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DIY Theatre presents modern, Albertan adaptation of A Doll’s House

By Troy Hasselman, March 29 2019 —

The characters from Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 realist masterpiece A Doll’s House  will trade in their top hats and Victorian garb for plaid and belt buckles for DIY Theatre’s presentation of A Doll’s House: Wild Rose. The production moves the setting of the work from a Norwegian town in the 1870s to modern-day Alberta. 

The work uses an Albertan setting and an all-Albertan cast to breathe new life into Ibsen’s work.

Speaking to the Gauntlet, Kristy Benz, noted how her upbringing in Alberta has helped with her preparation for the role of an updated, Albertan version of Kristine Linde, with the spelling of the character’s name being changed to the Anglicanized Christine for the play.

“I grew up in Cochrane and, at the time, it was a homogenous environment and pretty conservative. I think being raised there definitely helped me understand where these characters are coming from,” Benz says. “Especially knowing how quickly things are changing in Alberta right now.”

Benz has spent a considerable amount of time away from the their since being raised here and considers herself a newcomer. She hopes to see arts take a more central role in the city.

“I had about a 10-year period where I was out of province so I really only have about a year and a half experience in the Calgary theatre scene,” she says. “I feel there is definitely an appreciation for the arts here, but I also feel we could be doing a lot more to support the arts in our city.”

The play’s change in time and place also impacts the characters, with Benz noting stark differences in her character.

“Ibsen’s original is a widow who is quite destitute, just getting by on the work that she can get,” Benz says. “In our adaptation, Christine is now a recent divorcée working in public relations. She’s still very industrious and adaptable but I’d say she’s not as conservative and timid as the Kristine from the original.”

These changes to the script have an impact on Benz’ approach towards playing the character.

“Part of the adaptation process is that the character’s intentions have changed. It’s not necessarily the same person we know from Ibsen’s original,” she says. “In a sense, I’m trying to forget what I knew about her, and try and bring a new one to life.”

Ibsen’s original work deals heavily with themes of gender roles and societal expectations for women, which caused a sensation upon its première in 1879, in a time where women weren’t even allowed the right to vote. Benz notes that there has been progress in women’s rights since Ibsen’s time but there is still much to the play that is very relevant and there is still a great deal of progress to be made.

“Because we have come so far in terms of women’s rights since then, it can be easy to forget that women are still expected to behave in certain ways and maintain certain images,” she says. “I think in this adaptation we’re holding a mirror up to modern-day gender standards and we’re showing that even though we have come far in many ways there are still many areas where women are treated undesirably and put into poisonous situations.”

A Doll’s House: Wild Rose runs at the Motel Theatre in Arts Commons from April 5–13. Tickets are $25 per person and available through the DIY Theatre website.

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