It’s a new season of theater at Indiana University, can you believe it? The summer has just flown by, the students are back, and the team is ready to jump into another production.
First up this season is “Hedda Gabler,” the 1891 play written by Henrik Ibsen. Now, I know a subset of you are already thinking to yourselves, “1891? Too old to be relevant.” I understand. You have a 21st-century mind-set, and 19th-century literature feels like ancient history. But stay with me. This may not be as dated as you think. The play certainly caused an uproar in Europe in its day, espousing ideas about the role of women in society that were way ahead of their time.
The play is the story of newly married Hedda Tesman. (Gabler is her maiden name, you see, and its use in the title is deliberate and significant.) As the play begins, she and new husband George are coming back from their honeymoon. She’s from a wealthy and powerful family, and she married in an effort to put her past behind her. They expect to have a quiet, ordinary life together, uninterrupted by anything exciting or passionate. But into their lives walks Eilert Lovborg, writer, alcoholic and former lover of Hedda’s. He’s trouble and not just because his name makes him sound like a sex robot.
From there, the play pits character against character, in increasingly dark and tense situations, sometimes with tragic results. I won’t say more, for fear of giving away key plot points, but suffice it to say, there are some genuinely shocking moments. Director Dale McFadden says, “This is a play about the entire society, not just Hedda. All of the characters in this tight-knit world are competitive and goal-oriented, at times to the point of being ruthless. But Hedda has nothing to strive for. The things which we deeply need are love and meaningful work. She has neither. And I think the play shows us that people need to find some fulfillment in those areas in order to have a life.”
Dale adds, “When you’re dealing with a classic play like this, you invariably find places where your own experience matches the experiences of people living in a different century. It’s important that our students have this kind of intimate contact with great works of the stage.”
The director sees this play as being about the need to find our place in life through human relationship. “In ‘Hedda Gabler,’ Ibsen has created a character with a diminished capacity for love and social ambition, and he delineates Hedda’s journey to a self-destruction that is intriguing, terrible, and somewhat unfathomable. Anyone taking the time to ask themselves the purpose of their own life will be intrigued by this play.”
Contact Joel Pierson by sending an email to email@example.com with “Pierson” in the subject line.
If you go
WHO: Indiana University Department of Theater and Drama
WHAT: “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25-26, 29-30, Oct. 1-2; 2 p.m. Oct. 3
WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington