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Experience Henrik Ibsen free at Cal Arts

A modern interpretation of Iben’s ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ opens March 9 at Cal Arts in Valencia

Posted: March 6, 2009 4:38 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2009 2:28 p.m.
Frida Foldoi ,left, (Alexandra Kuskin) and John Gabriel Borkman (Evan Hyde) share a moment at the piano. Frida Foldoi ,left, (Alexandra Kuskin) and John Gabriel Borkman (Evan Hyde) share a moment at the piano.
Frida Foldoi ,left, (Alexandra Kuskin) and John Gabriel Borkman (Evan Hyde) share a moment at the piano.
How does a 19th century Norwegian play coincide with 21st century America?

In Henrik Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman," a family is crushed when the patriarch, a bank manager, illegally speculates with his customer's money. The repercussions are all too familiar.

"He lives the rest of his live focused on what could have been, while his wife, sister-in-law, and son each find their own ways of dealing with the scandal.

This play was chosen last spring, but with the market crash and the economy flipped upside down, it's really relatable right now," said Alida Anderson, second year California Institute of the Arts MFA student and "John Gabriel Borkman" assistant producer.

"At the same time, the story of generations breaking away from each other is a constant theme, it shows that it happens with every generation throughout history."

"John Gabriel Borkman" is recommended for ages 10 and older and will debut at the Cal Arts Walt Disney Modular Theater on March 9 and conclude on March 14. All shows start at 8 p.m. and are free to the public.

The production will be directed by Maureen Huskey of Los Angeles, a Princess Grace Honorarium Award recipient whose Cal Arts credits include "King Lear" and "Hoppla, We're Alive!"

A prolific playwright in the 19th century, Ibsen, a Norwegian, is often referred to as "the father of modern drama." Harsh realities permeated his works ranging from his first "Catiline" in 1850 to the oft-staged "A Doll's House" in 1879. "John Gabriel Borkman," written in 1896, was one of the playwright's last. Ibsen died in 1906 after a series of strokes; he is widely considered to be among Norway's greatest writers.

The Cal Arts interpretation of "John Gabriel Borkman" will include visuals that are "all about things crumbling and deconstructing, coming down hard" on the characters, according to Anderson. "The story's the same, but the presentation and symbolism will be quite different here than what you see in other productions," she said.

With the exception of Huskey, the production is an in-house Cal Arts theater program affair, with a cast and crew of twenty students, including set and costume designers, actors, and management. It's the second production Anderson, a co-curator of the student driven space, has helped bring to fruition; she produced Chekhov's "The Seagull" last year.

"This is very high-level student work, much higher than you'd see at high school or other community college productions. At Cal Arts, we focus on experimental or avant garde approaches to theater, so you'll see things that are quite out of the ordinary," Anderson said. "We want to make the community aware that Cal Arts is here and that our productions are a viable night out for theater lovers."

Henrik Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman," debuts at Cal Arts Walt Disney Modular Theater on March 9 and will run through March 14. Play starts at 8 p.m. and runs 2 ½ hours with one intermission. Admission is free; reservations can be made online at Cal Arts is located at 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia. For more information, call (661) 255-1050.


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