‘The Summer in Gossensass’ comes to the Corner Playhouse

MU Theatre wades into world of Cuban playwright Fornés’ imagination.

On Thursday, the Corner Playhouse opens its doors to present a different type of theater experience.

“The Summer in Gossensass,” written by Cuban playwright María Irene Fornés, follows two American actresses as they travel to London to perform the controversial play “Hedda Gabler.”

Written by Henrik Ibsen and published in 1890, “Hedda Gabler” centers around the life of a woman who defies the traditional societal roles for females in the 19th century and instead embraces a dominant, wild and strong individuality unmatched by the other women of her time. The play was initially met with criticism at the time of its publication but has since gained recognition as a staple in feminist literature.

Just as Ibsen’s Hedda rebels against the confining molds of society, Fornés’ show refuses to follow the recipe of a traditional play. Though her script is in many ways a historical account, Fornés allows it to have a certain fluency and mobility which gives the play a thoughtful and analytical quality that is often unexplored in theater.

“It’s a real historical account, but it’s her own take on it,” director Barbara Salvadori-Heritage says.

A large part of the play is the discussion of Hedda Gabler and her personality, which takes place between the American actresses Elizabeth Robins and Marion Lea. The show doesn’t follow a linear plot, but rather gives the feeling of being inside the playwright’s head as she is creating the play.

“It’s about acting and writing and thinking … and bringing that to the stage,” says junior Leslie Howard, who plays the character of Lady Bell, a mentor to Robins and Lea.

This abstract notion is accentuated by the silent, onstage presence of the two playwrights, Ibsen and Fornés. Though not members of the original cast, Salvadori-Heritage chose to add them to further demonstrate the flexible, imaginative character of the play.

“I immediately thought of Fornés,” Salvadori-Heritage says when asked why she chose the play for MU Theatre. “I wanted something by a woman and something by a minority. The characters are so interesting and so complex. The two women’s search for who Hedda Gabler was is a search for themselves as women in that time.”

While the play has several feminist undertones, freshman Hannah Atencio, who plays Robins, sees the play as having another clear message that anyone can relate to.

“Find what you’re passionate about, and chase it down,” Atencio says.

Check http://theatre.missouri.edu/onstage/ for dates, times and ticket prices.

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