Donna Spencer shares some thoughts on Re-Visioning An Enemy of the People in the Firehall’s new production of THE ENEMY.

Question:  Why did you choose to adapt Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People? 

There were many themes within Ibsen’s 1882 play  I felt were important and worthy of exploring in 2018 and in the review of many translations as well as Arthur Miller’s 1950 adaptation, I chose those that I felt would resonate in today’s world.  I did not choose to explore the male Dr. Stockman’s sexism, egotism and arrogance within the script as I felt that those truths have and are being recognized on a daily basis and exhibited by those in politics and in populist media.  Sexism, arrogance and egotism is out there in all aspects of society and frankly, I felt in writing the work that it is old and somewhat tired news that just keeps on and on so why focus on that.  What did intrigue me about the work was the discussion of individual voice, power, majority rights and water contamination.  And, I wanted to look at those elements through the lens of a female Dr. Stockman.

Question:    Why do you call the play The Enemy?

I felt it was important not to call the play An Enemy of the People because I did not want audiences to think they were coming to Ibsen’s play.   I wanted them to understand that I had drawn on Ibsen’s original work as a catalyst to create a new work that would stimulate discussion about the themes of the work.

Question:   Why a female Dr. Stockman?   Why not?

At the time the play was written, women did not have the vote and were considered to be chattels of their husbands and the doors were pretty much closed to women who might have wanted to become doctors. Today, thankfully, we have moved forward and women have moved into the fields of medicine and science.  In the case of the practice of family medicine in smaller communities, a large majority of those in practice are indeed female.  Further, I wanted to explore how a female doctor’s credibility would be put in question, when she did bring forward scientific findings.  And as, many female activists and political leaders have found,   when they speak passionately, or show emotion, they are often called to question.  In The Enemy, Dr. Stockman is reminded to stay calm, referred to as being crazy and high-strung as she argues for the truth of her scientific findings to be taken seriously.

In addition, we have wonderful strong female actors in Vancouver and they do not get the opportunity that often to play really meaty roles.  So I wanted to increase opportunities for female artists while making sure that we do not continue the assumption that all decision makers in small communities would be men.  Four members of the cast of nine are women and in future productions there are certainly other roles that could be played by men.

Question:   You drew on the original names of the characters in Ibsen’s play – did you ever consider changing them?

Yes, I did, indeed consider that and have changed the names slightly.  This work was stimulated by Mr. Ibsen’s original play, and I felt that it was important to honour the characters he created in some manner so we have Mayor Stockman not Mayor Stockmann;   Martin Kell instead of Morten Keil, etc. etc.

The Enemy plays November 10 – December 1. Visit our online box office or call us at 604-689-0926 for tickets today!