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'Hedda Gabler' troupe in Detroit Lakes on Friday

Commonweal Theatre actors (from left) Adrienne Sweeney as Hedda Gabler, Scott Dixon as her husband George Tessman and Jerome Yorke as her former boyfriend Eilert Lovborg are among seven actors involved in the production of Henrik Ibsen's classic play, "Hedda Gabler," which comes to Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre on Friday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m.1 / 2
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A troupe of seven actors (plus one technician) from the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minn., will make their first trip to Detroit Lakes to perform the classic play "Hedda Gabler," on Friday, April 3 at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

"We have been annually presenting the works of Henrik Ibsen for the past 12 years, and touring our Ibsen production throughout the upper Midwest every other year since 2003," said Hal Kropp, artistic director of the Commonweal Theatre.

Kropp is doing double duty this spring, as both the director of "Hedda Gabler" and an actor in the production, portraying the role of Judge Brock.

"It's the first time I've done it (directing and acting in the same play), and it's incredibly difficult," he said in a recent telephone interview. "I know this play very well, having played this role once before and acted in the play twice before. That's the reason I felt somewhat comfortable taking on this challenge."

A masterpiece of world drama, the gripping Norwegian classic, "Hedda Gabler," has long been a favorite of theatergoers. Despite the fact that Ibsen wrote the play in 1893, it still feels contemporary not only in theme, but in form.

"It's Ibsen's most popular play," Kropp said. "There are at least five professional productions of the play going on currently, including one on Broadway starring Mary Louise Parker. There have been several movies (based on the play) as well."

The reason for the play's enduring popularity, Kropp feels, is its namesake.

"She's (Hedda) a fascinating character," he said. "She's talented and intelligent and driven, and yet exists in an incredibly confining situation -- the society into which she was born was not amenable to women having any kind of role or responsibility."

The play itself, Kropp said, is "a pretty naked examination of people's quest for power."

The story begins with Hedda and her husband, George Tessman, having recently returned from their honeymoon. Upon their arrival, they discover that Eilert Lovborg -- a recovering alcoholic who is both an erstwhile rival of Tessman's and a former suitor of Hedda's -- has become sober and successful.

"Hedda attempts to exert her will in some form over her former boyfriend, with tragic results," Kropp said.

Commonweal Theatre Company is the only professional theater group in North America with a commitment to annually producing Ibsen's work.

"This is our 20th season, and our 12th Ibsen production," Kropp said, noting that the group had also produced "Hedda" 10 years ago.

"After spending the last 10 years working with Ibsen's plays, we felt we were able to bring a deeper understanding to the play and it was time to take a second look at the story," Kropp said. "The ensemble has in it some people who have reached a certain development in their maturity as actors for whom these roles are both right and challenging."

Besides Kropp, the cast includes Adrienne Sweeney as Hedda, Scott Dixon as George, Jerome Yorke as Eilert and Stef Dickens as Mrs. Elvsted (Eilert's companion).

Along with the evening performance, which begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3, the actors will also spend the afternoon working with Detroit Lakes High School drama students.

Tickets for "Hedda Gabler" are $22 for adults and $11 for students. Call the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW, buy online at, or visit the box office at 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes. This production is being underwritten by Detroit Lakes Newspapers.

Scandinavian smorgasbord

In conjunction with the play, the Holmes Theatre will also host a Scandinavian Smorgasbord at 6 p.m. in the Holmes Ballroom.

There will be several classic dishes to choose from including baked cod, pickled herring, fruit and cabbage salad, pea soup, roasted potatoes, rice pudding, Norwegian stuffed eggs, flat bread, lefse, and a variety of desserts.

Though the event is being catered by Country Kitchen -- which has provided delicious culinary selections for the theater's monthly Cabaret Nights and theater pre-parties -- there are also several local individuals who will be assisting with the creation of the authentic desserts and breads for the feast. They include Sally Oja, Tina Reed, Mary Stoller and Carol Tharaldson.

The Smorgasbord is $15 per person.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454