21st Century take on a 19th Century Work

Susan Agin and the Queensborough Performing Arts Center will present Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, A DOLL’s HOUSE for an invited audience in April as part of an arts and education program.

Ibsen’s play still projects a substantial message – one of female empowerment, abuse, misogyny, and – as we look at it through the lens of post-Trump America – high crime and corruption.

Ms. Agin brought Jay Michaels aboard to direct the production. Michaels, a professor of communications and theater are various universities, is also known for his direction and production of much of Shakespeare’s canon felt right at home with Ibsen. I’m thrilled to take an active part in keeping classic works alive. Their messages are more powerful than one imagines as in so many ways, the theatre is always daring enough to educate us – even when the subject is taboo. Agreeing with him is Zara Zeidman, who appears as Helen in the production: “As a college student myself, I know first hand how important it is to be familiar with the classics and I’m very grateful for opportunities like this where I am able to explore such an essential work. A Doll’s House is a classic because it redefined how a woman’s story can be told and continues to be relevant to this day. Understanding how we got to the modern era of playwriting as well as understanding whose stories have been told and from what perspective is important for every person to understand.” Zara has this to share about the art itself: “Acting is one way in which I have been able to communicate to other people. It is so incredible to gather together and listen to one another, offering ourselves to a communal experience. It has always been a priority for me that I am able to express myself through acting, I found ways to participate in the theatre my whole life, variety shows, school plays, and my local Shakespeare in the Valley program. I feel that theatre is a space in which we learn, grow, and connect and I will continue to dedicate my life to this art form.”

Rose Zisa, another cast member shared he thoughts as a teacher, Zara takes it from the other side – as a student.  

Ibsen’s play was groundbreaking. Is it still groundbreaking today? If it is, how?  

A Doll’s House continues to be relevant because it is a commentary on our society and the constant scrutiny that women are under. It is just as important now as it was then to witness a woman overcoming the expectations put upon her and liberating herself from an abusive man. Nora caters to her husband and performs happiness and levity in order to ensure that he is comfortable, this behavior is still a part of our societal norm. A Doll’s House reminds us that the obstacles that women have overcome and reminds us of our history of addressing these challenges.

How has your role changed over the century since the play premiered? Are you a villain as opposed to a hero – or vice versa? It is more identifiable? Etc. 

My role as Helen the maid is an example of a working woman with a good job, especially during this period. Helen has achieved a lot during her life to have the position of working for this successful family. Because Helen is working, she is achieving an independence that Nora craves, but both Nora and Helen answer to Torvald. Audiences can sympathize with Helen more than they could before because we see status differently today. 

What are your next projects?  

In addition to this production I am working on Lysistrata for Kingsborough College’s Spring production, as well as assistant directing Twelfth Night for West Kortright’s Shakespeare in the Valley program. This Fall I will be attending Brooklyn College’s BFA in Acting program. I’m looking forward to reopening and the projects that follow. 

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