An Inside Look at "A Doll's House, Part 2"

This in-depth guide was prepared by Shelley Orr and edited by Literary Manager Danielle Ward. To view in PDF format, click here.
In this edition:
 
  1. We Are Excited About
  2. Interesting Tidbits
  3. The "Father" of Modern Drama: Henrik Ibsen and His Plays
  4. The Door Slam Heard Around the World: Impact of Ibsen's Play
  5. Synopsis of Ibsen's "A Doll's House"
  6. Why Gender Equality Stalled - Opinion Piece from The New York Times
  7. "Wifey for Lifey": The Resurgence of Conventional Gender Roles?
  8. Feminism and Class: What About Anne Marie
  9. Smash the Patriarchy: Feminism Today
  10. Part 2: Notable Sequels in Theatre
  11. An Interview with Playwright Lucas Hnath from Vogue
  12. History of Marriage
  13. A Brief Timeline of Women's Rights
  14. Food for Thought Questions
San Diego Repertory Theatre would like to thank and acknowledge the following for their generous ongoing support: City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, San Diego County and The National Endowment for the Arts.
 

We are excited about...

Producing the Tony-nominated sequel of one of the most important works in theatre history! As Time Out New York noted, “'A Doll’s House, Part 2' keeps you hanging on each turn of argument and twist of knife. It’s dynamite.”
But this isn’t surprising since the original was also provocative. A sensation upon its initial publication, Ibsen's "A Doll’s House" attacked the social and cultural norms of its day by telling the story of Nora Helmer, a woman trapped inside a loveless marriage to bank manager Torvald. Once she realized that to truly become her own person she must strike out on her own, she left her husband and children, slamming the door behind her. Did you know that this play was so controversial in its time that people were specifically asked not to talk about it when they attended parties and events?
Lucas Hnath’s play, 'A Doll's House, Part 2,' resumes the action 15 years later with a knock on the Helmer's front door. Standing on the threshold is none other than Nora. Why is she back? And how will the family she left behind react to her sudden reappearance? Those questions—and more—will soon be answered.
Though set in the late 1800s, this intriguing new play offers a decidedly modern perspective. Hnath plays with language and ideas from our contemporary world layered into this formalized piece in such a way as to allow reflection on our own ideals. Just how far have we come in gender equality over the last 100+ years? And how do we feel about Nora’s choices today?
But for all of its thought-provoking qualities, this play is also very funny. We selected this piece in part because of that playful balance between laughter and pointed contemplation. It is something I consider to be a hallmark of San Diego REP plays.
And, of course, we are thrilled to see our top-notch diverse cast—which includes Sofia Jean Gomez, Rene Thorton, Jr., Linda Libby, and Danny Brown—tackle all of this with director Sam Woodhouse on the Lyceum Stage.
And unlike the original, we encourage you to talk about it at parties and events! 

The "Father" of Modern Drama: Henrik Ibsen

By Shelley Orr
In the introduction to "A Doll’s House" in the third shorter edition of the Norton Anthology of Drama (2018), Columbia University’s Martin Puchner notes: “Writing in an era when the theater had become a second-rate occupation, with the most gifted writers turning instead to novels or poetry, Henrik Johan Ibsen restored to drama its prestige and relevance” (608). In the nineteenth century, an era dominated by melodrama and spectacle, Ibsen made his mark by being dedicated to serious drama over his fifty-year career in the theatre. His plays took up the most potent social questions of the day and explored them on stage, at times stoking controversy. "A Doll’s House" was exactly the kind of play that asked audiences to examine their own values, decisions, attitudes, and behaviors. And its highly controversial ending made the play the talk of Europe.
Ibsen was born in 1828 in Norway into a wealthy family in a small town. The prosperity was short-lived, however; his father’s shipping business went bankrupt when Henrik was eight. Once he came of age, Ibsen was apprenticed to a pharmacist for six years. He began working full time at just fifteen and would write plays and paint in his spare time. After completing his apprenticeship, he failed his university entrance exams to train to become a pharmacist. He then changed his career and pursued writing full time. He worked diligently from the time he was in his early twenties to become a successful playwright. His earliest play Catiline was not well received, but his early attempts introduced him to the theatre scene in Norway’s capital. After a couple of years, he was able to get a job at the theatre in the Norwegian town of Bergen where he had the opportunity to see a lot of theatre and learn the craft of playwriting in earnest.
As a student of the standard dramatic form of the time, Ibsen became well versed in the well-made play. This form was dominant on European stages and championed by French playwrights Sardou and Scribe. The hallmarks of the well-made play include a formulaic story with an intricate, fast-moving, cause-and-effect plot involving more-or-less stock characters. Focused on entertaining its audience, the well-made play favored exciting plot twists and humorous coincidences over nuanced characters and true-to-life events. 
Ibsen worked to develop drama into an art form. After initially writing more fantastical stories and characters, in the second half of his career Ibsen wrote his plays in the style of Naturalism. Naturalism was a movement in literature and theatre in which authors sought to incorporate the spirit of scientific inquiry into their artistic creation. Proponents of Naturalism were interested in pursuing the truth of people’s lives and favored highly developed, individualized characters interacting in a fully realized environment on stage. This style ushered in many of the practices that we consider conventional in our theatre today: fully realized, realistic settings with actors portraying their characters as though they are real people with individual personalities and traits.
"A Doll’s House" may be seen as a piece transitioning from the traditions of melodrama and the well-made play in the nineteenth century into the Realism that dominated in the twentieth. The character of Krogstad could be viewed as a typical villain in the beginning of the play. He is more nuanced than most villains of melodrama, but his threat to blackmail our main character, Nora, drives much of the plot until the last act. In Act 3 the play seems to change track and turn from a melodramatic story of a housewife’s secret to a serious discussion about relations between the genders. Krogstad entirely drops his threat to reveal Nora’s deeds in favor of a new relationship with Kristine, but Nora can see now that she has been merely playing a role and can’t return to being the housewife in a sham marriage. In this exchange between Nora and her husband Torvald, the direction of the play and, in significant ways, the theatre itself, is changed:
TORVALD: [Sits at table directly opposite her.] You’re worrying me, Nora. I don’t understand you.
NORA: No, that’s just it. You don’t understand me. And I have never understood you—not until tonight. No—no interruptions. You have to hear me out. We’re settling accounts, Torvald.
TORVALD: What do you mean by that?
NORA: [After a short silence.] Doesn’t one thing strike you about the way we’re sitting here?
TORVALD: What might that be?
NORA: We’ve been married for eight years. Doesn’t it strike you that this is the first time that the two of us—you and I, man and wife—have ever talked seriously?
Ibsen has the temerity to have his characters take off the façade of middle-class respectability and truthfully assess their marriage. Theatre was never the same.
 
