Seattle Rep’s A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2 – Beyond the Theater

Have you ever wondered what became of a beloved or engaging literary character after the last page turns, or the curtain falls? What happens next? In his award-winning play A Doll’s House, Part 2 – playing at the Seattle Repertory Theater from March 15 to April 28, 2019 – Lucas Hnath applies this curiosity to one of the most startling and provocative endings in all of theater, when Nora Helmer walks out on her husband and family in Henrik Ibsen’s epochal 1879 play A Doll’s House, slamming the door behind her.

Hnath isn’t the first contemporary author to imagine sequels to classic titles.  P.D. James threw a homicidal wrench in the happily-ever-after ending of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with her period mystery Death Comes to Pemberley. Eoin Colfer took a suitably irreverent approach to his hilarious sequel And Another Thing: Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Part Six of Three. In cases where everybody dies at the end, there’s always the prequel, such as with John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius, which provides a more sympathetic take on Hamlet’s mother and father-in-law to be, or Jean Rhys classic Wide Sargasso Sea, a post-colonial prequel to Jane Eyre which explores the life of Charlotte Brontë’s ‘madwoman in the attic,’ prior to her life in England as Bertha.

Hedwig Niemann-Raabe, the German Nora who refused to leave her family

Still, there’s something about the abrupt, open-ended ending to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that invites speculation about how things might wind up after the curtain goes down, or if things had gone a different way. In fact, this is not the first time time the play has been revamped. Nora’s final act was so controversial that when the play finally appeared on stage outside of Norway, the leading actress refused to walk out on her family, obliging Ibsen to write a new ending in which Nora decides to and stay, sinking to the floor in tears at the thought she would leave her children “Motherless! Motherless!” Popular Victorian playwright Henry Arthur Jones staged Breaking a Butterfly, a decidedly melodramatic bizarro version of the play in which the wife is a silly thing, and the husband a hero. And then there was Eleanor Marx, the pioneering feminist daughter of Karl Marx who championed Ibsen, and co-wrote (with Israel Zangwill) a own sequel to A Doll’s House – A Doll’s House Repaired  – which ends with Torvald slamming the bedroom door on a contrite Nora.

Eleanor Marx, who brought Nora back home

Both parts of A Doll’s House remain timely and provocative, inviting discussion and further reading. Check our our full list of recommended reading to enhance and extend your experience of Hnath’s and Ibsen’s plays. Here you’ll find filmed versions of A Doll’s House, histories of marriage and of the feminist pursuit of happiness; and various tales of ‘unruly women,’ both fictional and factual.

    ~ Posted by David W.

The Feminist and the Axe Murderer

Susan Glaspell was just 24, working her first job out of college as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News when she was called to the scene of a grisly crime that would shape her artistic destiny. Late on the night of December 1, 1900, John Hossack had been bludgeoned to death with an axe as he lay in bed. Margaret, his wife of 33 years, slept on beside him during the murder, or so she claimed.

Despite her children’s protests, she was arrested and charged with murder. The trial became a sensation, and Glaspell’s reporting on the case and its surprising outcome was eagerly devoured well beyond Iowa. To say that the case became a referendum on domestic abuse would be to rewrite history, but the sympathies aroused by the stoic Margaret Hossack were indicative of a gradual change in the popular understanding of women’s rights and legal status. Continue reading “The Feminist and the Axe Murderer”

Feminist Slam

Some of my favorite slam poetry fixes come from Button Poetry, founded in 2011 by Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder, who were shortly joined by Rachele Cermak and Heidi Lear. They launched the first Button website and blog.

Sierra DeMulder was the first to pull me in with her poem “Today Means Amen,” from her poetry book with the same title.

Continue reading “Feminist Slam”

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: Black Radical Feminist

It’s black history month, the perfect time to read about social justice trailblazers both celebrated and forgotten. Margo Jefferson’s wonderful memoir, Negroland, about growing up in a wealthy, elite African American family in the 1940s and ’50s, was my first introduction to Florynce “Flo” Kennedy, an outspoken black feminist who inspired Jefferson and many others. Continue reading “Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: Black Radical Feminist”

Have you heard of the #LemonadeSyllabus?

lemonade-syllabusWhen Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade was released this past April, it became an internet sensation. But did you hear about the amazing resource, titled the Lemonade Syllabus, which was inspired by it?

After many people across the world watched Beyoncé’s visual album, writer and educator Candice Benbow wanted to find a way to continue the conversation around the album’s themes of Black female empowerment and feminism. So Benbow started the hashtag “#LemonadeSyllabus” and asked that Black women around the world use the hashtag to suggest songs, books, film and poetry that were “primarily by Black women- that they believe best accompanied Lemonade and spoke to the essence of Black womanhood in its historical and contemporary manifestations.”  Continue reading “Have you heard of the #LemonadeSyllabus?”