Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen updates the action of the play to the socially relevant climate of D.C.’s Georgetown, 1963. The production runs October 24 – November 23. Quotidian co-founder, frequent actor, and resident costume designer Stephanie Mumford suggested the new setting, and writes here about how it suits Ibsen’s play. (This piece can also be read at DC Metro Theater Arts.)
Quotidian Theatre Company’s new season takes off with an updated version of Ibsen’s classic Hedda Gabler. “Onstage for almost every moment of the play — fruitlessly directing the action around her in an attempt to garner some control over her own constrained life — Ibsen’s Hedda is the archetypal trapped woman, a general’s daughter consigned by her own upper-middle-class domestic ambitions to marriage with a dull academic who cannot match her intensity, depth, and intelligence,” according to New York Magazine’s Matt Dobkin.
Director Michael Avolio has transported the action of the play from Oslo, Norway in 1890 to Georgetown, D.C. in 1963, the same year Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, her now-classic feminist treatise on the pervasive unhappiness of American housewives in the early 1960s. Like Friedan, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was a strong advocate for women’s rights. In Hedda Gabler, as well as in A Doll’s House, Ibsen criticizes what he characterized as “an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.”[i] Women have made great strides since Hedda first sprang from Ibsen’s imagination, but even today, let alone in 1963, male legislators are found trying to have a say in certain women’s issues.
For that reason alone, updating the play to the 1960s on the brink of the women’s movement seemed natural, as did re-locating its setting to the politically-charged Georgetown during President Kennedy’s administration. Placing the play in our own backyard just made it more accessible and relevant. Hedda’s husband George Tesman could teach at Georgetown University, the late WWII General Gabler could rest in peace at Arlington Cemetery, and the powerful, unctuous Judge Brack could spend his evenings partying at the home of journalist Joseph Alsop — a Georgetown bon vivant who was ringmaster of Camelot social life.
And then there are the ties to the highly-acclaimed, stylishly-retro TV series Mad Men… Parallels can be drawn between Ibsen’s deeply dissatisfied Hedda and Mad Men’s repressed housewife, Betty Draper, including their mutual facility with shotguns. And, as is the case with Mad Men anti-hero Don Draper, Hedda’s deeply flawed character and despicable actions fascinate us, while their own self-loathing and yearning for something better make it possible to sympathize with Hedda and Don.
[i] Ibsen, “Notes for a Modern Tragedy”; quoted by Meyer (1967, 466)
Quotidian Theatre Company presents
by Henrik Ibsen
Oct 24 – Nov 23, 2014
The magnetic and mysterious Hedda, stifled by society’s conventions, has captivated audiences since she sprang from Ibsen’s imagination in 1890. Her perplexing machinations find the perfect home in Washington, D.C.’s politically-charged Georgetown of 1963 in this new adaptation by Michael Avolio.
This production, directed by Michael Avolio, features Katie Culligan as Hedda, Brian McDermott as George, Sarah Ferris as Thea, Francisco Reinoso as Judge Brack, Christian Sullivan as Elliott Lovborg, Laura Russell as Aunt Julia, and Kecia Campbell as Berta.
Show times are 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm Sundays, with one additional 2pm performance on Saturday, November 22.
Tickets are $30 regular price, $25 for seniors, and $15 for students, and can be purchased by cash or check at the door, online at Brown Paper Tickets, or by phone at 1-800-838-3006 ext 1 (ask for Quotidian Theatre Company). $15 per ticket for groups of 10 or more (email for reservations). Subscribers, email QTC or call 301-816-1023 for reservations.
All performances are held at The Writer’s Center: 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.
The venue is a short walk from the Bethesda Metro Station. There is free parking on Saturdays and Sundays.