 

The Door Slam Heard Around the World: The Impact of Ibsen's Play

By Shelley Orr
In his “Notes for a Modern Tragedy” written in October 1878—the year before he began work on A Dol’sl House in earnest—Ibsen wrote, “A woman cannot be herself in modern society. It is an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and male prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.” While he stated frequently that he was not a crusader on behalf of women’s rights, his play has certainly contributed to the discussion. George Bernard Shaw, a contemporary of Ibsen’s and a fellow playwright, coined a new term, the “discussion play,” to describe the impact of Ibsen’s play and others like it. Bernard Shaw was a supporter and even played the part of Krogstad in an early private production of "A Doll’s House" in London.
Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House" was based on an actual incident involving an acquaintance named Laura Kieler. Kieler took out a secret and illegal loan to help cure her husband of tuberculosis. She approached Ibsen about recommending her book for publication, so she could raise money to pay back the loan. Ibsen felt the book was substandard and refused to recommend it. In a desperate situation, she forged a check and was caught. In light of the accusations against her, her husband had her committed to an asylum. While Ibsen’s play adjusts many of the details, Kieler’s experience clearly influenced the subject of his play. 
Ibsen repeatedly claimed that he was not motivated by political aims in his writing, but his plays, especially "A Doll’s House," addressed serious questions of his day. The play was published before it was first publically performed on stage in Denmark. Even in script form, it caused quite a stir in Norway and Germany. It was reported that dinner invitations sent out at the time would request that guests refrain from speaking about Ibsen’s plays, so contentious and heated were discussions about Nora’s actions at the end of the play. Indeed, the ending of "A Doll’s House" was a shock to a Victorian society that was more familiar seeing women in a state of domestic bliss, quietly sewing hearthside. The idea that a woman would leave her husband and children to become a person on her own was scandalous and shocking. Actors first cast in the part of Nora in both 
Germany and England refused to play it with the ending in which Nora left, fearing that their audiences would think ill of them by association. The English production cast another actor. But in Germany, the producers asked Ibsen to write an alternate ending. He wrote an ending in which Nora relented and stayed, but he regretted his decision almost immediately calling it “a barbaric outrage” and withdrew it from any future productions.
Here are the concluding lines that caused such furor (in a translation by Rick Davis and Brian Johnston from the Norton Anthology of Drama, third shorter edition, 2018).
TORVALD: Nora—can’t I ever be anything more than a stranger to you?
NORA: [Taking her traveling bag.] Oh, Torvald—not unless the most wonderful thing of all were to happen—
TORVALD: Name it—what is this most wonderful thing?
NORA: It’s—both you and I would have to transform ourselves to the point that—oh, Torvald, I don’t know if I believe in it anymore—
TORVALD: But I will. Name it! Transform ourselves to the point that —
NORA: That our living together could become a marriage. Good-bye. [She goes through the hall door.]
TORVALD: [Sinking down into a chair by the door and burying his face in his hands.] Empty. She’s not here. [A hope flares up in him.] The most wonderful thing of all—?
[From below, the sound of a door slamming shut.]
The stage direction about the slamming door, so final and unsentimental, has echoed through the decades as has Ibsen’s influence on theatre. Telling the story of characters who are so very like the people in the audience, speaking familiar language (not elevated poetry), wearing familiar clothes, in familiar rooms may have been, ironically, “too close to home” for many theatergoers of the day. The play asked the audience to acknowledge uncomfortable societal truths.

Synopsis of Ibsen’s "A Doll's House"

