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Writer as Reader Workshops

This is What a Feminist Looks Like: Performance-based Writing Strategies for Reenvisioning Nora in A Doll’s House

November 2, 2012

Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House is most often taught as the theatrical birth of modern feminism. Nora, the lead character, rebels against her role as a “doll” in her husband’s household. When she leaves home at the end of the play in the original production, it was said, “the door slam was heard all over Europe.” But if we are to do more than the characters surrounding Nora in the play, who regard her merely as a symbol, we need to approach Nora as an actor, by asking, “Who is she, really? What does this character want and how far is she willing to go to get it?” This workshop uses dramaturgical tools that give teachers an active and practical approach to the text that requires no theater background. We use masks to explore what happens to our own perceptions of the Feminine when the face is unseen and employ simple props that symbolize the female (an apple, an apron, a pair of high heels). We respond in writing to these exercises and also to visual images of women who consciously present themselves as objects, including pop, contemporary art, and fashion icons. Through a combination of performative techniques, visual images, and our own writing, we go beyond Nora the Symbol to Nora the Woman and talk about how to bring this work into the classroom.

Text: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (any edition)

Workshop fee: $150 (includes morning coffee, lunch, and 
workshop materials)