All in for Ibsen

A scene from Henrik Ibsen’s play “Hedda Gabler,” which the Commonweal Theatre Company presented in their 2009 Ibsen Festival. Photo courtesy of Commonweal Theatre Company

A scene from Henrik Ibsen’s play “Hedda Gabler,” which the Commonweal Theatre Company presented in their 2009 Ibsen Festival. Photo courtesy of Commonweal Theatre Company

Commonweal Theatre presents the 15th annual Ibsen Festival in Lanesboro, Minn.

The Commonweal Theatre Company announces its 15th Annual Ibsen Festival April 13 – 15 in downtown Lanesboro, Minn. Named for the acclaimed “Father of Modern Drama,” the Festival is a celebration of Scandinavian theatre, visual art, music and dance, centered around the opening of Commonweal’s annual Ibsen production. This yearly gathering of artists and craftsmen was honored in 2008 by the Norwegian government, who awarded the Commonweal Theatre one of only four inaugural International Ibsen Scholarships in recognition of its ongoing commitment to producing the works of one of the world’s premiere playwrights.

The highlight of the Festival is the opening of Commonweal Theatre’s annual Ibsen production with performances Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 15 at 1:30 p.m. This year, the theatre will present “Pillars of Society,” the first in the series of Ibsen’s modern drama masterpieces. Secrets from the past threaten to engulf a prominent businessman about to embark on the greatest project of his career. How far is someone willing to go to protect their standing as a pillar of the community?

Pillars of Society is directed by Executive Director Hal Cropp, and features resident company member Scott Dixon as Karsten Bernick, a respected shipbuilder with a hidden past. The cast also includes Katie Berger, Gary Danciu, Stef Dickens, Catherine Glynn, David Hennessey, Carla Joseph and Jeremy van Meter.

The script for “Pillars of Society” has been adapted by renowned Minnesota playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, whose credits include “Compleat Female Stage Beauty,” “Scotland Road” and “Three Viewings,” and adaptations of Jean Anouilh’s “To Fool the Eye” and Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw,” also produced by the Commonweal Theatre in 2006 and 2010 respectively. This is the third Ibsen adaptation created for the Commonweal by Mr. Hatcher as part of a series of new versions of Ibsen’s plays developed for the American stage, beginning with “John Gabriel Borkman,” last season’s “An Enemy of the People,” and slated to continue through 2014 with new imaginings of “A Doll’s House” and “Brand.”

The Ibsen Festival offers events and presentations throughout the weekend to satisfy a variety of interests. Guests may attend lectures, film presentations, musical concerts and artist displays. The Commonweal is proud to welcome Professor Errol Durbach, Professor Emeritus of Theatre Studies at the University of British Columbia and vice-president of the Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada, as keynote speaker. Professor Durbach is the author of “Ibsen The Romantic,” “A Doll’s House: Ibsen’s Myth of Transformation,” and a collection of edited essays in “Ibsen and the Theatre.” He has also adapted “Peer Gynt” (2006) and “The Master Builder” (2009) for performance.

Building on the themes of “Pillars of Society,” the Commonweal Theatre will be partnering with The Lanesboro Arts Center, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, and The Minnesota Marine Art Museum to explore the Norwegian immigrant experience in America. Events officially begin Friday evening, April 13, at The Commonweal Theatre at 6:30 p.m. with an art reception showcasing selected items from The Minnesota Marine Art Museum’s collection. At 7:30 p.m., festival-goers can choose between attending the final preview performance of Pillars of Society onstage at The Commonweal, or a special “Moon Over Norway” themed presentation of “The Back Fence” – a community variety show – next door at the St Mane Theatre.

Saturday, April 14, offers an entire day and night’s worth of activities, including a Spring Luncheon and Bake Sale at the Sons of Norway Heimbygda Lodge on Parkway Avenue near Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park. Throughout the day, there will be artisan demonstrations in the Events Hall at the Commonweal Theatre, exhibits at the Lanesboro Arts Center, the Lanesboro Historical Museum, and Bittersweet Boutique and Antiques, and multiple showings of the film documentary, The Stavig Letters, at the Feed Mill Event Center – all within walking distance in downtown Lanesboro.

The Commonweal Theatre will host several events in its building on Saturday, including Professor Durbach’s lecture, a presentation on the history of Norwegian immigration by Professor Marv Slind from Luther College, and a music concert by acclaimed composers and performers Natalie Nowytski and Dee Langley. On Sunday, April 15, Bethlehem Lutheran Church will offer a morning worship service in both Norwegian and English. At noon, Eric Dregni, author of “Vikings in the Attic,” will be on hand to discuss and sign copies of his book shortly before a matinee performance of “Pillars of Society” at 1:30 p.m.

All weekend, Scandinavian cuisine will be featured at Pedal Pushers Café and The Old Village Hall and visitors to The Commonweal may view the three-dimensional art exhibit “To Be A Poet is To See: Ibsen in Our Time” – throughout the run of “Pillars of Society.”

A complete schedule of Festival events is available by calling (800) 657-7025 or going online to www.ibsenfest.org. For more information about the 2012 Ibsen Festival, contact Adrienne Sweeney at (507) 467-2905 x208 or adrienne@commonwealtheatre.org.

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This article originally appeared in the Mar. 9, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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