Ithaca College Theatre is kicking off its 2007–2008 season by putting new energy into an old classic. Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” will come to life in the Clark Theatre this weekend. The play may have been written in the late 19th century, but through a new adaptation by contemporary playwright Andrew Upton, the cast and crew promise audiences will be able to relate to the events and emotions taking place on stage.
“Hedda Gabler” is about a young woman named Hedda and her husband Jorgen Tesman who live in Kristiania, Norway. Hedda and Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon, and it becomes apparent that Hedda does not really love him but instead married him for economic stability. Hedda learns that her husband’s academic rival, Eilert Lövborg, has recently finished a manuscript, which he considers to be his masterpiece. Both he and Tesman are interested in a job opening as a professor at a university, and Hedda worries that if Lövborg gets the position her lavish lifestyle will be in danger. In fear of her future, she stops at nothing to make sure that Lövborg cannot take the job.
Through all of this chaos, Hedda struggles with societal oppression and psychological torment, creating a sometimes dark, and other times inspiring, story. Senior acting major Corinne Proctor has the task of playing the troubled heroine. She said her goal is to get the audience to feel compassion for her often-misunderstood character.
“I think she’s a difficult character to empathize with, but it’s important that the audience has some empathy for her and understands her situation,” Proctor said. “That’s what I hope to bring to it — a sense of her ‘humanness’ behind all of the scary things she does.”
Jeff Tangeman, an assistant professor in the department of theatre arts, is making his directorial debut with “Hedda Gabler.” Tangeman said he hopes that he can change people’s preconceived notions that the play is “old” or “stuffy” by making it relatable and exciting for a contemporary audience. He said the smaller Clark Theatre will provide an intimate environment for viewers.
“From a design standpoint … we’re taking a relatively aggressive and psychological approach to [the play] that’s really going to pull the audience right in to Hedda’s journey, and they’re really seeing everything from her eyes,” Tangeman said.
Junior acting major Alex Krasser will be playing the role of Tesman, Hedda’s scholarly husband. He said he aims to help the audience appreciate the depth of his character.
“Tesman is a character who is usually stereotypical and shuffled into the narrow category of ‘Oh, he’s a dork, he’s an academic, he doesn’t care about life, he doesn’t really know what’s going on,’ and I really didn’t like that,” Krasser said. “And so I read through the script and found little bits here and there that pointed out something deeper that was going on with it.”
Senior theatre arts production major Teresa Sears was in charge of designing the show’s costumes. The costumes were made to look Victorian because the play is set in 1892. Sears believes people need to take a fresh look at the show, so the costumes, which include corsets for the women, will be fitting of the time period, but the attitude will not.
“The play is very much about the degradation of women, and Hedda’s isolation,” Sears said. “What we strive to do is to carry that into the present. So if you look at our set we have it surround-covered with Cosmopolitan and images that we can relate to today.”
Junior theatre production arts major Alexander Woodward, the play’s set designer, understands that “Hedda Gabler” is not typically considered an “exciting” play and said he hopes that students will realize that they can relate to the issues raised in the script.
“We’re on a college campus, so a large proportion of our audience and our patrons are younger,” Woodward said. “[We tried to] portray Hedda Gabler in a way that’s accessible and interesting to them. I think that component of it is something that we’ve strived to achieve more than in other productions.”
Performances will be held at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center. Tickets range from $5.50 to $10 and may be purchased by calling (607) 274–3224.