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5 Questions with Krista Jackson from ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2.’

By Keith Tomasek, March 21, 2019

Krista Jackson is directing the Toronto production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” that runs from March 23 until April 14 at the CAA Theatre on Yonge Street.

The American Theatre magazine reports that “A Doll’s House Part 2” was the most-produced play in the U.S. during the 2018-19 theatre season and that its 39-year old playwright, Lucas Hnath, was the most-produced playwright.

With glowing reviews, including these words from Ben Brantley in the New York Times, “smart, funny and utterly engrossing” and from The Guardian’s
Alexis Soloski “a brisk and brainy sequel,” “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is definitely a “must see” during the Toronto run.

The Toronto cast includes Stratford and Shaw favourites Deborah Hay and Kate Hennig.

Jackson, a recipient of Stratford’s Jean Gascon Award and the Gina Wilkinson Prize for Emerging Female directors, is currently the associate artistic director at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg and has worked at both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals.

Deborah Hay and Kate Hennig. Photo by Leif Norman
 

1) The dialogue is fast-paced, salty and modern, but the costumes and set are of the period of the original “A Doll’s House.” How does that juxtaposition influence your work?

Yes. Lucas Hnath is playful with audience expectations in the play and this juxtaposition is the first way he does it. In the opening few lines, we see one thing and hear the opposite. It sets us up for how it all will work.

Hnath says in his costume note at the beginning of the play: “Period, more or less.” We were mindful to attack the play from a contemporary viewpoint and physicality; to make the arguments live in 2019 but within the walls of a sparse room in 1894 Norway. We chose to use the actors’ own hair – even if the style is not exactly true to period, to place the actors we recognize in the clothes of a different era.

We also found Hnath’s rhythms were very contemporary, so were meticulous in honouring his vernacular and unique writing style. Including his use of an ellipses as a line of text that gives the actors a lot of freedom for interpretation within an otherwise strict score.

Deborah Hay and Kate Hennig - Photo by Leif Norman

Deborah Hay and Kate Hennig. Photo by Leif Norman
 

2) The play, which presents many sides of an argument, has been referred to as “a serious comedy (accent on comedy) that would do Shaw or Stoppard proud.” How has your experience with Shaw’s work influenced your work here?

Shaw came up a lot in rehearsals. Hnath uses rhetoric like Shaw and it was very exciting to discover a new playwright who knows how to structure argument.

Like Shaw, he introduces a topic and the characters debate it. He takes them on parenthetical thoughts – side bar dialogue between the characters – so the character driving the argument has to get the other back on the track to move the argument forward. So, with that kind of structure you add in intention and the pace takes care of itself!

His writing is also very funny. Like Shaw, he demands a lightness of touch in the attack of the language.

3) The play critiques the notion of self-actualization. In today’s world where “self-help” has been ratcheted up to “self-love,” how does this critique ring with you personally?

Nora says in the play: “It’s really hard to hear your own voice and every lie you tell makes your voice harder to hear, and a lot of what we do is lying. Especially when what we want so badly from other people is for them to love us.”

This resonates for me. The lifelong journey to knowing yourself – finding out what you truly want – not what other people want for you. Of course, it is constantly changing as life throws new challenges at you. Maybe self-knowledge is the path toward self-love?

Deborah Hay and Bahareh Yaraghi - Photo by Leif Norman

Deborah Hay and Bahareh Yaraghi.Photo by Leif Norman
 

4) Arguing about the benefits of marriage, the character Emmy says to her mother “Don’t make my wants about your wants,” as she hopes for a stable, married life that her mother never had. What do you feel the play says about contemporary society’s view of marriage?

I think the play says we haven’t figured it out yet, because there is no definitive answer. Marriage is an institution that some seek and others don’t. We have a kind of freedom to enter into it now, or not.

What Hnath is attacking is what Nora calls the “bad rules” around marriage and divorce at the time. These rules gave men all the power and advantage and he is asking the audience to reflect on how much has that changed. What have my choices been around marriage? What did I believe going into marriage? How has that panned out? Have I been faithful? Have I stayed for the right reasons? And each character raises a sound argument around marriage that we can agree with.

By giving the audience all the viewpoints, he really does stir us up for 90 minutes!

5) Describe your first encounter with Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.”

When I was in theatre school in the early 1990’s, I had heard about the famous Ibsen play where the wife leaves her husband. I rented a BBC version starring Juliet Stevenson and when it started, I remember thinking I must have the wrong play. There is no way in a million years that the woman I see in this opening scene could ever have the courage or self-awareness to even consider leaving her husband; she was a child herself. Then I watched it unravel in two and a half hours until she slammed the door. I realized it was a play about much, much more than that final moment and I fell in love with Ibsen in that single sitting.

Either / Or

Pick 3 and reply with a sentence or 2.

Coffee or Tea
Coffee…espresso, not drip.

Early morning or late evening
Late evening, but I wish I was an early riser.

Lead or Follow
Lead, but sometimes it’s nice to follow a good lead.

Details, Details:

A Dolls House, Part 2
By Lucas Hnath
Directed by Krista Jackson

A Mirvish co-production with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre
Starring
Deborah Hay as Nora
Kate Hennig as Anne Marie
Paul Essiembre as Torvald
Bahareh Yaraghi as Emmy

March 23 to April 14, 2019
CAA Theatre
651 Yonge Street, Toronto
Ontario, M4Y 1Z9
416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333
Get details and tickets online

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5 Questions with Krista Jackson from ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2.’

Keith Tomasek
21 March 2019
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