While you don’t need to have read or seen "A Doll’s House" by Ibsen to thoroughly enjoy Lucas Hnath’s provocative sequel, below is a synopsis of Ibsen’s play to help you get up to speed. This article first appeared in American Conservatory Theater’s performance guide series, Words on Plays, in 2004. For more information about Words on Plays, visit www.act-sf.org/wordsonplays.
The world premiere production of "A Doll’s House" opened at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 21 December 1879.
Characters 
Torvald Helmer, a lawyer  Dr. Rank 
Nora Helmer, his wife  Nils Krogstad
Kristine Linde 
Place and Time
"A Doll’s House" takes place in the Helmers’ apartment, in a provincial town on the southeast coast of Norway, late in the 19th century. 
Synopsis
Act 1. On Christmas Eve, Nora and Torvald celebrate Torvald’s recent promotion to the position of director of an important bank. After his promotion takes effect in the new year, the family will no longer have to worry about money. Nora is especially grateful, for she has been living with a terrible secret: years before, she secretly forged her dying father’s signature to borrow money to finance a trip to Italy, where her husband, who was suffering from tuberculosis, could recover his health. The warm Mediterranean climate cured Torvald, but ever since their return to Norway, Nora has been scrimping, saving, and taking surreptitious odd jobs to repay Nils Krogstad, the holder of the loan. Krogstad, who works as a lowly clerk at the same bank as Torvald, is a social pariah because of his past illegal business dealings, and Krogstad fears that he will lose his job under Torvald’s new management. Krogstad has discovered that Nora forged her father’s signature and threatens to tell Torvald the truth if she doesn’t do something to make sure that Torvald allows him to keep his position at the bank. Torvald, however, who considers Krogstad “morally exhausted,” has already given his job to Nora’s old friend, the impoverished widow Kristine Linde. (Mrs. Linde has shown up at the Helmers’ for an unexpected visit after an absence of ten years.) Torvald agrees to find a position at the bank for Mrs. Linde. He suggests that Krogstad’s corruption is the result of having had a “lying mother,” and Nora worries that her own deceit will somehow harm her children. 
Act 2. It is now Christmas Day. Torvald has given Mrs. Linde Krogstad’s old job. Nora, unable to prevent the termination of Krogstad’s employment, fears what her husband will do when he learns the truth about the loan and her forgery. She flirts with Dr. Rank, the family’s good friend, hoping that he will give her the money she needs to pay back her loan. Rank, who is dying of an inherited sexually transmitted disease, tells Nora that he is in love with her; she promptly decides that she can no longer in good conscience ask him for the money. Krogstad tells Nora that he will reveal her illicit dealings to her husband, in hopes that Torvald will reinstate him at the bank in order to avoid a scandal. Certain that her noble husband will take the brunt of the scandal himself to spare her, Nora contemplates suicide to protect him. Krogstad drops a blackmailing letter containing the details of Nora’s “crime” into the Helmers’ locked letterbox, to which only Torvald has the key. Mrs. Linde helps Nora repair a Neapolitan fisher girl costume, which Torvald brought back from Italy and wants her to wear when she dances the tarantella at the neighbors’ holiday party the following night. Nora enlists Torvald’s help in rehearsing the tarantella and dances for him with increasing wildness, as if her life depended on it. Feigning nervousness over her approaching dance performance, Nora convinces Torvald to rehearse with her right up until the performance and not to open the letterbox until after the party. Nora hopes that a “miracle” will occur, and that Torvald’s love for her will overcome his anger when he reads the letter and finds out about the loan. 
Act 3. Mrs. Linde waits in the Helmers’ sitting room, listening to the dance music coming from the neighboring apartment. Krogstad arrives, responding to a note Mrs. Linde sent him. Krogstad and Mrs. Linde were once in love, but she chose someone else. She now suggests that they rekindle their romance. Filled with new hope, Krogstad vows to reverse the actions he has taken against the Helmers. He leaves and the Helmers return from the party. Mrs. Linde greets the couple and tries to convince Nora to tell her husband the truth; then Mrs. Linde leaves as well. Torvald is drunk and amorous after seeing his beautiful wife dance her passionate tarantella, and he tries to hurry an unwilling Nora off to bed. Dr. Rank appears and asks for a cigar, then leaves. Torvald empties the letterbox, which includes a prearranged sign from Rank to Nora that his death is near, and that he will not return. Torvald, in his grief at the loss of his friend, professes his love for Nora; reassured of his love and ready to face the truth, Nora insists that he read his mail. Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter and flies into a rage, immediately disowning Nora and telling her that she will no longer be allowed to care for her children and will be his wife in name only. Another letter from Krogstad arrives, returning Nora’s loan papers and apologizing for his actions. No longer worried about public disgrace, Torvald immediately forgives Nora. But Nora sees that Torvald does not love her unconditionally, and she sits down to talk seriously with her husband for the first time. She tells him that they have never had a true partnership, that their marriage was based on Torvald’s paternal control and her own doll-like behavior. Nora doubts her ability to be a good wife and mother, because she does not know who she really is, and she cannot love a man who does not love her. She decides to leave Torvald and her children, to go off and discover her true self. She makes no promise to return.
As she leaves, the front door slams.

