Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll's House premiered in 1879 in Denmark. It was set in the Norway of the late nineteenth century. Why care about a play that is more than 130 years old?
A Doll's House speaks to the universal issue of a woman’s identity in a male-dominated society. Women in all societies, all cultures still have conformity thrust upon them, just like Ibsen’s Nora did, more than a century ago. Which is why A Doll's House is a timeless classic. It is one of the most performed plays in the world after Shakespeare.
When I decided to direct the play, I wanted to set A Doll's House in a South Asian setting in the Bay Area. I wanted the play to feel real. I wanted the audience to be able to relate to the characters. I wanted them to go "Oh, I know know someone like her". I couldn’t find any scripts that were in English but in a South Asian context. So I set out to write my own adaptation.
There was another reason to why I wrote the adaptation. Many of us are under the illusion that since our community in the Bay Area is typically college educated and well heeled, and because we live in a progressive part of the world, South Asian women here don’t bear the burden of our patriarchy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We carry our patriarchy from our motherlands. We preserve and nurture it. We cling to our traditions, for better or worse. I hope my adaptation of A Doll's House serves as a pin prick to the balloon of this illusion.
My adaptation stays true to the Ibsen original, in the broad arc of the plot. But I had to diverge considerably to make it suitable for an Indian-American context. The characters are very “Indian” and also very "Bay Area".
Directing a play that you have written yourself is quite a different experience. The script becomes a labile thing - constantly changing as I hear the lines being spoken and realize they should be written differently. Cast members gave a lot of feedback which greatly improved the script. And there were plain gotchas, like when I realized there wasn’t enough time for a costume change and had to add lines.
I have a great cast and crew and they made my job easy and greatly rewarding.
I hope you’ll come to see A DOLL’S HOUSE. If you do, please drop us line and let us know what you thought about it. It opens this weekend. For tickets click here.
– Basab Pradhan