Written by Charissa Roberson
With the spring semester barely a month underway, Theatre RC is already deep in rehearsals for their upcoming show, “An Enemy of the People,” by Henrik Ibsen (reimagined by Rebecca Lenkiewicz).
This play focuses on Dr. Theresa Stockmann, portrayed by junior Katarina Shaner, and other members of a small Norwegian town. When Dr. Stockmann discovers that the town’s spa baths are contaminated, she must decide whether to reveal the truth, even though it might ruin her town, or keep quiet in order to preserve the peace. “This play is set in the 1800s, and it’s Norwegian,” says junior Adeline Huggins, who is both the assistant director and dramaturge for the show. “So I’m trying to relate it to what is going on today, both nationally and locally in Salem.” Huggins says that some of the environmental issues discussed in the play are strikingly similar to events that occurred in Salem when a tannery polluted a nearby river, making the story extremely relevant to local audiences.
To prepare this play, Theatre RC has been working with several other departments across the college, including history and environmental studies. Dr. Laura Hartman, who also will be participating in a talkback before the show’s opening night, spoke with the entire cast about the environmental aspects of the play and how to hold constructive conversations about them.
“An Enemy of the People” is both a timely and poignant play, and it is made even more so by the particular design of its set. The audience is on-stage, positioned on either side of the performers in a tennis court-style set-up. “I’ve never acted in anything like that,” says Tess Weidenkopf, who plays the editor of the town’s newspaper. “It’s good to have people so close, to really feel it.” Shaner agrees, “It’s fun that it’s less particular and more open to interpretation,” she says. Shaner also discusses the difficulty of playing her character, Dr. Stockmann, the woman who is at the center of the play’s events. “She is very cerebral, but frenetic. It’s been really interesting, really difficult, but very fun.”
An Enemy of the People will premiere on Wednesday, Feb. 19, running until Feb. 22. Between the unique staging, thought-provoking material, and several opportunities for audiences to be involved in the discussion, this play is an experience not to be missed.