A play becomes a classic not only because of well-written characters in a believable landscape with engrossing conflict. It must resonate with audiences.
As an example, Henrik Ibsen's classic "A Doll's House" speaks to human rights today as much as it does to women's rights of 1879 when it was first presented.
"It's about treating people how you want to be treated," said Kevin Neuharth, who is directing the play at Minot State University this weekend.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Katie Langemo as Nora playfully feeds a cookie to Daniel Johnson as Dr. Rank while Peg Morris as Mrs. Linde looks on disapprovingly in a rehearsal for Minot State University’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Noah Files as Torvald embraces Katie Langemo as his wife, Nora.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Brett Olson as Krogstad threatens Katie Langemo as Nora in a rehearsal for the Minot State University production of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.”
At the time, women were seen and not heard, they were to be shown off, and at that time were not even considered to be particularly intelligent, although there were female doctors among other professionals.
Nora, played by Katie Langemo, begins the play seeming to be childish and immature, although the mother of three children -- played by Christian, Camden and Keely Gifford -- and wife to Torvald, portrayed by Noah Files. He appears to be a strong man, but reveals himself to be petty and weak when he thinks Krogstad, played by Brett Olson, may expose him to scandal.
The couple's best friends, Mrs. Linde and Dr. Rank, played by Peg Morris and Daniel Johnson, are more accepting of their fates than the others, but also help Nora realize her potential beyond the home.
"A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen
Performances of "A Doll's House" are at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday at Aleshire Theater in Hartnett Hall.
Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and free with current ID for MSU students, faculty and staff.
For reservations, call 858-3172.
"The most challenging aspect was the language and the way it was written," Neuharth said. "Nowadays we speak in partial sentences, but then they used complete sentences. They found that hard to memorize. Another thing is the use of personal pronouns, which really meant something then.
"It's been really fun working on this," he added. "The students have taken to using this kind of language outside of rehearsals so they get the cadence right."
The story touches on the definition of freedom, as Neuharth put it, including "what are you free from, and what does that get you?" There was much criticism in 1879 about the final turn of the plot, Nora's decision whether to walk away from her confining marriage and children to pursue her own life, something that resonates some 130 years later.
"Every aspect of the production is handled by students," Neuharth said. "We're very proud of that. Brittany Knickerbocker has been in charge of wardrobe and Noah (Files) designed the set and sound. Brett (Olson) designed the lighting and Matt Dempsey is the dramaturge. It's exciting and cool to see what they've accomplished. In fact, the designs will be on display during the show."
Indeed, "A Doll's House" is Knickerbocker's senior project, along with her earlier work on "Doubt."
"Our stage manager is Brittany Armstrong, and she's doing a crackerjack job," Neuharth added. "She could be doing this for a living already."
The set decoration includes a number of Norwegian items including rosemaled pieces borrowed from Laura Mahalik, whose mother teaches the craft.