2022-23 | My Name is Laura Kieler: The True Story of Ibsen's A Doll's House

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Monochrome image depicts Adeleide Johannessen in character as Nora dancing the tarantella dance and holding, above her head, a tambourine in her right hand.

Adeleide Johannessen in character as Nora dancing the tarantella dance. Image from a cigarette card of c. 1880–82 via Wikimedia

'My Name is Laura Kieler: The True Story of Ibsen's A Doll's House'

 

Knowledge Exchange Fellow
Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr   |   Faculty of English   |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisation
Breach Theatre | Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens

 

 

This project is the next phase of the collaboration with Breach Theatre company to create an original theatre piece based on the true story behind Ibsen's most famous play, A Doll's House. Ibsen based his character of Nora directly on the real-life figure of Laura Kieler, an aspiring writer and a friend of Ibsen's, whose private difficulties furnished the plot of his play-- without her knowledge or permission. Seeing her personal problems put up on stage for all to see was a shock that caused Laura life-long trauma, and yet she managed to go on to establish a successful career as the author of novels, plays, and newspaper articles even while struggling to set the record straight about how Ibsen used her as his raw material and capitalized on her anguish. Laura's story is a powerful example of a woman overcoming adversity and exploitation by men at a time when women's voices were only just beginning to be heard. Building on the KE Innovation fund project, which allowed us to explore this extraordinary story's possibilities for performance, we will expand and develop our ideas into a full-length play that will powerfully illuminate Laura's relevance for contemporary issues and debates, such as the MeToo movement and the 'bad art friend' controversies.

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