THE YEAR IS 1830
and you are Dr. Meisner, the medical officer at the spa of Teiplitz. There is an outbreak of cholera, and you feel it is your duty to warn the public. As a result, the season is ruined and the citizens of Teiplitz become so enraged that they stone your house and force you to flee the town.
Fri Aug 17 at 1:30 pm in Room A
An Enemy Of The People by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Arthur Miller
To engage in a gripping drama of the conflict between one’s duty to Society and one’s desire to continue living a comfortable existence.
Fast forward to 1881. You are Harald Thaulow, a Norwegian chemist. For nearly ten years, you have attacked the Christiania Steam Kitchens for neglecting their duty towards the city’s poor. You have just attempted to read a prepared speech at the annual general meeting of the Steam Kitchens. The chairman of the meeting tried to prevent you from speaking and eventually the public forced you to withdraw.
These two events were reality. Meisner and Thaulow were real people and the events really happened. Enter only a year later the playwright Henrik Ibsen and his play, An Enemy Of The People. His protagonist, Dr. Stoddard, discovers that the waters in the town’s spa are contaminated by passing through the grounds of a nearby tannery. He naively expects that the town will be grateful to him for publicizing this fact before the spa’s many customers become seriously ill. Instead, his fate is similar to that of Meisner and Thaulow. Dramatic tension is increased by the fact that the mayor of the town is Stoddard’s brother, and his father-in-law owns the tannery.
Ibsen’s play was a sensation in its day. I was entranced by the drama of its almost too realistic plot, but found the play rather slow-moving and its ending somewhat diffuse. Apparently Arthur Miller, author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, felt the same way. In 1951 he turned his great talent to a reworking of Ibsen’s play. It’s as relevant today as it was a century ago. Virtually guaranteed to make any good UU furious!
Years ago I saw Ken Ruta in the leading role at the Old Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis; Thespians read it back in ’04; I’m really looking forward to reading it again in August. Care to join me? Send me an email, give me a call, or just show up at one of our three readings.
– Philip Hodge
Chair of UUCPA Thespians