The play is 135 years old, but the upcoming MTSU Theatre production of Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" is serious about ensuring that its true focus of discovering personal identity remains clear.
The eight-member cast of "A Doll's House," which opens Wednesday, Nov. 5, in MTSU's Tucker Theatre, is directed by theatre professor Kyle Kennedy, who said they're fully aware of the challenges of bringing the originally controversial classic to the stage.
"What's relevant about this play today is not only dealing with the roles of the sexes and with women's lives," Kennedy said. "Ibsen's biographer said the playwright wanted to make clear 'that the primary duty of anyone was to find out who he or she really was and to become that person,' and reading that meant a lot to me. It's a theme that speaks to our whole audience, the whole variety of people in it."
The 7:30 p.m. performances of "A Doll's House" are set Nov. 5-9 at MTSU, and a 2 p.m. matinee is planned for Sunday, Nov. 9.
Tickets for the MTSU Arts performances, sponsored by Ascend Federal Credit Union, are available online at http://www.mtsuarts.com and at the Tucker Theatre box office an hour before curtain times.
In brief, the play, which premiered in Denmark in 1879, follows a young wife and mother whose well-intentioned efforts to help her family backfire and tear apart her seemingly perfect life.
Ibsen, one of the founders of realism in theatre, intended it as a scathing criticism of 19th-century society's accepted roles for wives and husbands. The conclusion caused such controversy that some productions presented an alternate ending -- to Ibsen's extreme dismay -- and theaters were subjected to protests and threats.
Auditions for this MTSU Theatre production were held in September, and the cast began rehearsals Oct. 1 for what director Kennedy and cast members admit is a "verbose" and challenging play.
"These lines definitely are not even monologues; they're more like dissertations," Kelsey Blackwell, a junior theatre major from Memphis who portrays the lead, Nora Helmer, said with a laugh.
"Still, this piece really touched me, and I feel so humbled to be a part of it with these great people. This show has so much history and it has such a great message that's relevant today.
"Even though this was written in the late 1800s, I want people to understand that love and marriage should be genuine and real. Regardless of when it's set, it's still very important to understand."
Blackwell was most recently on the Tucker Theatre stage in the 2013 production of "A Year with Frog and Toad," where she played "Mouse."
"I like this particular show because of its relevancy but also because it shows how much times have changed. It's really interesting," said Dominic Gillette, a junior theater major from Chattanooga who portrays Nora's husband, Torvald.
"This play gives you a chance to actually dive into characters and find back stories and find out a lot about your character. It's good for us as students to get that kind of training right here. It's definitely a different type of show from what we've done at Tucker in a while."
Gillette was part of this fall's recent "American Tall Tales" revival at MTSU, where he portrayed "John Henry."
The cast also includes Abbey Kairdolf as Nora's friend Christine Linde; Christan McLaurine as family friend Peter Rank; Saul Rodriguez as Torvald's employee, Nils Krogstad; Beth Ann Stripling as Anne-Marie, the Helmers' nanny; Victoria Crawford, the Helmers' maid; and Jay Mullens as the delivery boy. Crawford and Mullens also provide the Helmer children's voices.
"We select plays for production each year by committee, and we want to make sure that all of our theatre students, during their years at MTSU, are exposed to different dramatic styles, forms and genres of theater," director Kennedy explained. "`A Doll's House' is historically notable because it's one of the hallmark plays of the realist movement.
"We're glad for the opportunity for our students to be exposed to a great play with great characters that addresses a very important theme. And we're glad for the opportunity to present it to MTSU audiences."
General admission tickets are $10 each and $5 for K-12 students and senior citizens. MTSU students with valid IDs will be admitted free.
Tickets for "A Doll's House" also can be ordered by phone by calling 888-71-TICKETS (888-718-4253) 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information about MTSU Theatre's current season anytime, visit http://mtsu.edu/theatre/CurrentSeason.php.