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November 17, 2017

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Seniors McKenzie Hare and Clayton Marcum starred as the main roles in Manchester University's annual fall production, written by Henrik Ibsen and directed by Kira Lace Hawkins.

'A Doll's House' Offers Commentary on Traditional Stereotypes 


Kylie Kroger 



"A Doll's House," Manchester University Theater's fall play, debuted to a full house in Wampler Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 10. The room was filled with students and members of the North Manchester community alike to take in the first of three performances that weekend.

Henrik Ibsen's play tells the story of Nora Helmer, played by senior McKenzie Hare, and her husband Torvald Helmer, played by senior Clayton Marcum. The plot largely deals with the internal and external conflict afflicting Nora and her fulfilling her role as a woman of her time. Throughout the play, Nora struggles with her desire to be an active member of her own life, and make decisions that affect her life and the lives of those that she cares about, in this case, her father and her husband.

Hare brought a fiery life to Nora, most notably in the final scene of the production, where Nora decides to leave her husband and children in order to find her own identity, which up until this scene, has been overpowered by her duties of being a mother and a wife. Nora represents the face of many women, trying to define themselves within the confines of their culture and the traditional stereotypes that often fall around wives and mothers. She proves to hold a world of complexities within her and proves to be anything but a simple stereotype.

As for Marcum, he disappeared into his character, leaving the crowd speechless, especially in some of the more intense scenes. Torvald is a rather traditional man, and takes his role as head of the household quite seriously. His perception of Nora is that she needs guidance on nearly everything, and refers to her as different types of birds throughout the production, minimizing her to some delicate creature rather than his wife. Marcum committed to his role and sold his performance from start to finish.

The script largely centers on Nora's financial indiscretion and her efforts to try to keep the truth from her husband. The plot builds to a final showdown between Nora and Torvald, with Nora's notable line, "Before all else, I am a human being," which received praise from the audience on all sides of the auditorium.

The production was directed by Kira Lace Hawkins, who states in the program notes that after a trip in 2012 to Norway, which is where Ibsen hails from, she was excited by the idea of directing one of his plays.

While Hawkins writes that Ibsen referred to himself as a "Humanist, not a Feminist," she does recognize that this production comes at an interesting time with regard to commenting on women's place within society. "This play is also devastatingly timely given the current conversation surrounding misogyny in America," wrote Hawkins in her program notes.

As for the audience members, they were left to decide for themselves if Nora was justified in her final decision at the end of the production.

"'A Doll's House' was extremely controversial when it premiered in 1879, and audiences remain divided in opinion when it comes to Nora's actions at the end of the play," Hawkins said. "I remain thankful for the questions raised and conversations inspired by this play."