Hal Cropp could have been talking about the current election campaign when he said, “There’s a great deal of humor, intended and unintended.”
Instead, he was talking primarily about Henrik Ibsen’s play, “The League of Youth,” which, now that you mention it, is about an election campaign that mirrors the current one.
“The League of Youth” is about an election campaign in a rural, Norwegian town. One candidate, Stensgaard, presents himself as an idealist intent on changing things for the better. The reality is something quite different.
That’s the dark side. The lighter side is that “The League of Youth” is, as Cropp said, “Ibsen’s only satirical comedy.”
The play debuted in 1869 and was the first Ibsen script not to be written in verse. “This was a significant departure for him,” Cropp said.
The Commonweal had planned to stage Jeffrey Hatcher’s new adaptation of “The League of Youth” before the current election began to take its unpredictable turn. In the end, the alignment of play and headlines couldn’t be more serendipitous.
But, Cropp said, “We’re really trying to tamp down the obvious. There are parallels and similarities, but they don’t line up easily.”
Gary Danciu is featured as Stensgaard, with fellow Commonweal ensemble members Scott Dixon, David Hennessey, Megan K. Pence, Brandt Roberts and Ben Gorman in the cast. They are joined by guest artist Miriam Monasch and apprentice actors Abbie Cathcart and Elizabeth Dunn.
Cropp said he has urged Danciu to look beyond the current crop of candidates when crafting his Stensgaard. “I’ve asked Gary to look at the really great orators of our civilization,” Cropp said.
For those who might normally find Ibsen too heavy to digest after a dark winter, Cropp has cheerful news. “I think people will be pleasantly surprised at the level of humor in this play,” he said.
And, unlike the current election campaign, you won’t have to live with the consequences of Stensgaard’s run for office.
The annual Ibsen Fest activities run April 15-17 while “The League of Youth” will continue through June 11.
Ibsen Fest looks at world of politics
Henrik Ibsen’s “The League of Youth,” which is presented as this year’s Ibsen Fest production at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, concerns a political campaign.
So, it’s natural that some of this year’s Ibsen Fest events will address politics and campaigns.
“I can’t wait to see the political cartoons,” said Hal Cropp, executive director of the Commonweal.
Those would be the cartoons of Kevin Siers, of the Charlotte Observer newspaper. Siers, a Minnesota native, won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 2014, and will give a talk, “Political Satire: The Lies That Tell the Truth,” at 6 p.m. April 16 at the Commonweal. Siers will show examples of his work, and talk about how newspaper editorial cartoons fit into modern political satire.
The Ibsen Fest keynote address, “Ibsen and Political Commentary,” will be by Andrew Friedman, a Ph.D., candidate at the City University of New York, and lecturer on Ibsen at NYU’s Tisch School of Drama. His talk is at 1 p.m. April 16 at the Commonweal.
A selection of other Ibsen Fest events:
- The Young Voice in the World of Politics, a panel discussion by young politicians from the area, at 1 p.m. April 16.
- Kaffeepause, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 16. Coffee and Norwegian treats in the Commonweal Events Hall.
- Political campaign memorabilia will be on display at the Commonweal throughout the weekend.
- “To be a Poet is to See,” a three-dimensional exhibit exploring Ibsen’s work, a gift from the Norwegian government, on display through the entire run of “The League of Youth.”
- Rosemaling exhibit at the Lanesboro Historical Museum. Fifty pieces from the collection of Hjordis Nordstrom of Lanesboro.
What: Henrik Ibsen’s “The League of Youth”
When: Opens at 7:30 p.m. April 16, runs through June 11
Where: Commonweal Theatre
Tickets: $35; 800-657-7025