Ibsen's 'Doll's House' shook world nearly 130 years ago

Doll's House open rehearsalIn 1879, Henrik Ibsen’s bold conclusion of “A Doll’s House”—which will open Feb. 29 at SUNY Oswego—ignited the feminist movement in Norway, where the main character, Nora, walks away from her husband, children and traditional life.

“The slam of the door behind her is more momentous than the cannon of Waterloo,” playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote. Writer and critic James Huneker said the “slammed door reverberated across the roof of the world,” and the commotion that followed the initial production made Ibsen both famous and infamous. Many scholars think Ibsen would have never expected the century-long ripple effect of his writing in the social, literary and entertainment worlds.

“Many have heard the story of Nora, and may even know her ultimate decision, but have not seen the play or know the story that leads to the controversial ending,” said Kevin Kennison, a visiting assistant professor of theatre who directs the performance in SUNY Oswego’s Waterman Theatre in Tyler Hall. 

Ibsen often denied his connection to feminism, yet has often been thanked and recognized for the play’s impact on the feminist movement. But Ibsen was not calling for emancipation as much as criticizing that men and women were forced to live by different ethical codes.

In his own notes for “A Doll’s House,” he wrote: “A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.”

As controversial as the play was when it debuted, it also proved popular. The first printed edition of “A Doll’s House” produced 8,000 copies in December 1879, which sold quickly enough to drive publishers to produce a second the next month and third edition in March 1880. The play is still found on the list of required reading in English, theatre and sociology programs both in high school and college.

SUNY Oswego’s adaptation of “A Doll’s House” will preview at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, in Tyler Hall’s
Waterman Theatre with all seats priced at $5.

Additional 8 p.m. performances will be offered Feb. 29 and March 1, 7 and 8, with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on March 9. Tickets for the regular run cost $12 ($10 for seniors and children, $7 for SUNY Oswego students).

A high school matinee is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 5. Teachers wishing to bring their students should e-mail Tyler box office at tickets@oswego.edu. Tickets for this special show are $7 per student with complimentary tickets to chaperones.

For reservations or more information, contact Tyler box office at 312-2141 or tickets@oswego.edu.

- END -

PHOTO CAPTION: ‘Doll’ making—SUNY Oswego theatre faculty member Kevin Kennison recently hosted an open rehearsal of the upcoming production “A Doll’s House” as part of Oswego’s College Hour activities. Here director Kennison (center) watches a scene between Nathaniel Angstrom (Nills Krogstad) and Lucaya Luckey-Bethany (Nora Helmer). The SUNY Oswego staging of the classic Ibsen play will open Feb. 29 and run consecutive weekends through March 9.

CONTACT: Kelly Cullinan, 312-3097

(Posted: Feb 15, 2008)