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 opens Friday and runs October 24 – November 23. Sarah Ferris plays Thea Elvsted and has this to share about the complexity of her character and the play’s universal themes:
Being a preschool teacher, I’m always trying to find ways for my kiddos to connect; I want to encourage a connection with their friends, with their teachers, with their activities at school, with their own feelings and the feelings of those around them. And every day we sit in a circle, criss-cross-applesauce, and connect. So when they’re asked a question (it’s nice when they raise their hands to answer it, but when they don’t, that’s okay too) it usually goes something like, “Oh! I went to my grandma’s this weekend!” “Oh, me! Me! Me too! I went to my grandma’s, and saw my grandma and grandpa and played Pokemon!” “Oh! I like to play Pokemon! I love Pikachu!” “Hey! Pikachu starts with P like my name!” These associations would probably go on all morning long if the kids had it their way. Because just like us adults, they couldn’t help themselves! All my kids sit around and relate to one another through their stories and the shared experiences they’ve had so far in their little lifetimes. And when they find common ground, they are always so excited to continue to talk about it. They can’t get enough of it. And those moments, to me, feel like magic.
So in one of our very first read-throughs of Hedda Gabler, our director Michael Avolio asked all of us if we had experienced a time in our lives where we felt oppressed, trapped, stuck in a situation that we couldn’t get out of. What I remember about that moment was something like Michael essentially asking everyone to raise their hand (or maybe just head-nod) if they could relate to those feelings. I don’t know if that’s exactly how it happened, or if I only remember it that way because that’s what I do with my kiddos, but regardless of how we were asked the question, every single one of us could in fact relate. This experience is universal. And how incredible it is to dive head first into a character like Thea, whose seemingly naïve persona causes those around her to doubt her strength and resilience. Even at times her intelligence and will. But what I have found is that she is truly a remarkably strong, brave, and inspirational young woman that I have fallen in love with.
My grandmother used to talk to me about how all of us have many different “I”s inside of us. And sometimes those “I”s can come off as being hypocritical or can contradict each other. For instance, I’m an insecure woman and a confidant woman. I’m aggressively outgoing and at times I’m painfully shy (really, I can be). I can be a jealous person, a loving person, a gentle person, a calm person, a moody person, and on and on, perhaps to infinity, it goes. And now that I’ve been exploring Thea and many of her different “I”s, I’m moved by the many women I have met in her. There is no doubt that her energy and attitude create a stark contrast to Hedda. Thea is sweet, polite, and gentle. Her warmth can at times bring on the naïvete mentioned throughout the play and make her seem powerless, unaware, or smaller than the force of Hedda. But Thea has left a situation in her life where she has been stuck for years. She has been in a loveless marriage, playing the role of caretaker to everyone around her, and has finally left that part of her life to begin to take care of herself, and she has done it all on her own. A risk that is scary for anyone to take, whether it be in 1890 Norway, 1963 Georgetown, or 2014 anywhere. It takes guts, and I’ve loved going on this journey with her through all the mess and all the fear.
If there is one thing Thea has taught me, it is to remember to be bold. Some people might say, “Thea Elvsted? Bold?” because I think she has been misunderstood as quite the opposite. But I’m moved by her never-ending patience, her desire to follow through, and her growing accomplishment of going with her gut. Like Thea says, “I’m free now. It’s scary, but I’m free.” To which I say, “You go, girl!”
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.