A Doll’s House on campus
Play revisits timeless issues as Markey '84 revisits home
“I was born a feminist,” says Kathryn Markey ’84, a New-York-based actor/director and longtime Saint Michael’s Playhouse favorite who is back on campus to direct Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House — this year’s Spring Mainstage theater production at the college that formed and focused both the director and her feminism.
The play will be presented March 6, 7, 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. in the McCarthy Theater at Saint Michael’s College, with free admission through Eventbrite at this link: dollsmc.eventbrite.com
Markey said that 140 years after its premiere, Ibsen’s masterwork remains a relevant, thought-provoking and often unsettling examination of women and men, marriage and power, economic freedom and domestic entrapment. She said this production, adapted by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey and Kirsten Brandt with translation by Harvey, helps us consider “how far we have come – and how far we have yet to go.”
The director — also an experienced actor, comedy writer, musician, voice artist and acting teacher whose recent project starring Amy Stiller was featured in The New York Times — said that in 19th Century Europe (the play’s setting), the lives of women were marked by limited rights and opportunities. Faced with a dire emergency, the main character Nora Helmer breaks with both tradition and the law by borrowing money without her husband’s consent. As the play begins, we enter Nora’s world as the consequences of this decision threaten to destroy both her life and her family.
“Growing up on and around the campus of Saint Michael’s College where my father spent his entire career here as Director of Athletics,” Markey said, “I was always watching events and cultural phenomena through the lens of the College. As a teenager, I was deeply affected by The Women in Society Symposium that took place at Saint Michael’s in 1979, which was organized by English Professor Carey Kaplan, among others. Carey became a mentor to me in my own English studies.
“Of the many exceptional teachers I had at the college, no one was more influential on my thinking,” Markey said of Kaplan, “and her scholarship about the roles of women in literature, art and the world remain my guide and standard. Every idea I have, every piece of work I have created in my career carry questions and ideas about the depiction of women’s lives.
‘Ironically and beautifully, 35 years after leaving this school, I am returning to tackle A Doll’s House,” she said. “To work on this play at this moment in time, particularly with young people on the threshold of adult life, has been gratifying, eye opening and challenging.”
She told how every day this semester, she and her cast and crew for A Doll’s House wrestle with the technical demands of the text and with presenting the complex plot in an understandable way. “But even more importantly, we as a collaborative group are talking about the issues we address, and struggling to put them in the context of our own lives,” she said. “Why does Nora lie? Why does Torvald treat her like a child? Must a woman attach herself to a man? Is the raising of children enough to fill one’s life with meaning? Is it possible for people to live full and happy lives when inequality is both tradition and law?”
Markey said that in the process of rehearsing and decoding this play, “we have had to consider many perspectives and research the historical framework of Ibsen’s Norway in the 19th century. We are finding that things have changed quite a bit since then. And we are also finding that things are exactly the same. We hope that audiences will join us in considering how far we have come – and how far we have yet to go.”
Peter Harrigan of the Saint Michael’s Fine Arts/Theatre Department, who usually is the College’s Mainstage Production director, said he and his department invited Markey to direct A Doll’s House based on what they knew to be her special interests and strengths alongside her familiarity with the College and its theater world. She’ll also teach two theater courses during the semester.
Harrigan mentioned a serendipitous connection that might add to local audience interest in this coming Saint Michael’s production. “A Doll’s House is a revolutionary 19th century work that ends with a woman taking control of her destiny in the ‘door slam heard ’round the world,” he said, “and coincidentally, Vermont Stage in late January and early February produced the recent ‘sequel’ A Doll’s House Part 2, so they may have created a thirst for local audiences to experience the original. We shall see!”
He said Markey recently directed a project with the New York actor Amy Stiller – sister of the popular actor Ben Stiller and daughter of the comedy team of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara – a project that was profiled in The New York Times.
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
at Saint Michael’s College from March 6 through 9:
PRODUCTION TEAM: Directed by Kathryn Markey; scenic and lighting design by John Paul Devlin; costume design by Peter Harrigan; properties design by John Jacob; sound designed by Ian Underwood; production stage manager, Kelly Champlain ’20; assistant stage manager, Hazel Kieu ’22
CAST: Nora – Molly Lovell ’19; Town Porter – Oliver Hogan ’22; Helene – Katie Ort ’20; Torvald Helmer – Keaton Barry ’22; Mrs. Linde – Ava Magoon ’22; Anne-Marie – Corban Ridlon ’22; Krogstad – Caleb Roman ’20; Dr. Rank – Jeremy Mikaelson ’19.