Why Gender Equality Stalled

Opinion by Stephanie Coontz, excerpt from The New York Times, 16 Feb 2013
[February 2013 was] the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s international bestseller, “The Feminine Mystique,” which has been widely credited with igniting the women’s movement of the 1960s. Readers who return to this feminist classic today are often puzzled by the absence of concrete political proposals to change the status of women. But “The Feminine Mystique” had the impact it did because it focused on transforming women’s personal consciousness. 
In 1963, most Americans did not yet believe that gender equality was possible or even desirable. Conventional wisdom held that a woman could not pursue a career and still be a fulfilled wife or successful mother. Normal women, psychiatrists proclaimed, renounced all aspirations outside the home to meet their feminine need for dependence. In 1962, more than two-thirds of the women surveyed by University of Michigan researchers agreed that most important family decisions “should be made by the man of the house.”
It was in this context that Friedan set out to transform the attitudes of women. Arguing that “the personal is political,” feminists urged women to challenge the assumption, at work and at home, that women should always be the ones who make the coffee, watch over the children, pick up after men and serve the meals. Over the next 30 years this emphasis on equalizing gender roles at home as well as at work produced a revolutionary transformation in Americans’ attitudes. It was not instant. As late as 1977, two-thirds of Americans believed that it was “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” By 1994, two-thirds of Americans rejected this notion.
But during the second half of the 1990s and first few years of the 2000s, the equality revolution seemed to stall. Between 1994 and 2004, the percentage of Americans preferring the male breadwinner/female homemaker family model actually rose to 40 percent from 34 percent. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of full-time working mothers who said they would prefer to work part time increased to 60 percent from 48 percent. In 1997, a quarter of stay-at-home mothers said full-time work would be ideal. By 2007, only 16 percent of stay-at-home mothers wanted to work full time.  
Women’s labor-force participation in the United States also leveled off in the second half of the 1990s, in contrast to its continued increase in most other countries. Gender desegregation of college majors and occupations slowed. And although single mothers continued to increase their hours of paid labor, there was a significant jump in the percentage of married women, especially married women with infants, who left the labor force. By 2004, a smaller percentage of married women with children under 3 were in the labor force than in 1993. Some people began to argue that feminism was not about furthering the equal involvement of men and women at home and work but simply about giving women the right to choose between pursuing a career and devoting themselves to full-time motherhood. A new emphasis on intensive mothering and attachment parenting helped justify the latter choice.
Anti-feminists welcomed this shift as a sign that most Americans did not want to push gender equality too far. And feminists, worried that they were seeing a resurgence of traditional gender roles and beliefs, embarked on a new round of consciousness-raising. Books with titles like “The Feminine Mistake” and “Get to Work” warned of the stiff penalties women paid for dropping out of the labor force, even for relatively brief periods. Cultural critics questioned the “Perfect Madness” of intensive mothering and helicopter parenting, noting the problems that resulted when, as Ms. Friedan had remarked about “housewifery,” mothering “expands to fill the time available.”
One study cautioned that nearly 30 percent of opt-out moms who wanted to rejoin the labor force were unable to do so, and of those who did return, only 40 percent landed full-time professional jobs. In “The Price of Motherhood,” the journalist Ann Crittenden estimated that the typical college-educated woman lost more than $1 million dollars in lifetime earnings and forgone retirement benefits after she opted out.
Other feminists worried that the equation of feminism with an individual woman’s choice to opt out of the workforce undermined the movement’s commitment to a larger vision of gender equity and justice. Joan Williams, the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, argued that defining feminism as giving mothers the choice to stay home assumes that their partners have the responsibility to support them, and thus denies choice to fathers. The political theorist Lori Marso noted that emphasizing personal choice ignores the millions of women without a partner who can support them.
These are all important points. But they can sound pretty abstract to men and women who are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to arranging their work and family lives. For more than two decades the demands and hours of work have been intensifying. Yet progress in adopting family-friendly work practices and social policies has proceeded at a glacial pace.
Today the main barriers to further progress toward gender equity no longer lie in people’s personal attitudes and relationships. Instead, structural impediments prevent people from acting on their egalitarian values, forcing men and women into personal accommodations and rationalizations that do not reflect their preferences. The gender revolution is not in a stall. It has hit a wall.
In today’s political climate, it’s startling to remember that 80 years ago, in 1933, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to establish a 30-hour workweek. The bill failed in the House, but five years later the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 gave Americans a statutory 40-hour workweek. By the 1960s, American workers spent less time on the job than their counterparts in Europe and Japan.
Between 1990 and 2000, however, average annual work hours for employed Americans increased. By 2000, the United States had outstripped Japan — the former leader of the work pack — in the hours devoted to paid work. Today, almost 40 percent of men in professional jobs work 50 or more hours a week, as do almost a quarter of men in middle-income occupations. Individuals in lower-income and less-skilled jobs work fewer hours, but they are more likely to experience frequent changes in shifts, mandatory overtime on short notice, and nonstandard hours. And many low-income workers are forced to work two jobs to get by. When we look at dual-earner couples, the workload becomes even more daunting. As of 2000, the average dual-earner couple worked a combined 82 hours a week, while almost 15 percent of married couples had a joint workweek of 100 hours or more.
Astonishingly, despite the increased workload of families, and even though 70 percent of American children now live in households where every adult in the home is employed, in the past 20 years the United States has not passed any major federal initiative to help workers accommodate their family and work demands. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 guaranteed covered workers up to 12 weeks unpaid leave after a child’s birth or adoption or in case of a family illness. Although only about half the total workforce was eligible, it seemed a promising start. But aside from the belated requirement of the new Affordable Care Act that nursing mothers be given a private space at work to pump breast milk, the F.M.L.A. turned out to be the inadequate end.
Meanwhile, since 1990 other nations with comparable resources have implemented a comprehensive agenda of “work-family reconciliation” acts. As a result, when the United States’ work-family policies are compared with those of countries at similar levels of economic and political development, the United States comes in dead last.
Out of nearly 200 countries studied by Jody Heymann, dean of the school of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her team of researchers for their new book, “Children’s Chances,” 180 now offer guaranteed paid leave to new mothers, and 81 offer paid leave to fathers. They found that 175 mandate paid annual leave for workers, and 162 limit the maximum length of the workweek. The United States offers none of these protections.
Is it any surprise that American workers express higher levels of work-family conflict than workers in any of our European counterparts? Or that women’s labor-force participation has been overtaken? In 1990, the United States ranked sixth in female labor participation among 22 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of most of the globe’s wealthier countries. By 2010, according to an economic research paper by Cornell researchers Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, released last month, we had fallen to 17th place, with about 30 percent of that decline a direct result of our failure to keep pace with other countries’ family-friendly work policies. American women have not abandoned the desire to combine work and family. Far from it. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1997, 56 percent of women ages 18 to 34 and 26 percent of middle-aged and older women said that, in addition to having a family, being successful in a high-paying career or profession was “very important” or “one of the most important things” in their lives. By 2011, fully two-thirds of the younger women and 42 percent of the older ones expressed that sentiment.
Nor have men given up the ideal of gender equity. A 2011 study by the Center for Work and Family at Boston College found that 65 percent of the fathers they interviewed felt that mothers and fathers should provide equal amounts of caregiving for their children. And in a 2010 Pew poll, 72 percent of both women and men between 18 and 29 agreed that the best marriage is one in which husband and wife both work and both take care of the house.
But when people are caught between the hard place of bad working conditions and the rock wall of politicians’ resistance to family-friendly reforms, it is hard to live up to such aspirations. The Boston College study found that only 30 percent of the fathers who wanted to share child care equally with their wives actually did so, a gap that helps explain why American men today report higher levels of work-family conflict than women. Under the circumstances, how likely is it that the young adults surveyed by Pew will meet their goal of sharing breadwinning and caregiving?
The answer is suggested by the findings of the New York University sociologist Kathleen Gerson in the interviews she did for her 2010 book, “The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family.” Eighty percent of the women and 70 percent of the men Ms. Gerson interviewed said they wanted an egalitarian relationship that allowed them to share breadwinning and family care. But when asked what they would do if this was not possible, they described a variety of “fallback” positions. While most of the women wanted to continue paid employment, the majority of men said that if they could not achieve their egalitarian ideal they expected their partner to assume primary responsibility for parenting so they could focus on work.
And that is how it usually works out. When family and work obligations collide, mothers remain much more likely than fathers to cut back or drop out of work. But unlike the situation in the 1960s, this is not because most people believe this is the preferable order of things. Rather, it is often a reasonable response to the fact that our political and economic institutions lag way behind our personal ideals.
Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice. So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders. Feminists should certainly support this campaign. But they don’t need to own it.

