Making Ibsen our own: AQ Theatre’s final fall production

A rehearsal of One of Our Own 

Photo courtesy Breanne Blackwell

Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer

The season’s second show of the Aquinas College’s Theatre program will be an original adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic An Enemy of the People written by the cast, rehearsals for which are in full swing.

The original play’s protagonist is a doctor who discovers that the water in his town is poisoned and tries to make that fact public, thus jeopardizing the town’s hopes of becoming a popular tourist destination as a spa town.  The adaptation is set in the present day, and the parallel with the current global pandemic needs no explanation. 

But the adaptation goes far deeper than the low-hanging fruit of equating two public health crises—it paints in several layers of other parallels, touching on the theme of conspiracy theories, as well as on multiple information wars, such as the current struggle between competing versions of reality or the battle of apps for digital real estate.  The effect of playing on so many levels at the same time is a spotlight on the one thing that is common to all of those levels: that the protagonist is trying to utter an unpalatable truth.  Watching a rehearsal left the impression that the adaptation gives the original a run for its money on the front of making its point.

The show also adapts Ibsen’s signature realism to the virtual stage that is realistic for our time—the whole show plays out on Zoom.  During rehearsal, cast and crew members met in the Black Box theater first—with masks and social distancing, of course—and read a scene, still tweaking the text here and there, stopping to workshop their revisions as a group. Then the cast moved to separate spaces—“Zoom stations,” as the AQ Theatre Facebook page calls them—from where they rehearsed several more scenes virtually, with their masks off, which is also how they will perform the actual show.

Professor Scott Harman, who joined the college’s Theatre Program this year, is directing the show, which features a mix of new and familiar faces, with Camille Bistrek as the protagonist and Zach Avery as the antagonist.  The show will run November 12–15—the last weekend that students will still be on campus before moving out for winter. Zoom access codes to the show are available at for $5 per head, or $15 per group or family.