Timeless conflict is told through modern media in Taylor’s production of “An Enemy of the People.”
In Hendrick Ibsin’s 1882 play, Dr. Thomas Stockmann publishes a newspaper article revealing the local spa water is contaminated, launching his town into a world of debate. At Taylor, the story has been adapted to the modern day.
This adaptation occurred largely because Director and Assistant Professor of Theatre Tracy Manning wanted more female roles than the original play had. The modern day setting also allowed for more creative exploration.
As part of the update, much of the information comes through various forms of social media, including text messages and Facebook posts.
Manning hopes that through this adaptation, the audience will consider the complexities of how information is shared and discussed in our world today.
“I'm not trying to tell people what to think about it,” Manning said. “I'm just trying to present it as ‘this is how this works.’ What we're going to do about it is something I think people have to talk about after the play’s over.”
The nature of the play has already sparked lots of conversation amongst the cast.
Sophomore Eleana Manning plays Harley Stockmann, daughter of Dr. Stockmann. She appreciates how realistically the play portrays the aspects of modern communication that often go unnoticed. Together, the cast has asked questions about what the tension media causes looks like realistically, such as trying to be present while anxiously waiting for an important phone call.
Eleana Manning feels that she’s also personally learned from her character. Harley is a vocal and confident person who often speaks up whenever she sees an injustice. While that does not come naturally to Eleana, she has found inspiration in Harley’s voice.
On the other hand, senior Brielle Fowlkes has learned the opposite from her character. She plays Kate Stockmann, wife to Dr. Stockmann. While Fowlkes usually is comfortable with being confrontational, she has grown to admire the quiet and graceful strength of Kate.
Fowlkes thinks the lessons learned through the plot and the characters are applicable to anyone in the audience.
“What do you do with them — that person who's across from you who is hurt and who is or offended?” Fowlkes said. “How do you reconcile your own intentions and your own ego and your own pride to keep a relationship where it should be and to restore it?”
The cast explored some of these ideas through compositions. In one composition, they sat around a shared meal and force-fed one another, symbolizing information. The table, originally a symbol of communion, was destroyed.
Fowlkes reflects on how good intentions don’t mean the actions and communication were good. She sees every character as having good intentions.
“It doesn't even matter what your intentions may mean,” Fowlkes said. “What matters is the person that you're sitting across from and how they took what you said.”
Eleana Manning encourages the viewer to come with an open mind and to not draw immediate conclusions about the morality of the characters.
Tracy Manning hopes that this play will be impactful and helpful to Taylor’s campus. She hopes people do not mindlessly consume it, but use critical thinking in the experience.
“We need serious contemplative people who can think deeply about the world, and engage in conversation,” Tracy Manning said. “We have a really great opportunity at a place like Taylor, to have those conversations if we're willing to.”
“An Enemy of the People” will be showing in Mitchell Theater March 6–7 at 7:30 p.m. and March 8 at 2 p.m.