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Play depicts a 19th-century issue in a 21st-century world

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Ambre Shoneff as Catherine Stockmann, Zack Meyer as Dr. Thomas Stockmann and Blake Edwards as Peter Stockmann in a scene from The Ohio State University Department of Theatre’s production of An Enemy of the People. Credit: Courtesy of Matt Hazard

Ambre Shoneff as Catherine Stockmann, Zack Meyer as Dr. Thomas Stockmann and Blake Edwards as Peter Stockmann in a scene from The Ohio State University Department of Theatre’s production of An Enemy of the People. Credit: Courtesy of Matt Hazard

It seems that even centuries back society has always had to deal with environmental issues, as evidenced by the upcoming play, “An Enemy of the People.”

“An Enemy of the People” opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The play will held in the Thurber Theatre, located in the Drake Performance and Event Center.

Lesley Ferris is the director for “An Enemy of the People,” originally written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen during the 19th century.

The play tells the story of a Norwegian town’s doctor, Thomas Stockmann, and how he discovered that the town’s baths were contaminated and were causing the townspeople to get sick. Stockmann tries to warn the people about the dangers of the baths but is constantly being sabotaged by his brother, who is also the mayor of the town, and by the press. By the time the doctor warns everyone, they all turn against him and his family. Still, Stockmann upholds the truth and bares the burden of being “an enemy of the people.”

Ferris said Ibsen was known for writing plays with women as the main characters, which was not the norm during the 19th century, so to have a man in the central role was different for Ibsen.

Even though the play was written in the 19th century, the dialogue has been updated so the audience can easily follow along with what the actors are saying.

“The majority of (Ibsen’s) plays feel like they could have been written today. This particular translation of version that we’re doing is very recent,” Ferris said.

The play also has some intense scenes when dealing with a difficult issue.

“In this particular one, there are comic moments, and some people in the day thought it was a comedy. The playwright deliberately begins it like that but then shows how quickly it transforms into a tragedy,” Ferris said.

Zachary Meyer is a MFA candidate in acting and plays the role of Stockmann.

“My character sees it more as an ethical and moral issue than a financial issue. That’s kind of where the conflict goes throughout the rest of the play,” Meyer said.

Throughout the play, tensions between the brothers grow over their different views on how the contaminated baths should be dealt with.

“There is a constant conflict between Thomas and Peter Stockmann, the mayor, and how the issue should be handled,” Meyer said. “For a while there, I don’t think Peter disagrees with the fact that something’s wrong, but he disagrees with how it should be handled in the sense that ‘We don’t want to panic everybody, we don’t want to bankrupt the town and we don’t want to scare away people from coming to this town.’”

Meyer added that people have different motives behind issues like this that color the way the issue is being debated and talked about.

Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for general admission, and can be purchased at the Drake Performance and Event Center.

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