“Wifey for Lifey”
The Resurgence of Conventional Gender Roles?

A Reflection by Shelley Orr
Like the item pictured here, one may order t-shirts, decals, mugs, necklaces, bridal shower banners, a ring dish (presumably to hold engagement and wedding rings), water bottles, wine glasses, and a greeting card with a convenient heart-shaped pin to wear when labeling oneself the “wifey for lifey.” The phrase is used on all manner of bridal shower gifts and can currently be found on items in no fewer than 246 Etsy stores. 
I first encountered this phrase when looking at candid photos of my cousin’s wedding on social media. “Wifey for Lifey” was inscribed on the bottom of the bride’s shoes. I must admit that it took me aback for two reasons. Number one: because it seems to enshrine (in that darling handwritten script that is all the rage these days) an inequality between spouses that my generation worked quite hard to leave behind. I recall vividly that in my twenties, I attended several weddings of friends in the late 90s and early 00s and NEVER heard the following two phrases used to conclude the ceremony: Neither “I now pronounce you man and wife,” nor “You [i.e. the man] may kiss the bride” were uttered at any of them. 
And now for number two: perhaps I was most surprised by the phrase because the woman whose shoes were inscribed in this way was as far from a “wifey” as I had seen among her cohort of current 20-somethings. She had not gone to college primarily to “find a husband.” She did not follow the path of dabbling in Psych classes, taking some Creative Writing, and call it a degree. She did not work in a variety of part-time jobs, seeing “what would stick.” She is a trauma doctor in an emergency room. Her now-husband is also a doctor; they met in medical school. She does not strike me as someone who craves traditional gender roles. And yet: her wedding shoes. I assume that she did not go through all that challenging coursework and years of grueling training to become an ER doctor to then get married, get pregnant, and never return from maternity leave. But, I must recognize that that is, indeed, entirely my assumption.
Perhaps the “Wifey for Lifey” is ironic? Perhaps it is part and parcel of the whole wedding madness? I remember it well myself; it is easy to get swept along by the wedding industry. Perhaps these decals on the bottom of her shoes were a gift from a well-meaning bridesmaid? And perhaps the bridesmaid also took the photo and posted it to social media? Perhaps it is more a statement of the commitment the bride is making—placing emphasis on the “lifey” and not the “wifey”? But now I can see that I am grasping at straws. I must face the fact, as does Nora in "A Doll’s House, Part 2," that the generation that has followed my own may not share my goal of gender equality, or at least, they may not see it in precisely the same way. In our play, "A Doll’s House, Part 2," Nora’s now-adult daughter Emmy is planning her own wedding, and Nora’s actions could impact her future. In the play, Nora must confront the idea that her daughter is rejecting the path that Nora has taken to go deliberately away from traditional marriage, and, as arduous as Nora’s path was and as hard-won the gains, Nora’s is not the path that her daughter is choosing. 
Some cultural critics note that it can be seen as a positive thing for women to be able to choose their path rather than have it dictated to them. However, as the opinion piece above (#4: Why Gender Equality Stalled) notes, it seems as though the recent trend toward fewer women pursuing full-time careers may be, at least in part, the result of the lack of structural support in the United States to make family building and rearing a practical option than an indication that the fight for equity has failed. 
Indeed, Hnath’s portrayal of the three characters who surround Nora: her former nanny Anne Marie, former husband Torvald, and her daughter Emmy all pose important and thorny questions that get at the heart of the nature of gender roles. Anne Marie, as the woman who left her own child in the care of others to raise Nora herself and then her children, reminds us that not everyone has the financial security to consider the option to leave as Nora did. Torvald asks if it would not have been better for Nora to stay and work things out. And Emmy is in love and points to the positive aspects of marriage. "Doll’s House, Part 2" asks us to consider carefully the value and limits of gender roles. And although my spouse and I have been married for more than 20 years, would I consider myself a Wifey for Lifey? Decidedly not.

Feminism and Class: What About Anne Marie?

By Shelley Orr
 
One of the most compelling aspects of "A Doll’s House, Part 2" is the way each character has an opportunity to respond and reflect on the actions taken by Nora fifteen years prior. The character of Anne Marie gets to speak her truth in a way that was definitely not part of Ibsen’s play. In Ibsen’s play, Anne Marie is a minor servant character. She was Nora’s nanny when she was a child and came to live in the Helmers’ home after Nora and Torvald married. She then helped raise Nora and Torvald’s three children, taking on the role of mother to the three children when Nora left the family to strike out on her own.
 
The question of class status and its relationship to feminism has been considered since Second Wave Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s again took up the issue and attempted to remedy society’s inequities. In the wake of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, the question of financial power was seen more and more to be intertwined with the other forms of societal oppression, especially that was based on race and gender. 
 
First Wave Feminism of the middle of the previous century, started in Seneca Falls by important activists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was largely a white, wealthy women’s movement. This movement was inspired by the American Anti-Slavery Society and activist Sarah Grimké’s Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women, which was written in 1838, ten years before Seneca Falls. One of the notable quotes from Sarah Grimké appears in the recent documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, RBG, in which the justice repeats Grimké’s powerful statement, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” Asking merely for a level playing field has seemed, at times, a radical step.
 
Cultural commentator Bell Hooks notes in her landmark "Where We Stand: Class Matters" (Routledge 2000): “Those women who entered feminist groups made up of diverse classes were the first to see that the vision of a united sisterhood where all females joined to fight patriarchy could not emerge until the issue of class was confronted” (103). When Nora returns to her former home and Anne Marie opens the door that Nora slammed, the two confront class. Class is evident even as they simply stand together comparing their outfits. Anne Marie notes, “And I look at your clothes and it looks like you’re definitely not destitute.” Anne Marie stands as a reminder that women in her position did not have the privilege to contemplate leaving the societal strictures as Nora did. By contrast, Anne Marie had to leave her own child in the care of others as she came to live in Nora’s home to care for Nora and then for Nora’s children. The radical act of Nora’s leaving is viewed through the complicated lens of class privilege.
 
