Next up for PlayMakers Repertory Company is An Enemy of the People, American playwright Arthur Miller’s provocative and surprisingly timely 1950 adaptation of Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen’s incendiary drama about a reluctant whistleblower whose valiant efforts to warn his fellow citizens about a threat to their health result in his being branded as a pariah. This gala mainstage production by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s professional-theater-in-residence will preview on Feb. 25-27, officially open on Feb. 28th, and then run Tuesdays through Sundays from March 1st to March 15th in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art.
“I had heard of the play, but never had read or seen Enemy before [PlayMakers Rep producing artistic director] (Joe Haj approached me about doing it at PlayMakers,” admits PRC guest director Tom Quaintance. But Quaintance, who has previously directed The Little Prince (2008) and co-directed The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (2009) with Joseph Haj, quickly warmed up to the play.
“[An Enemy of the People] feels like it could have been written yesterday,” says Quaintance. “It is the story of science versus politics. It is the story of a whistleblower. It is the story of how money influences everything. It is the story of how the media shapes how we view the world. In today’s increasingly divided society, where people increasingly only hear the news and the spin they want to hear, it is an important play.”
Tom Quaintance, who also directed PlayMakers Summer Youth Conservatory’s presentations of Sweeney Todd, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Music Man, and Oliver!, says An Enemy of the People begins at a watershed moment for a small Norwegian town that is relying on its new municipal baths to be a big tourist attraction to reinvigorate the local economy: “Kirsten Springs is the brainchild of Dr. Thomas Stockmann (played by Michael Bryan French). This new spa has transformed a small town in Norway, which is poised to become ‘a new Carlsbad.’
“Dr. Stockmann has discovered, however, that the springs are being poisoned by toxic waste from a tannery upstream,” Quaintance explains. “His report on the subject calls for expensive renovations to the water intake.”
He adds, “[Dr. Stockmann’s] brother Peter (Anthony Newfield), the [town’s mayor and the] chairman of the board of the springs, doubts Thomas’ dire warnings of giving every guest ‘a permanent case of poisoning,’ and decides it is in the best interest of the town to suppress his brother’s findings.
“The liberal press, initially on Dr. Stockmann’s side, is swayed by the mayor’s threat of a tax to pay for the upgrades, and swings public opinion against the doctor. When Dr. Stockmann attempts to make his findings known,” Tom Quaintance says, “the town declares him an ‘Enemy of the People.'”
Besides Michael Bryan French as Dr. Thomas Stockmann and Tony Newfield as his older brother Peter Stockmann, who is the town’s mayor and his boss at the municipal baths, the show’s cast includes (in alphabetical order): David Adamson as Dr. Stockmann’s father-in-law the tanner Morten Kiil, John Allore as The Drunk, Allison Altman as Dr. Stockmann’s daughter the teacher Petra Stockmann, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as the printer Aslaksen, Benjamin Curns as People’s Daily Messenger editor Hovstad, Gregory DeCandia as People’s Daily Messenger sub-editor Billing, Julia Gibson as Dr. Stockmann’s wife Catherine, Scott McCartney Gilliam and Theo Holt as his sons Ejlif and Morton, and Derrick Ivey as Dr. Stockmann’s friend Captain Horster. The “citizens” include Daniel Bailin, Jackson Bloom, Myles Bullock, Mary Stewart Evans, William Hughes, Schuyler Scott Mastain, and Arielle Yoder.
Director Tom Quaintance notes, “Most of the play takes place in the home of Dr. Thomas Stockmann and at the office of the liberal newspaper The People’s Daily Messenger. These scenes are magnificently crafted Arthur Miller ‘realism.’ (I put that term in quotes because Miller’s plays are magnificently heightened.) There is one scene that is a public meeting. Suddenly, the play calls for a crowd that represents ‘The People.’ It is a striking switch in style and tone, and it is an outstanding challenge to present the mob in the middle of the play.”
In addition to director Tom Quaintance and PRC producing artistic director Joseph Haj, the creative team for PlayMakers Repertory Company’s rendition of An Enemy of the People includes production manager Michael Rolleri, scenic designer McKay Coble, lighting designer Charlie Morrison, costume designer Patrick Holt, sound designer Robert Dagit, vocal coach John Patrick, movement coach Craig Turner, dramaturg Gregory Kable, stage manager Sarah Smiley, and assistant stage manager Charles K. Bayang.
“[Scenic designer] McKay Coble has designed a set that is both strikingly realistic and beautifully abstract,” says director PlayMakers Rep guest Tom Quaintance. “We decided to set the play in the 1950s, as Miller’s language is clearly of that time. I also love that this play — written by [Henrik] Ibsen in 1882, adapted by Miller in 1950 — could not be more relevant today.”
He adds, “Everything the actors touch is period specific to the 1950s, but the landscape of the scenery is a more contemporary water treatment plant. It will be a set that invites the audience to consider the contemporary relevance of the play.”
Quaintance says, “The lighting will develop in the technical rehearsal process.” But he notes, “[Costume designer] Patrick Holt’s 1950s period costumes are extraordinary. His control of the color pallet and specificity of cut and style tell each character’s story.”
“This is [Henrik] Ibsen’s play on fracking and global warming,” claims Tom Quaintance. “It is [Arthur] Miller’s play on the media’s role in shaping public perception. It is a critical play for 2015.”
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25-27 (Previews), 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 (Opening Night), 2 p.m. March 1, 7:30 p.m. 3-6, 2 and 7:30 p.m. March 7, 2 p.m. March 8, 7:30 p.m. March 10-14, and 2 p.m. March 15 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15 and up. Click here for special ticket prices for UNC students, other college students), UNC faculty and staff, and U.S. military personnel and their immediate families.
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NEWS RELEASE (UNC Office of Communications and Public Affairs): http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/02/02/playmakers-presents-enemy-people-feb-25-march-15/.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be a $25-per-person ($15 for graduate students) special program, entitled “An Enemy of the People: Theater, Environmentalism, and the Meaning of Water,” persented in partnership with the UNC Program in the Humanities, on Feb. 27th and 28th.
NOTE 3: There will be an All-Access Performance performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3rd.
NOTE 4: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8th, performances.
NOTE 5: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7th (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 6: The Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions after the 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 15th, performances.
An Enemy of the People (En folkefiende) (1882 play): http://ibsen.nb.no/id/267.0 (National Library of Norway) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Enemy_of_the_People (Wikipedia).
Henrik Ibsen (Norwegian playwright, 1828-1906): http://ibsen.nb.no/id/11111004.0 (National Library of Norway), http://www.ibsensociety.liu.edu/ (Ibsen Society of America), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Ibsen (Wikipedia).
An Enemy of the People (1950 adaptation): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1795 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.).
Script/Study Guide: http://www.cis-edu.dk/uploaded/student_life/drama/enemy/enemy_miller.pdf (Copenhagen International School).
Arthur Miller (American playwright and Ibsen adapter, 1915-2005): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Miller (Wikipedia).
Tom Quaintance (PRC guest director): http://www.cfrt.org/about-us/#tab-2 (Cape Fear Regional Theatre) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/performances/embed_artist.aspx?id=46909a0a-d323-4387-b2f3-42a838889c81 (PlayMakers Repertory Company bio).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)