Twenty years ago, a pledge was made. A pledge to a playwright and his works. A pledge to an audience base. A pledge to a company of artists that, for the foreseeable future, the works of that one playwright would be produced on an annual basis. Countless other things have come and gone but that pledge remained strong.
This season at the Commonweal, we celebrate both the pledge and the fact that the pledge is now considered fulfilled. It has been an honor for this company to stage the plays, both original and adaptations, of Henrik Ibsen for past 20 years. As we say adieu to that commitment, members of the Commonweal ensemble have been asked a question: “what is your strongest memory or fun fact about the company’s connection to Ibsen? I hope you’ll find these to be a good read and if they inspire any of your own memories…please share!
Stela Burdt: I met my husband (Scott Dixon) during rehearsals of Enemy of the People in January 2001. Rehearsals were at Luther College, as we had students in the production. We got to know each other over the drives back and forth between Lanesboro and Decorah.
Scott Dixon: One of my favorite Ibsen experiences was directing Enemy of the People in 2011, ten years after appearing in it in 2001—my Commonweal debut.
Eric Lee: When We Dead Awaken is the very first Ibsen production I’ve been involved in. It is an honor to be a part of the final Ibsen Festival, as a part of a 20-year tradition.
Philip Muehe: I saw Adrienne perform the title role in Hedda Gabler when I was in high school, and in college, I wrote my Theatre History II capstone paper about groundbreaking female protagonists…Hedda won.
Abbie Cathcart: I got to try lefse, Gjetost cheese (omg so good), Aquavit, and pickled herring (no me gusta) for the first time at last year’s festival!
Ben Gorman: The Wild Duck (2005), which also toured. I played the usually drunk, wry Dr. Relling, taking over the role a month into the production from Patrick Bailey; also played Werle’s house servant Pettersen. We toured upstate, including Fergus Falls MN, and a few of us did a day trip over to Fargo ND—in my case, just so I could say I’d been there.
Adrienne Sweeney: An Ibsen was my very first show here at the Commonweal—An Enemy of the People, 2001. It was also the first Ibsen play I had ever done. AND…my first of TWENTY THREE shows with Scott Dixon! (WHA???)
Hal Cropp: Of the Ibsen productions in our 20-year history, I have performed in nine, directed seven, adapted one (The Wild Duck) and am the only member of the company who has been here for all twenty.
David Hennessey: Former resident company member Irene Erkenbrack Green and I have a record we suspect few actors can match. We have appeared together in separate productions of the rarely performed Peer Gynt: once at Luther College, 2003; once here, 2008.
Brandt Roberts: The Master Builder was my first exposure to Ibsen in college and my first Ibsen production at the Commonweal. Japanese shadow puppets have been an interest of mine and I got to play with shadow puppets in The Master Builder.
Bailey Otto: I have stage managed one-quarter of the productions during this commitment.
Megan Pence: My first stage kiss (A Doll’s House). My first stage death (Brand). My first (but possibly not my last) time appearing in only undergarments on stage (The League of Youth).
Jeremy van Meter: The first Commonweal play that my wife Catherine Glynn and I appeared in together as ensemble members was Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Pillars of Society. We played brother and sister—true willing suspension of disbelief!