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Find out the secret in 'A Doll's House': Play to take BHS stage July 27-30

The Brainerd High School Theater Department is presenting a summer productions of "A Doll House." Cast includes Patrick Kennedy (front left), Chloe Severson, Emily-Rose Severson, Skylar Fox (back left), Brianna Carlson, Travis Sawyer, Gemma Peterson, Kiernan McFadden, Miya Boyd and Noah Cure-Hendrickson. Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

"A Doll's House," a three-act play written by Henrik Ibsen, will come to life on the Little Theatre stage at Brainerd High School next weekend.

The BHS Theater Department is presenting the play to be performed 7 p.m. July 27-29 and 2 p.m. July 30. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults and will be available an hour before the show.

Theater Director Karla Johnson said this summer they are performing a drama instead of a musical. "A Doll's House" is an 1800s classic, but they are setting the play in the 1920s. It takes place is Nora and Torvald's home in Europe. The couple has a dysfunctional relationship—Nora, played by Chloe Severson, acts ditzy in front of Torvald, but actually she is intelligent, Johnson said.

Johnson said Nora has a secret, and another character, Nils Krogstad, played by Travis Sawyer, knows the secret and uses it to blackmail her.

"So the whole time, as an audience member you wonder if her husband will find out about the secret," Johnson said. "This drama is intense but not as much as when we did 'August: Osage County.'

"I wanted to do this play. I taught it when I was teaching literature with my juniors. I loved teaching this play and there are a lot of people who can resonate with a lot of the characters. I really like it because there are times when you get irritated with both main characters. There are times when you may disagree with Nora, even though she is considered the protagonist, although she is not your typical protagonist. ... Hopefully no one can relate to Torvald, because he is misogynistic. Which is kind of funny as the student who plays the character (Noah Cure-Hendrickson) is the total opposite."

Johnson said the time period is a challenge for the cast as the younger generation doesn't understand how relationships worked in the early 1900s and how men were the dominant gender. She said actors also had to get used to the way people spoke during that time, such as addressing people formally with Mrs., not Ms.

"I tell the actors it's a really hard show to do just to portray the characters and all the facets they have," Johnson said. "Many of the characters in the show have different facades they play depending on which character they are talking to."

Johnson said the cast has been dedicated to the summer play, as they have been practicing Monday through Friday since the second week in June.

"This is a three-act play so there is a lot of rehearsal needed," Johnson said.

The play is sponsored by Brainerd Community Education, which meant students ages 13-20 were able to try out for the show. The two main actors—Cure-Hendrickson as Torvald and Severson as Nora—both are 2016 BHS graduates. Cure-Hendrickson attends the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Severson attends Minneapolis Community and Technical College. They both were home for the summer and when Johnson approached them about being in the summer production, they did not hesitate.

"I needed to be in theater," Cure-Hendrickson said, who first joined BHS theater the spring of his senior year. "I was in a show in the cities and it was a lot of fun.

"I love theater. The fact that you can walk onto stage and be anybody and leave your world behind. Being on stage frees you of all the stresses and anxiety you may have. There is something relaxing about it."

Cure-Hendrickson said his strongest skill in theater is his ability to "tap more into the raw emotions like anger or joy."

"I find it easy to display what I may feel," he said. "My weakest skill is when it's just me on stage performing a monologue."

Cure-Hendrickson said being in theater has helped him grow as a person. He said it made him more accepting of all the arts, whether it be visual or performing arts.

"You really appreciate all the hard work that goes on, such as building a set or if someone is on stage and is struggling," he said. "Before I was like just get on with it, but now I am more understanding."

Severson said ever since she was a kid she wanted to do plays.

"I feel it is where I fit in and it's what I want to do," she said. "When I am on stage, everything else just melts away and I become somebody else."

Severson said Nora is an interesting and complex character. She said she portrays herself as shallow, but she is deep. Nora needs to be loved and she tries hard to satisfy other people's needs.

Severson said it is not challenging to play Nora.

"It's almost like I get her, understand her on where she is coming from," Severson said. "She really is a scared, sensitive woman who longs for love."

Severson said the most challenging part of the role is her relationship with Nils Krogstad.

"She needs him and she hates him," Severson said. "She is in such a complicated situation and if he exposes her she will die in society or attempt suicide and her husband will hate her."

BHS sophomore Gemma Peterson plays Mrs. Lind, who is "a little fun, but has a strict side."

"I am shy, but not super shy, and she doesn't hold anything back," Peterson said. "This is something I admire about her."

Peterson said when she auditioned for the play she was trying out for Anne-Marie. When she learned she got the role as Mrs. Lind, she was ecstatic.

"It was a huge shock and I called my mom right away," she said. "I didn't expect to get such a big role, a higher role. It was surprising to me ... I've played smaller roles in the past."

Peterson said she has always liked acting.

"It's really fun to play someone else," Peterson said. "And when you realize you can play a character you didn't think you could pull off, it is amazing."

Peterson said the hardest part of her role is a scene with Nils Krogstad, where she has to show audience members the pain from her past. She said she has practiced how to do this by her facial expressions and changing her voice.

Cast

• Nora is played by Chloe Severson and her understudy is Emily-Rose Severson.

• Torvald is played by Noah Cure-Hendrickson and his understudy is Romeo Hall.

• Mrs. Linde is played by Gemma Peterson and her understudy is Lexi Groters.

• Nils Krogstad, Travis Sawyer.

• Dr. Rank, Patrick Kennedy; understudy, Hall.

• Anne-Marie, Miya Boyd; understudy, Groters.

• Maid Helene, Emily-Rose Severson.

• Errand boy, Kiernan McFadden.

• The Helmers' Children, Bethany, Hunter and Landin Litzinger.

Crew

• Stage Manager, Skylar Fox.

• Lights, Savannah Dixon.

• Sound, Kiernan McFadden.

• Props, Hollie Larson and Brianna Carlson.

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