A Doll House


This past March the A Doll House company spent two weeks as artists in residence at The Marble House Project in Vermont. Our company of 11 (5 actors, director, choreographer, composer, dramaturg, production designer and stage manager) spent each snowed-in day exploring the depths of Royston Coppenger's new translation, A Doll House, of Ibsen's prolific play.

With the 1879 opening of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House in Copenhagen, stakes were raised and the theatrical landscape of text, character and performance was forever changed, probing the overall inequities between men and women as well as the import of self-actualization and fulfillment. Delving into the themes of the complexities and intimacies of a marriage, A Doll House not only scandalized the theatre in its time but continues to tangibly and poignantly reverberate today. The play’s proven relevance era after era, speaking to audiences decade after decade, has made it one of the most produced plays in history.

Ibsen had to endure unauthorized rewrites of the final scene as theatres throughout Europe attempted to avoid scandal while also creating a more profitable and acceptable 'happy' ending. Due to outmoded copyright laws and societal pressure, these alterations went on for years as the play, in its original version, continued to be banned. 

Today, Royston Coppenger is handling the intricacies of this compelling text, delivering a striking, radical script that not only serves the original spirit of the play and the true depth of these characters but also the artistic vision of The Private Theatre.


For more than two years, The Private Theatre has been in pursuit of a new articulation of A Doll House. Initially, we commissioned a more contemporary sounding translation by Royston Coppenger.  While exploring this new translation two summers ago at the Dorset Theatre Festival, we emerged with a script that wholly represents the historical and cultural sources of the play but nevertheless feels as though it readily applies to contemporary life.

In A Doll House, personal corruption leads to a prevalent perversity of behavior. Our aim is to ensure that the pathologies of Nora and Torvald’s marriage will not only be recognized but also palpably felt in performance. The discovery beyond language itself involved crafting a layered language for performance, music, choreography and production design. The realization of such intricacies and aspects required a unique opportunity of space, time and accommodation. The specifics of these requirements led to our application to the Marble House Project. We were accepted the first year they offered a Collaboration Residency and with the support of very generous benefactors, we were able to journey to Marble House as a team. 


Throughout these nine days, we reinvented Nora’s pivotal dance of the Tarantella both musically and choreographically. Five characters were choreographed through the intuitive skill and body of one actor. A set design was conceived and the play rehearsed in that configuration for most of those nine days. We took a giant step in advancing the characterizations of each of the figures in the play as well as developing a gestural world for the play, and a musical world that will live throughout the performance. The opportunity to tackle such an enormous amount of work would not have been possible without Marble House Project and the support of our friends who made it possible.

As development continues from this rich space of discovery and convergence, we will continue to communicate updates as we advance towards production in 2019.