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Bard SummerScape Presents Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck”

The ninth annual Bard SummerScape presents The Wild Duck (“Vildanden”), a masterpiece of poetic realism by the father of modern drama, Henrik Ibsen.  Considered by many to be the Norwegian dramatist’s finest and most complex work, The Wild Duck (1884) was described by George Bernard Shaw as combining “profound tragedy” with “irresistible comedy.”  The new production from returning young Irish director Caitriona McLaughlin, who staged last season’s acclaimed Judgment Day, will be presented in David Eldridge’s celebrated new translation, in ten performances between July 13 and 24.  These will take place in Theater Two of the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard College’s bucolic Hudson River campus.
The great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is the second most widely produced dramatist in the world, eclipsed only by Shakespeare; thanks to works like Peer Gynt, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler, and The Wild Duck, he is widely credited with introducing modernism to the theater.  This year’s Bard Music Festival, on whose theme, as in previous seasons, SummerScape is based, presents “Sibelius and His World,” celebrating the life and works of Ibsen’s fellow Scandinavian, the preeminent Finnish symphonist Jean Sibelius.  Despite belonging to an earlier generation, Ibsen anticipated and embraced the modernist movement to which the composer remained resistant.  Yet Sibelius was not unaware of Ibsen’s work, which was in vogue and influential in Helsinki by the time the Finn moved there in 1885.  There are moreover parallels between Ibsen’s work and Sibelius’s own; as cultural historian and Scandinavian specialist Paul Binding observes: “To [Sibelius] the symphony was a humanist document, analogous perhaps to the dramas of Ibsen.”
Commonly hailed as “the master’s masterpiece,” The Wild Duck was written at the height of the dramatist’s career and, in blending the naturalism of his middle dramas with the symbolism of his late period, marked something of a departure.  It portrays the tragic consequences visited by the truth-seeking impulses of its protagonist – Gregers Werle, the idealistic son of a successful but duplicitous businessman – upon the family of his childhood friend, whose peaceful existence is founded on a tissue of lies.  This enables Ibsen to posit the notion that people depend on their illusions to get by: that absolute truth can be too much for the human heart to bear or, as the play’s Dr. Relling would have it, “Deprive the average man of his vital lie and you rob him of happiness.”
In 1963 The Wild Duck was made into a motion picture by Ibsen’s grandson, director Tancred Ibsen, and in 1983 Jeremy Irons and Liv Ullmann starred in an English-language film adaptation.  When The Wild Duck was revived six years ago at London’s Donmar Warehouse, it was an unequivocal hit; the Times called it “as unpretentious, understated, and subtle as it’s powerful and gripping,” while the Independent noted: “The play powerfully demonstrates the dangers of imposing your own skewed and self-interested idea of liberty on others.”  Yet despite the admiration it has inspired, Ibsen’s masterpiece remains only infrequently staged.
The SummerScape production uses David Eldridge’s translation from the original Norwegian; when this debuted at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2005, the Guardian marveled: “Eldridge’s version brings out Ibsen’s permanent relevance without any textual coarsening.”  Born in 1973, the British dramatist’s own work has been staged at such leading venues as the UK’s National and Royal Court Theatres.  His stage adaptation of the Danish film Festen reached London’s West End and Broadway; deeming it a “lucid, efficient reworking,” the New York Times reported: “What sets Mr. Eldridge’s script apart from the usual dysfunction-of-the-week movie is their use of Danish rituals of revelry… A sense of poisoned high spirits perfumes the air like a noxious laughing gas.  And the titters that erupt from the audience arise from discomfort in the presence of a cruel absurdity.”
Heading The Wild Duck’s strong cast is Dashiell Evans (Gregers Werle), who returns to SummerScape from last summer’s Judgment DayTom Bloom, whose film and TV credits include The Thomas Crown Affair and a multitude of characters on Law & Order, plays Gregers’s businessman father, Håkon, and Peter Maloney, known for his roles in the films Breaking Away, The Thing, and Requiem for a Dream, embodies Old Ekdal, for whose downfall Håkon is largely responsible.  Sean Donegan plays Ekdal’s deluded son, Hjalmar; Mary Bacon, most recently seen in HBO’s Mildred Pierce adaptation, plays Hjalmar’s wife, Gina; and young Erin Wilhemi, praised for her “welcome complexity” by, is their ill-fated daughter, Hedvig.
Leading The Wild Duck’s artistic team is returning young Irish director Caitriona McLaughlin, Associate Director and General Manager of London’s Playground Studio.  McLaughlin was the creator of last season’s Judgment Day, inspiring a spate of positive press; Bloomberg’s John Simon admired the “effective suspense” she engendered, the New York Post praised her “visually striking production,” while Hudson Valley News pronounced her “a gifted and talented young director with an understanding of how these themes transcended any specific timeframe.”  Likewise, Rural Intelligence raved:
“This is an extraordinary evening of theatre in every respect, but the awesome stagecraft powerfully serves the story. … Director Caitriona McLaughlin has managed to make this small story have an epic feel. … Anybody who appreciates theater that is visually and intellectually stimulating and morally challenging should see this production.”
Also returning from Judgment Day is costume designer Kaye Voyce, whose extensive credits range from Broadway to the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Set design is by John McDermott, a 2009 Henry Hewes Design Award nominee, and lighting by Jane Cox, whose credits include Broadway and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Video projections are by Aaron Rhyne, whose work has graced Broadway, Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, NBC, and MTV, and sound is by Ryan Rumery, recipient of 2010 Lortel, Barrymore, and Helen Hayes Award nominations.  The new production opens on July 13 and runs for ten performances (July 13 – 24).
Theater at Bard SummerScape 2011
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
The Wild Duck (Vildanden, 1884)
Gregers Werle: Dashiell Evans
Hjalmar Ekdal: Sean Donegan
Gina Ekdal: Mary Bacon
Old Ekdal: Peter Maloney
Håkon Werle: Tom Bloom
Hedvig            : Erin Wilhemi
Relling            : Sean Cullen
Mrs. Sorby: Kristin Griffith
Molvik/Balle: Sydney Williams
Artistic team:
Directed by Caitriona McLaughlin
Set design: John McDermott
Costume design: Kaye Voyce, costume designer
Lighting design: Jane Cox
Projections: Aaron Rhyne
Sound: Ryan Rumery
Wednesday, July 13, 3 pm
Thursday, July 14, 8 pm
Friday, July 15, 8 pm
Saturday, July 16, 8 pm
Sunday, July 17, 3 pm
Wednesday, July 20, 3 pm
Thursday, July 21, 8 pm
Friday, July 22, 8 pm
Saturday, July 23, 8 pm
Sunday, July 24, 3 pm
Tickets: $45
SummerScape theater performances are held in Theater Two in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region.
Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available exclusively to ticket holders for the performances on July 16 and 23.  Fare is $25, and reservations are required.  Visit for more information and to make a reservation.  Shuttles to and from Poughkeepsie and Rhinecliff train stations are also available for certain matinée performances.  Reservations are required.  Visit for more information and to make a reservation.
Bard SummerScape Ticket Information
The Bard SummerScape Festival is made possible through the generous support of the Advisory Boards of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and the Bard Music Festival, and the Friends of the Fisher Center.  Generous support for The Wild Duck is provided by Martin and Toni Sosnoff.
For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit
Bard SummerScape:
Bard Music Festival:
Tickets: or by phone at 845-758-7900
Updates: Bard’s “e-members” get all the news in regular updates.  Click here to sign up.
All program information is subject to change.

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