BY JEREMY SHERE
April 8–16, Ivy Tech Community College–Bloomington will stage a student production of An Enemy of the People, the Henrik Ibsen play about small-town politics and the tension between environmental and economic interests. In an unusual twist, the play will take place in three separate locations within the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, requiring the audience to relocate along with the actors.
“It’s a way of immersing the audience more deeply in the story,” says the play’s director, Paul Daily, The Waldron’s artistic director and Ivy Tech–Bloomington’s dean of fine arts. “Where traditional staging is a little like watching a film, having the audience move as the story of the play unfolds is a way of making them part of the action. It’s very exciting.”
Beyond the dynamic staging, Daily says the play is remarkable because, although it was first produced in 1882, it deals with themes still relevant today. Set in a small Norwegian town, the play’s protagonist, Dr. Thomas Stockmann, discovers that a newly built public bathing complex is badly contaminated. But because the complex is central to the town’s fragile economy, the mayor and other leaders oppose Stockmann’s attempt to bring the issue to light. Undeterred, Stockmann persists, resulting in his being exiled from the town and becoming a self-declared “enemy of the people.”
“It’s amazing to me how my view of the main character has changed over the years,” Daily says. “At first, I completely supported his determination to see the truth win out, no matter the consequences. But as I’ve gotten older I see how that sort of uncompromising stance is not the best approach to finding solutions that work for everyone — a problem we face today in our national politics.”
The production is also unique, Daily notes, for being the first to use sets designed by Ivy Tech–Bloomington architecture students.
“I encourage Bloom readers to attend the play to be part of the conversation,” Daily says. “Come experience the world of the play for a few hours, then walk away and examine what you think needs to happen in the world to move it forward to a better place.”