Emory Report

October 18, 1999

 Volume 52, No. 8

Theater Emory's Master Builder concludes Ibsen study

The road to Theater Emory's Oct. 14-30 production of Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder began in the fall of 1993. The company had produced a staged reading of Ibsen's Ghosts, adapted by playwright Arthur Kopit, who discussed his process of translating a great predecessor's work, and the idea of staging an original adaptation of Master Builder was born.

"Thirty years ago I read The Master Builder as an undergraduate and became possessed," said Vincent Murphy, artistic producing director of Theater Emory and the production's director. "What I'm uncovering in this delicious, exhausting collaboration to create this production is how acutely Ibsen's take on human motivation is buried in the intricate plotting."

Resident playwright Steve Murray was commissioned to create a new adaptation of the play through The Playwriting Center of Theater Emory. Murray's version updates the vernacular of the 1892 Norwegian work--while faithfully preserving its original tone and setting in place and time-through an interesting collaboration with Michael Evenden, chairman of the theater studies department and dramaturg for the production. Evenden used his years of Ibsen scholarship--and a limited knowledge of Norwegian--to create a study translation from which Murray worked.

In this psychological thriller, a celebrated master builder not unlike Frank Lloyd Wright devours the lives of those around him--until he meets his match in a young woman who challenges his version of reality with a contrasting version of her own. Ibsen's masterpiece explores the shifting foundation of personal realities, the ongoing struggle between youth and the establishment, and the seductive nature of power.

Tim McDonough as builder Halvard Solness leads a cast that includes veteran actor Jim Peck in a dual role, Elisa Lloyd as the builder's wife, and Emory student actor Kristen Sandberg as Hilde, the young woman pursuing Solness. The cast is rounded out by Emory student actors Tom Fish and Destiny Lloyd, and local actress Eva Schultz as a young girl, a figure added by director Murphy.

The Master Builder concludes Theater Emory's six-year investigation into the works of Ibsen, who is widely considered the "father of modern theater" for the cycle of 12 prose plays that concluded his career. He adapted the play construction of popular French playwright Eugene Scribe's "well-made play"­-complex plotting, buildup of suspense, climactic resolution scene, happy ending­-but instilled ironic subtlety with the use of more sophisticated psychological content. Ibsen's deepest conviction about the transforming power of truth and freedom was the subject of exploration in the prose play cycle that began with Pillars of Society in 1877. Ibsen died in Oslo, Norway, in 1906 following a series of strokes.

Designers for The Master Builder are Judy Winograd for costumes, Judy Zanotti for sound and lighting and Bill Zimmerman for the set. Zimmerman is the designer of the Black Rose, Emory's replica Elizabethan playhouse where the play will be staged. He has made architectural and structural modifications to the Black Rose specifically for this production.

Tickets for Master Builder are $14 general admission; $12 students, seniors and Emory faculty and staff; $6 Emory students. For tickets or information, call 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to <boxoffice@emory.edu>.

-Deb Hammacher

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