Azusa Pacific University Theater welcomes its 21st anniversary with an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play “A Doll’s House.” The Royal Theatre in Denmark brought the infamous play to life in 1879. It was one of the most taboo writings in its day, due to its criticism on 19th-century marriage rules. Ibsen wrote the play in a time of strict and inflexible social status for women.
The story is centered around the marriage between the characters Nora and Torvald Helmer, played by APU seniors Brianna Diane and Tyler Hubbard. Nora, the main character, searches to find her voice when confronted with a secret from her past, which could turn her whole seemingly idyllic world completely upside down.
The original “A Doll’s House” is set in the late 1870s, however, Dr. Rachel Tracie, director and theater arts chair, sets the play in the 1960s. In 1960, traditional gender roles were still widely obeyed.
According to the play’s program, “racial and gender tensions were higher than ever.” Women were still seen as fragile housewives by their society, just like in the 1870s. Tracie feels that the 1960s held the same traditional gender roles and kept the overall themes of the play, while being closer to this era.
“The play is about self-definition, about finding who you truly are,” Tracie said. “It deals with the societal and the family pressures on us. Like the expectations, in this case, [Nora’s] husband and father had on her, her friends had on her and expectations she had on herself. So the play really deals with how you navigate your own true sense of self amidst all the societal and individual pressures that you find yourself around.”
Tracie explains how both main characters struggle with the gender roles cast on them and struggle when those roles are disrupted and challenged in various ways.
“I thought the play shined a huge light on expectations one might have for their partner,” Alexander Falk said, junior international business major. “Nora really struggled to find who she was and embraced it.”
The play explores the main couple’s eight-year marriage and the consequences of building a relationship on one’s expectations rather than love. It is these consequences that start to build up between the couple, and it is what sparks the main conflict of the play.
As seen in the play, women were still not allowed to take out loans or open bank accounts without their spouse or father’s approval until the late 1960s. Tracie makes a point to capture these elements within the play.
“Around this time, I was watching a lot of ‘Mad Men,’” Tracie said. “I wanted to keep the same period and mid-century style. Aesthetically, that was the plan.”
Costume Designer Wendell C. Carmichael has worked in the theater for over three decades. Carmichael worked closely together with Tracie to capture the look of the mid-century modern style, using “Mad Men” as a reference.
“I can definitely see how ‘Mad Men’ played a part,” Mariah Braxton said, theater audience member. “Costumes were great. The performance was great. I really enjoyed it.”
“A Doll’s House” started its run Oct. 15-17 and continues from 22-24 with Thursday and Friday performances at 7:30 p.m. and a Saturday performance at 2 p.m.