Jeremy M. Thomas

Stage Director

‘The Lady from the Sea’: Production explores conflict of head over heart

Posted on 10 Mar 2010 in News, Rabbit Hole | Comments Off on ‘The Lady from the Sea’: Production explores conflict of head over heart

March 10, 2010

The emotional conflict over whether to follow one’s heart or not is a struggle that has plagued all peoples during all eras. In 1888, playwright Henrik Ibsen explored the topic in his play “The Lady from the Sea.” Graduate directing student Jeremy Thomas Poulsen now tackles Ibsen’s play in University Theatre’s upcoming production, opening Friday, March 19, and playing through Saturday, April 10, in the Hemsley Theatre.

[photo] The Lady from the Sea.

Charles Askenaiser as the Stranger and Annelise Dickinson as Ellida in University Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Lady from the Sea,” playing from March 19–April 10 in the Hemsley Theatre.

Ibsen used two Norwegian legends as inspiration for the play. The first legend centered on a man with magically compelling eyes that lured a woman away from her husband and home. The second myth concerned a seaman lost at sea so long that he was declared dead, who returns to find his wife married to another man. Ibsen’s story revolves around Ellida, a woman widowed in her youth, who later remarries and builds a family. Then one day, her lost love reappears and she must choose between her heart and her responsibilities.

“’The Lady From the Sea’ is a classic tale of maturing and learning to live in the present,” says Poulsen, in his second year of training in UW–Madison’s MFA directing program. “Whether it is letting go of a lost love and moving on with your life for better or for worse, or having to give up on love in order to succeed in the real world, the choices that these characters make are difficult, and are real choices that remain prevalent today.”

Poulsen has spent the past year studying Ibsen, researching his writings and experiences that influenced him. “’The Lady From the Sea’ was written in the more symbolic period of Ibsen’s work, where he uses ghost stories and Norwegian myths to haunt his characters. Ibsen beautifully weaves the love triangle of Ellida, Wangel (her husband), and the mysterious stranger into a universal tale of the trials of love and letting go of the past,” he says.

Student scenic designer Katy Lai looked for ways to represent the symbolism in Ibsen’s writing through her design. “It’s been a fascinating research project for me, as I knew so little about Ibsen initially. I found Edvard Munch an inspiration for my design and found through my research that a lot of Munch’s work was based on Ibsen’s plays.

Poulsen indicated that he is “excited to take a different approach to ‘The Lady From the Sea’ as we explore Ibsen’s use of himself as the character of an artist, although greatly disguised as a foreigner, and examine the relationship of the artist, the art, and the muse.”

Other MFA students involved in the production are Erik Barry, first-year lighting designer; William Curry, third-year costumer designer; and first-year technical directors Cole Muth and Jim Vogel. Ph.D. candidate Erin Hood serves as dramaturg for the show, and has created a resource Web site.

“The Lady From the Sea” will run Thursdays through Sundays, March 19–April 10, with a pre-performance lecture at 6:30 p.m.on Thursday, March 25, and a post-performance discussion on Thursday, April 8. Performances are in the Hemsley Theatre. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and matinees begin at 2 p.m. Individual tickets for all performances are $20 general public or $14 for UW students. Discounts are available for senior citizens, and Friends of University Theatre.

Purchase tickets by phone at 265-ARTS (2787), in person at the Vilas Hall Box Office, or the Wisconsin Union Theatre Box Office.