Susan Agin and the Queensborough Performing Arts Center will present Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, A DOLL’s HOUSE for an invited audience in April as part of an arts and education program.
Ibsen’s play still projects a substantial message – one of female empowerment, abuse, misogyny, and – as we look at it through the lens of post-Trump America – high crime and corruption.
Ms. Agin brought Jay Michaels aboard to direct the production. Michaels, a professor of communications and theater are various universities, is also known for his direction and production of much of Shakespeare’s canon felt right at home with Ibsen: “the play cause controversy when it first opened in the late 19th Century. It brought-to-light issues that many were not ready to deal with,” he said, “sometimes history is made on stage before it’s made in reality,” he added. Rose Zisa, an actress and teacher herself concurred: “I myself work with students and I try to expose them to all matter of material. I find that young people embrace it. In the last few years my students have worked on Our Town, Waiting For Lefty, Twelve Angry Jurors and various works by Shakespeare. I like to expose them to modern work, original work, the classics, drama and comedy as it really opens their eyes to the world beyond their own four walls. Students who learn about the classics, learn about history and are able to get in touch with the common thread of the human condition. It’s exciting to see young people process how the world changes and, maybe more exiting to see them realize how so many things stay the same.” Zisa, an Ibsen scholar and prominent actress for more than two decades, began with musical theatre but moved to the “legitimate” stage quickly. Trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and HB Studios, Zisa has been doing zoom works like this and short films during the pandemic, eagerly awaiting the time when she can get back in “the room where it happens.”
DQ was thrilled to get Rosa to share her artistic – and academic – point of view on this play.
Ibsen’s play was groundbreaking. Is it still groundbreaking today? If it is, how?
I’d have to say A Doll’s House is still groundbreaking. The thought of a woman leaving her children because she is not, in her own assessment prepared to do her job is the ultimate move toward self care. Yet even with the “self care” aspect it’s also astonishingly selfless to think that a mother would tear herself away from her children because she doesn’t feel suited to raise them. Of course, even today this would be looked down on. I as a mother would say that even thought I am open minded and see the selflessness in her act I would find it hard to believe if someone I knew did this. Certainly the strength Nora has to exhibit is almost breathtaking. Again, as a mother I don’t think I could ever have the courage to leave my children for a reason such as this one. Ironically, the woman who raised Nora also separated from her child in an act of self-preservation. I think in today’s world Nora would take her children with her. Obviously, her husband is no prize as a father so why leave them with him. Even though her nanny will be loving I think Nora would work it out and those kids would go with her. The leaving of her husband obviously is not so groundbreaking what with the prevalence of divorce in today’s society but, there’s still something in the idea that she would leave such a comfortable situation that is still surprising if not groundbreaking. Of course the honest look at a marriage in turmoil is still very relevant today.
How has your role changed over the century since the play premiered? Are you a villain as opposed to a hero – or vice versa? It is more identifiable? Etc.
While Mrs. Linde is sometimes viewed as a villain in the end for not having accepted Krogstad’s offer to retrieve the letter, I think it’s quite the opposite. I think it’s hope and trust that push her to reject Krogstad’s offer. I believe she becomes so taken and filled with new hope that things are going to be better that she truly believes Nora has nothing to worry about. She feels that she will help restore balance to her friend’s marriage once everything is out in the open. I don’t know that the role has changed but I do know that my view of the role has changed over the years. When I first read this play as a young actor in my early twenties I definitely thought Christine was a villain. I thought, “if she’d just let Krogstad retrieve the letter both she and Nora would be happy”. Now I realize that Nora would in fact be trapped in a sham of a marriage with a guy who is pretty much a jerk had Christine acted differently. Also, interestingly, I have some parallels in my life now in regards to caring for loved ones and maybe sacrificing some of my plans to do so and I think that brings out some empathy for her. Additionally, because I have children and have always wanted to be a mother I can see how someone would be so motivated by the idea of having someone to love and care for.
What are your next projects?
Later this month I will be reading a new short play “Life Expectancy” written by wonderfully talented playwright Kevin Clancy. Then, in May, I will be shooting a film “I Love Your Stupid Face” written another fantastic writer Rob LoManto.