 

Smash the Patriarchy: Feminism Today

By Shelley Orr
 
As is the case with many social justice movements, the history of the women’s right’s movement seems to advance in fits and starts. There are periods of activity and periods of stagnation. As we know, women in the United States gained the right to vote in all states in all elections in 1920 when the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Just twenty-eight words of substance changed the standing of women in significant ways. In part, the amendment reads: “The right of citizens of the United States shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” 
 
What is less well known today is that ratifying those twenty-eight words was the result of a consistent, seventy-year campaign by thousands of activists. Indeed, one of the first actions taken in 1777, by newly formed states in the burgeoning United States, was to take away women’s right to vote. Yes, just a year after the Declaration of Independence. 
 
Seventy years later, in 1848, a notable gathering of 300 women and men at Seneca Falls, New York, signed the Declaration of Sentiments (which was directly modeled on Jefferson’s Declaration) that outlined the stark lack of equality between men and women in the U.S. The sentiments aired include: “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.” It then lists all the rights that women were denied, beginning with the right to vote, continuing with the lack of property rights and claim to her own wages if she is married, calling attention to the lack of access to divorce, and listing all the places that she is barred entry, including all colleges.
 
The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in the wake of the landmark 19th Amendment in 1923. It was revised in 1943 into the form it takes to this day. The ERA came closest to becoming law in 1972. It was passed by the Senate and sent to the States for ratification that year. Quickly twenty-two of the required thirty-eight states ratified it, but it did not reach the goal in the allotted time of ten years (the usual seven-year deadline, plus a three-year extension granted by Congress). The ERA was reintroduced a couple of weeks after this setback in 1982 and has been introduced before every session of Congress since that time. 
 
Helen Reddy’s anthem “I Am Woman” was on the radio that summer and reached Number One on the pop charts in December 1972. “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.” Reddy won a Grammy for the song. NPR recently produced a segment on the song and its impact. https://www.npr.org/2018/10/24/651795560/i-am-woman-helen-reddy-american-anthem-hear-them-roar
 
One month after “I am woman, hear me roar” topped the charts, the Supreme Court decided Roe v Wade, delivering one of the most significant and most contested rights.
 
Like 1848, 1920, and 1972-3, we currently seem to be in a period when the culture is undergoing significant change with respect to the status of women. The Women’s March that happened the day after the inauguration in January 2017 drew huge crowds to events across the country and around the world. This remarkable demonstration for women’s rights was followed by the #MeToo movement when a series of women brought forward allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other prominent men in positions of power, starting in October 2017. The second Women’s March followed in January 2018 keeping the conversation alive.
 
The recent confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh to sit on the Supreme Court were dominated by the accusation brought by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Dr. Ford’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee sparked even more conversation about believing accusers.  Segments of our country seem to be engaging in an ongoing dialogue about changing the norms around relations between the genders. The movement has been marked by a recognition of the pervasive nature of harassment in workplaces and public spaces as well as a period of reckoning for perpetrators. The hashtag #MeToo has helped raise awareness of the situation and especially demonstrates how widespread it is. #MeToo has created solidarity and a sense of the urgent need to change the situation. 
 
The movement today has reframed many of the old debates around problems like rape. Viral posts on social media declare: 
You can wear whatever you want;
You can drink as much as you want;
You can stay out as late as you want;
You can flirt with whoever you want;
If there’s not a Rapist around, you won’t get raped. 
The useful innovation in the conversation we are having about the culture is shining a light on how much—not just women—all of us can and must do to change attitudes, call out bad behavior, and make the change real and lasting.
 
 

Part 2, Notable Sequels

By Shelley Orr
 
Among the most notable “sequels” in theatre are those that take the characters and situation into new territory. Those inspired by Shakespeare, such as Paula Vogel’s Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead are prime examples. The recent tour-de-force play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon, which was inspired by a titan of 19th-century melodrama, Dion Boucicault, is another. And while these works use the same characters and setting as the play from which they take inspiration, they are not actually sequels in the mode of Hollywood blockbusters that seem to crop up every couple of years. The Hollywood model seems calculated to recreate the magic (read: financial success) of the original and seeks to re-create the original in several key ways; same main characters, same setting, new situation. That allows the marketing machine to use their most powerful secret weapon on their potential audience: nostalgia. Marketers don’t need to take time and effort (and money) selling the audience on the story or the characters, they simply need to promise something close to the original, but with the lure of a new chapter for the characters to conquer. 
 
In the case of the theatre, we don’t often do sequels. It seems we value premieres too much to “get the band back together,” so to speak. Actually, we are happy to get a successful collaborating team back together, but we often want them to produce something new. And, in fact, the plays by Vogel, Stoppard, and Jacobs-Jenkins mentioned above, all have created their own worlds from a familiar theatrical landscape. Shakespeare is a very popular author to take after, and this is understandable as his plays are among the most widely and well known. Using a familiar story, the contemporary author doesn’t need to explain as much to the audience. They can get to telling the story that they need to tell using those established characters and setting. And, indeed, the plays referenced, as well as "A Doll’s House, Part 2," are much more about the moment in which they are written than the original play’s moment. While he sets his play just fifteen years after Ibsen’s, Hnath’s play speaks directly and clearly to our present moment. Perhaps even more clearly for his early 1900s setting. Sometimes it takes a bit of distance for us to see our own time in the proper perspective.
 
 

An Interview with Playwright Lucas Hnath (Interview in Vogue)

How Rock Star Playwright Lucas Hnath Brought "A Doll’s House, Part 2" to Broadway

by Adam Green
 
www.vogue.com 9 JUNE 2017
 
Any list of inadvisable ideas for a play or other work of fiction would have to include a sequel to "A Doll’s House," Henrik Ibsen’s ground-shaking 1879 masterpiece that ends with its heroine, Nora, walking out on her husband and children to discover who she is as a sovereign human being. Enter the seriously talented young playwright Lucas Hnath, whose impudently titled "A Doll’s House, Part 2," opened to raves in April [2017] and just extended its limited engagement from July to January. It was also [nominated] for eight Tonys, including Best Play.
 
