must be addressed. Not everyone agreed with him.

“The play is one of the filthiest things ever written in Scandinavia.” ~ Ludvig
Josephson, Theatre Owner

At first no theater in Europe would produce the work. It premiered at the Aurora Turner Hall in Chicago with Danish Actress Helga von Bluhme as Mrs. Alving. The published script was seen as something not fit for decent homes, but gathered a loyal following among a younger generation of theatre artists.

[I like Ghosts] less for its own sake than for the insight it gives me into this
elegant, cautious, decorated, slightly snobbish person who… has always had a
secret desire to say; “Damn and blast!” in the midst of all his elegance – and
has now acquired the courage.” ~ Alexander Kielland, Book Seller

The personal attacks that the work provoked from the “so-called liberal press” infuriated Ibsen. He resumed work on a piece he had set aside, making corrupt newsmen into central figures. On June 21 1882 Ibsen wrote: “Yesterday I completed my new dramatic work. It is entitled An Enemy of the People, and is in five acts. I am still a little uncertain whether to call it a comedy or simply a play; it has much of the character of a comedy, but there is also a serious basic theme.’
Ibsen had never finished a work faster. He was again ready to speak the “unpleasant truths” that must be heard.

Quotes taken from Ibsen by Michael Meyer.

Shaw Chicago presents Ghosts from April 18 - May 11, 2009.

Robert Scogin, the Artistic Director of Shaw Chicago, will speak on Red Tape's panel, Ibsen's Women, on Sunday, May 10, 2009.

Red Tape Theatre presents An Enemy of the People from May 4-30, 2009.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

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