What is your role on this production? My name is Alex Hawkins, and I am the director of A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, the first show of the 2017-2018 Walterdale Theatre season. I submitted this play to the Walterdale Artistic Director and Board earlier this year, and I am very pleased that it was chosen for the season. One of the reasons is that this play is often misunderstood as an old-fashioned, talky, domestic drama, featuring an oppressed doll-wife, a nasty husband, an even nastier villain, and an avuncular family friend who secretly has designs on the doll-wife. But Henrik Ibsen was not only a good playwright; he was an extraordinarily gifted playwright, whose characters are complex, emotionally rich, textured with multiple motivations. The situation in the play between Nora the wife and Torvald the husband is subtle and complicated, as is the character of Krogstad, whose actions toward Nora come out of desperation and despair, and not from some sort of evil plot to oppress her. Nora and Krogstad actually share in the same back-story, and are more alike than they are different. And the avuncular Dr. Rank is a genuine friend to Nora, but his clumsy yet well-intentioned effort to help her fails, and she is left to solve her own crisis. My job as director was to manage a number of things: to work with designers to determine the nature and look of the physical theatre space; to work with the production team to manage the progress of the characters — and the audience’s gaze — through that space; and to work with the actors to help them come to a rich understanding of their characters and their moment-by-moment progress through their story.
What is your background in theatre? At Walterdale? I started in theatre in high school, by acting and singing roles in three Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and I was exclusively interested in musicals for my first four years of theatre. Then in the Spring of 1965, I took a role as a “singing monk” in a production of the play Luther by John Osborne, at the MAC Theatre in Calgary — and I never looked back. I have been committed to non-musical theatre ever since. After studying theatre in university and graduate school, I have been in Edmonton since 1979, teaching drama at the UofA until my retirement in 2013. Since 2004, I have directed seven plays at Walterdale Theatre. For the past 13 years, I have been delighted to work in this wonderful community theatre, with so many talented and committed theatre workers — university/college students; Walterdale veterans; young people with an eye toward professional theatre; people from a wide variety of professions doing theatre at nights and on weekends; and many others. It is a rich, diverse, dedicated, talented, and skilled community. And the physical building, although somewhat small and unassuming, is extraordinarily well-equipped technically, with a wonderfully personal theatre space, and audiences that experience theatre close-up and intimate.
What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show? I wanted to deliver a well-known, but often misunderstood, modern classic play by one of theatre history’s greatest playwrights to an audience that I hope will see and appreciate the richness and complexity of the characters and their situations. I hope that audiences will be surprised at how relevant the play is to issues of class and gender conflict in our society today.