When I first saw Henrik Ibsen’s pshychological drama The Wild Duck in 2006, I honestly thought Gregers was in the right. Relationships should be founded on absolute honesty, and that no matter what, you had a duty to expose the truth. No matter how painful it was. By the time we finished our run of The Wild Duck at Single Carrot Theatre in 2009, I agreed with Relling. I didn’t necessarily believe that we all need a “life-lie”, and that it’s better to just get along. But I believed there are some sleeping dogs you must let lie–we must be pragmatic and do what we can to ignore the past, to let go and move forward with what we have. Today, two years later in 2011, I agree with Gregers all over again. I’m fed up with a world that ignores its problems. I’m sick of the lack of responsibility a large majority of people take for their actions. This is why I love the central conflict of The Wild Duck, and why I particularly enjoyed the post-show conversations for the piece–the audience was always divided, and rarely on the fence.
I’m obviously not the first person to say it, but Ibsen is such a remarkable craftsman. He built such a complex series of struggles and lies in the relationship of the Ekdals and the Werles, and through the tragic tale of these two families, the audience is able to confront the question of “is it better to know the (brutal) truth, or is ignorance bliss?”
I don’t honestly know if I was quite ready to direct this play. As my one of my mentors said after the production, “The play is this huge apple, and you took the biggest bite out of it you could.” I love feeling like we could have done more, and I’m happy with the bite we took. The cast and I really dug deeply into this work.
The structure of the work, with one act at the Werle home, and the last four acts at the Ekdal’s made me want to create a large contrast between the two worlds. I wanted to highlight the sense of the industrial revolution, and had we had the ability to throw more money into the production itself, I would have liked to explore the possible industrial innovations of the day on stage more fully. While the play was written in 1884, I loosely borrowed from the concept of 1911 Futurism, which I believed Gregers would have respected from the sense that the new, true world would rise out of the ashes of the old world. I wanted to set up the world of the Werle’s as a cool, blue, futuristic world, and the Ekdal’s world was very earthy, rustic, and authentic. I would have loved a Jules Verne-esque first set. We did have a punch bowl that descended from the ceiling, and I had the two servants, Jensen and Pettersen, speak from a loudspeaker on the wall, as if they were security watching from cameras.
For the transition from Act 1 to Act 2, the table that occupied the hall we set the first act in, broke apart into all of the furniture for the Ekdal home. I loved the idea that the decadent table in the hall of the Werle home, could contain every bit of furniture that the Ekdal’s used in their hall, which was the center of their lives. We much more successfully evoked the world of the Ekdal’s, using raw OSB or chip-board to make everything, instead of the sleek, austere look of Werle’s.
I would love to direct this play again in ten years, after I’ve switched back and forth between Relling and Greger’s points of view a few more times.
Below is the promo video I created for “The Wild Duck”.