- A Doll House: Based On The Play By Henrik Ibsen
In the new technological world of CD-ROMs and Internet access, theatre professors and practitioners have much to gain: our work is, of necessity, contextual, and research tools such as the Johns Hopkins CD-ROM on Henrik Ibsen’s classic A Doll House offer us easy access to a variety of helpful information. Unfortunately, however, CD-ROMs tend to provide snippets of lots of different texts, which can give students the sense that they see the whole field of inquiry regarding the topic at hand. That is a serious error in the case of this CD-ROM, which fails to record feminist theatre scholars’ debates surrounding Ibsen and realism.
In the CD-ROM’s Critical Commentary section, the bulk of scholarship is dated from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s and the only article written by a woman is a 1989 PMLA article by Joan Templeton, who asserts that A Doll House is, despite those who claim otherwise, linked to feminism. Perhaps the compilers selected these passages as representative of two decades of Ibsen scholarship because they concentrated on book-length single-author treatments, whereas feminist scholarship tends to address multiple authors or issues, particularly performance issues. But then why nothing from Tracy C. Davis’s single-author book on Ibsen in England? Unless feminists gain access to the publication boards of projects such as the Annenberg Project, this kind of erasure will continue.
The Hopkins A Doll House CD-ROM comes with no installation instructions, nor did I receive an answer to my voice mail inquiry (in which I mentioned that I was working on a deadline to review the CD-ROM), so do not count on assistance. Once successfully installed, however, this well-priced CD-ROM has much to offer, particularly with regard to historical materials. Users may choose to follow five different paths extending from the opening image of a theatre’s interior. They may visit the Dramaturge’s Office, review the Prompt Book, explore the Library, investigate the Design Archive, or watch selections from the Performance Archive.
The Dramaturge’s Office contains five options, including the opportunity for Exploration, which I selected last. This was a mistake, because Exploration turned out to be the guide for the other options. A voice informed me that I needed to know about the author’s life to understand the playscript fully, an assertion which irritated the postmodern critic in me, but was designed to lead the user to the Biography track. The biographical section contained Ibsen’s 1881 autobiographical memoir of his childhood home, an excerpt from Halvdan Koht’s 1928 report on Ibsen’s real-life model for Nora, and four selections from Michael Meyer’s 1971 biography of Ibsen.
The Timeline accompanying the Biography presents crucial references to Scandinavian social and political movements as well as European historical events, and is a valuable teaching aid. In Letters, Speeches, and Notes, users may find excerpts of early drafts of A Doll House, play prefaces and significant speeches by Ibsen, and a variety of Ibsen’s letters, both grant requests and personal letters to correspondents such as Laura Peterson Kieler, the model for Nora. Under Notebook are listed four poems by Ibsen, a few family photos, a costume design by Ibsen, and two views of the Danish Theatre where A Doll House received its premiere.
The Prompt Book site contains the playscript itself, translated by Gerry Bamman and Irene Berman. It is presented as a prompt book, which is pleasurable, but there is no way to jump to a particular page; readers can only click on a certain act or move in a page-by-page fashion. The translation itself simply does not measure up to the Ibsen translations of Rolf Fjelde, Michael Meyer, or Eva Le Gallienne. Sometimes the lines fall especially flat, as in this sample of Helmer’s dialogue from the opening scene: “Is that the squirrel who’s messing around in that room...