[Producer Scott] Rudin was a longtime fan of Hnath’s earlier plays, among them A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney, The Christians, and Red Speedo, notable for their signature mix of ironic whimsy and a deadly, serious grasp of human drama. When Rudin got a hold of an early draft of "A Doll’s House, Part 2," which was slated for a regional production, he thought it was, he says, “one of the smartest things I’d ever read,” and he contacted Hnath to tell him that he wanted to produce it on Broadway. He quickly recruited the protean young director Sam Gold and the four stars and, after a short-development period followed by seven weeks of rehearsals and previews, let in the critics. “Frankly,” he says, “I figured that if seven smart people in a room couldn’t make material this strong work in that amount of time, then we shouldn’t be doing it.”
 
Hnath, who has become almost as well known for his mane as his playwriting, grew up in Orlando, where he developed what he calls his “penchant for theatricality” from visits to Disney World. During his freshman year at NYU, where he was on a pre-med track, he fell in love with the plays of Sam Shepard, Edward Albee, and Caryl Churchill, and switched into the dramatic writing program. After self-producing several plays at downtown storefront theaters, he had his first professional success in 2012, at the Humana Festival in Louisville, with Death Tax, a black comedy about, as advertised, death and taxes. I recently talked with Hnath about his Broadway debut, and the following is an edited version of our conversation.
 
When did you first encounter "A Doll’s House" and what was your reaction?
My first encounter would have been reading it in high school. I don’t really, entirely remember the experience of reading it except to say I know I think I rather liked it. I think the next time, was a production by probably a bunch of interns over at The Wooster Group at the Performing Garage that frankly was kind of a hot mess. I mean that with all affection because it was a really interesting experience. Like Nora was played by like seven different women all wearing lizard tails or something. I remember coming out at the end thinking, “Oh I don’t know about that production, but I think the play is really good.” Even with all those layers of concepts piled up on it the play actually kind of held its own and the story worked.
 
What, for you, is its enduring power?
There’s a part of me that wants to answer in terms of all of his plays, but I’d say that the action that takes place at the end was a shock when it was first produced and it’s still a shock today. The way that it’s built is it’s a couple that actually is failing to talk to each other for most of the play. Then you hit that final scene where Nora says, “We need to talk.” That is such a resonant moment, and it’s such a familiar moment, too. It cuts to the heart of a problem in all intimate relationships. Also, Ibsen is trying to define what freedom is and is identifying the ways in which we are not as free as we think we are. Fears about reputation and how we’re viewed in the world, and anxieties about money and social standing—I think those are all shackles that remain today.
 
How did you decide that the play called for a sequel and that you were the guy to write it?
Honestly, to some degree there probably wasn’t that much thought that went into it, which is probably the best way to begin. I wasn’t too self-conscious at the start of it. Really it came out of just such a love and appreciation of Ibsen’s work and finding this is a great excuse to spend more time with Ibsen and try to get inside his skin. The way that I started writing the play was I found a really bad translation of "A Doll’s House" online and cut and pasted it into a document and started just writing each sentence, each line, in my own words, as just a way of kind of getting to know how his plays work, how he does what he does. It came out of just an excitement over a chance to get to play with it for a little bit. That plus the title I thought was kind of funny.
 
Then it became an opportunity for me to think about the subjects of marriage and divorce, which are topics that I’ve been sort of hovering around for a while. It seemed to be a good platform to write about some subjects that I was already interested in, because it’s a sequel to a play that everybody kind of at least sort of knows: “Wait—is that the one where she shoots herself or the one where she walks out the door?” It’s similar to the way that I like writing plays about famous people, like Walt Disney. I like taking something that already feels a little mythic, and then starting to play with that.
 
As you started to write, how did you find your way into the world of the play?
One of the things I did do early to kind of prep myself was, during a workshop, I polled all the people in the room about what they remembered of "A Doll’s House" and what they imagined Nora went off to do. Almost everybody said that she went off to work in a factory or became a prostitute and died. Given how few avenues there were for emancipated women at the time, those aren’t incredible assumptions, but it dictated to me that what I wanted to do was something completely other than what people were expecting. Instead of a story where she hits a wall of misery, I was going to say that she did great. There’s something kind of fun and really exhilarating about that.
 
Some of the plot elements are kind of an homage to Ibsen, but the play feels much more contemporary.
The earliest stabs at the play were even more of an homage. I started by mimicking him pretty heavily, then looked to see what I could strip away and not be so beholden to the Ibsen style and structure. At a certain point, it made sense to strip it down to what are basically a series of two person showdowns, like a series of boxing rounds, which is closer to how I write most of my plays anyway, instead of almost doing an Ibsen tribute band.
 
I also can’t imagine Ibsen having one of his characters tell another to “fuck off.” What was behind the decision to use modern language and slang?
I think it helps with the sense of humor, and it helps with getting the audience to think about the relationship between themselves and the dilemmas of these characters from the late 1800s. Also, there’s this thing that sometimes happens in theater—when you tell a story about another period, in the language of the time, for some reason actors start using this vaguely British accent. It doesn’t matter where the play takes place. They call it period voice, and it turns people into marble monuments instead of flesh and blood humans on stage. Really, it’s just a part of what I’m attempting to do with the play as a whole, which is to try to see through something that feels familiar and make it new again.


