Ibsen Theatre

Directing Ibsen's Little Eyolf

In the fall of 1990, I received the assignment of directing a scene from Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen. Having briefly encountered this "master playwright" in the past (and quite confusedly I might add), I was hesitant in acknowledging the breadth of the future work. Little did I realize that this was the beginning of a much larger voyage into the world of one of theatre's greatest playwrights. It was during this voyage into the world of Ibsen and Peer Gynt that I met three pieces of writing that influenced me immensely. The first is a theatrical theory book by Richard Hornby entitled Script Into Performance: A Structuralist Approach. Being somewhat inexperienced when it came to play analysis, I seized any means of analysis with which I was not familiar. Not only did I find the idea of structuralism intriguing but I also found it to be an excellent way of "getting into the text," of getting at the "heart" of the play. It was after reading this book that I began to see the mastery of, as I learned, the Norwegian who was searching during his life to marry the subject and the form, or structure, in the framework of the drama. 

While devouring all available criticism of Peer Gynt, I stumbled upon the second influential writing - a drama with which I was, at the time, unfamiliar. As I continued my Peer Gynt research, I noticed that the opinions toward this unfamiliar work were extreme. The play was either ". . . one of the greatest [Ibsen] ever wrote. . ."1, or, one of the worst, ". . . [concluding] with an embarrassing display of dramatic rhetoric . . ." which is Ibsen's ". . . customary little joke at the expense of his characters."2 However, the majority stood in favor of the former opinion. Why then had I not ever heard it mentioned? I had heard of or read other Ibsen dramas, such as Hedda Gabler, A Doll's House, and The Master Builder. Thus, with curiosity piqued, I read, for the first of many times, the play of which I now write - Little Eyolf

As I concluded the initial reading of the drama, I began to doubt the validity of the majority's remarks. However, applying Hornby's structuralist approach, I began, again, to see the play as complex and masterly constructed. (It is interesting that several actors, including Steve J. Earle, who ultimately was to play Allmers in the production, initially dismissed the play as "boring", "trivial", and "not worth my time!") 

The third writing is another play analysis text, Backwards and Forwards, by David Ball. Employing a somewhat behaviorist approach to analysis, this indispensable little book played a large role in the final analysis of Ibsen's drama. Though I have not limited myself only to the influence of these works as a means of analyzing and directing the Little Eyolf production of which I write, I have found them to be primary in my endeavor. 

In the following documentation, I shall discuss the procedures that culminated in the TheatreVCU production Little Eyolf. Chapter One discusses parallels and influences on Little Eyolf and the world of Ibsen. Chapter Two surveys two books that influenced my analysis of Little Eyolf. Chapter Three discusses the analysis of Little Eyolf. Chapter Four recounts the creation of the technical elements of the world of Little Eyolf. Chapter Five describes the rehearsal progress, including strategies and the creation of effects and their desired affects. Lastly, the Conclusion evaluates the total production.

Chapter 1  |  Table of ContentsHome 


 1 Michael Meyer, introduction in The Plays of Ibsen by Henrik
Ibsen, vol. 4
  (New York: Washington Square Press, Pocket
Books, 1986), 436.

 2 Maurice Valency, The Flower and the Castle: An Introduction
to Modern Drama
  (New York, 1963), 217.