Emory Report
April 6, 2009
Volume 61, Number 26


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April 6
, 2009
Zany ‘Peer Gynt’ at Theater Emory

By Hunter Hanger

“What if there is no ‘true self’ for each of us to discover? What if each of us is only a sequence of choices, or a sequences of performances, perhaps even a number of simultaneous roles?”

This is the question that Theater Emory’s Artistic Director Tim McDonough posed to the cast and crew at the first rehearsal of “Peer Gynt.” Not only is McDonough directing the show, he has adapted Henrik Ibsen’s original dramatic poem into an often comedic and madcapped script for Theater Emory’s production.

“Peer Gynt” is a fitting finale for Theater Emory’s 2008-2009 season focused on “Searching for Oneself — and for that Other.” Ibsen originally wrote Peer Gynt as a dramatic poem that takes the audience everywhere from the hills and valleys of Norway to the deserts of North Africa, from a troll kingdom to a shipwreck on stormy seas. McDonough’s script is a new adaptation with contemporary language that runs approximately two hours.

Performances are 7 p.m. on April 16–18 and 22–25, and at 2 p.m. on Apr. 19 and 26 in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Dobbs University Center. Tickets ($18; Emory employees and discount category members $14; Emory students $6) are available at 404-727-5050 or www.arts.emory.edu.

Peer Gynt is a misfit who flees Norway in pursuit of big dreams leading to worldwide misadventures. “Peer has grandiose fantasies about himself and his future, he avoids commitments that could confine and entrap him while preferring to live in the freedom of his imagination and I, for one, can empathize with that,” explains McDonough. Peer struggles with maturity. “That is the primary reason we set the play on a playground — a place where young people create imaginary worlds,” he says.

This sense of play is important to McDonough in helping his cast develop their characters and bringing these exotic worlds to life. “The company will play multiple roles and every actor is setting out to discover what ties these many roles together. While we are co-creating, things can evolve and even change radically,” he adds.
Using the script as a map, McDonough encourages his actors to explore the play’s central issues while wrestling with the same inner conflicts faced by the play’s namesake.

“This production will view Peer with the same ambivalence with which we view ourselves,” McDonough concludes. “Our Peer should be a kind of every-person who is quite lost but who, to his credit, does not quit searching.”