 
 

History of Marriage: 13 Surprising Facts

By Tia Ghose, Senior Writer | June 26, 2013 04:26pm ET  (Source: LiveScience.com)
Moonstruck partners pledging eternal love may be the current definition of marriage, but this starry-eyed picture has relatively modern origins. Though marriage has ancient roots, until recently, love had little to do with it. “What marriage had in common was that it really was not about the relationship between the man and the woman,” said Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage (Penguin Books 2006). “It was a way of getting in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force.”
But as family plots of land gave way to market economies and Kings ceded power to democracies, the notion of marriage transformed. Now, most Americans see marriage as a bond between equals that's all about love and companionship. That changing definition has paved the way for same-sex marriage and Wednesday's (26 June 2013) Supreme Court rulings, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismissed a case concerning Proposition 8. From polygamy to same-sex marriage, here are 13 milestones in the history of marriage.
1. Arranged alliances

Marriage is a truly ancient institution that predates recorded history. But early marriage was seen as a strategic alliance between families, with the youngsters often having no say in the matter. In some cultures, parents even married one child to the spirit of a deceased child in order to strengthen familial bonds, Coontz said.
2. Family ties
Keeping alliances within the family was also quite common. In the Bible, the forefathers Isaac and Jacob married cousins and Abraham married his half-sister. Cousin marriages remain common throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. In fact, Rutgers anthropologist Robin Fox has estimated that the majority of all marriages throughout history were between first and second cousins.
3. Polygamy preferred
Monogamy may seem central to marriage now, but in fact, polygamy was common throughout history. From Jacob, to Kings David and Solomon, Biblical men often had anywhere from two to thousands of wives. (Of course, though polygamy may have been an ideal that high-status men aspired to, for purely mathematical reasons most men likely had at most one wife). In a few cultures, one woman married multiple men, and there have even been some rare instances of group marriages. [Life's Extremes: Monogamy vs. Polygamy]
4. Babies optional
In many early cultures, men could dissolve a marriage or take another wife if a woman was infertile. However, the early Christian church was a trailblazer in arguing that marriage was not contingent on producing offspring.
"The early Christian church held the position that if you can procreate you must not refuse to procreate. But they always took the position that they would annul a marriage if a man could not have sex with his wife, but not if they could not conceive," Coontz told LiveScience.
5. Monogamy established

Monogamy became the guiding principle for Western marriages sometime between the sixth and the ninth centuries, Coontz said. “There was a protracted battle between the Catholic Church and the old nobility and kings who wanted to say ‘I can take a second wife,’” Coontz said. The Church eventually prevailed, with monogamy becoming central to the notion of marriage by the ninth century.
6. Monogamy lite
Still, monogamous marriage was very different from the modern conception of mutual fidelity. Though marriage was legally or sacramentally recognized between just one man and one woman, until the 19th century, men had wide latitude to engage in extramarital affairs, Coontz said. Any children resulting from those trysts, however, would be illegitimate, with no claim to the man's inheritance.
“Men's promiscuity was quite protected by the dual laws of legal monogamy but tolerance — basically enabling — of informal promiscuity,” Coontz said. Women caught stepping out, by contrast, faced serious risk and censure.
7. State or church?
Marriages in the West were originally contracts between the families of two partners, with the Catholic Church and the state staying out of it. In 1215, the Catholic Church decreed that partners had to publicly post banns, or notices of an impending marriage in a local parish, to cut down on the frequency of invalid marriages (the Church eliminated that requirement in the 1980s). Still, until the 1500s, the Church accepted a couple's word that they had exchanged marriage vows, with no witnesses or corroborating evidence needed.
8. Civil marriage

In the last several hundred years, the state has played a greater role in marriage. For instance, Massachusetts began requiring marriage licenses in 1639, and by the 19th-century marriage licenses were common in the United States.
9. Love matches

By about 250 years ago, the notion of love matches gained traction, Coontz said, meaning marriage was based on love and possibly sexual desire. But mutual attraction in marriage wasn't important until about a century ago. In fact, in Victorian England, many held that women didn't have strong sexual urges at all, Coontz said.
10. Market economics

Around the world, family-arranged alliances have gradually given way to love matches, and a transition from an agricultural to a market economy plays a big role in that transition, Coontz said. Parents historically controlled access to inheritance of agricultural land. But with the spread of a market economy, “it's less important for people to have permission of their parents to wait to give them an inheritance or to work on their parents' land,” Coontz said. “So it's more possible for young people to say, ‘heck, I'm going to marry who I want.’”
Modern markets also allow women to play a greater economic role, which lead to their greater independence. And the expansion of democracy, with its emphasis on liberty and individual choice, may also have stacked the deck for love matches.
11. Different spheres

Still, marriage wasn't about equality until about 50 years ago. At that time, women and men had unique rights and responsibilities within marriage. For instance, in the United States, marital rape was legal in many states until the 1970s, and women often could not open credit cards in their own names, Coontz said. Women were entitled to support from their husbands, but didn't have the right to decide on the distribution of community property. And if a wife was injured or killed, a man could sue the responsible party for depriving him of “services around the home,” whereas women didn't have the same option, Coontz said.
12. Partnership of equals

By about 50 years ago, the notion that men and women had identical obligations within marriage began to take root. Instead of being about unique, gender-based roles, most partners conceived of their unions in terms of flexible divisions of labor, companionship, and mutual sexual attraction.
13. Gay marriage gains ground
Changes in straight marriage paved the way for gay marriage. Once marriage was not legally based on complementary, gender-based roles, gay marriage seemed like a logical next step.
“One of the reasons for the stunningly rapid increase in acceptance of same-sex marriage is because heterosexuals have completely changed their notion of what marriage is between a man and a woman,” Coontz said. “We now believe it is based on love, mutual sexual attraction, equality and a flexible division of labor.”
 
 

Food for Thought Questions

 
1.  One main theme of this piece is related to marriage. Do you think marriage is     
     ultimately a flawed institution or is it an important fixture in our culture?
 
2.  Did you find yourself taking sides during the play? Did that surprise you?
 
3.  What advice would you have for a newly engaged couple before they marry?
 
4.  If you have ever read or seen Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, do you remember what       
     your reaction to Nora walking out at the end was?
 
5.  Would you call "A Doll’s House, Part 2" a feminist play? Why or why not?

 

 
 
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