UCI Drama explores the price of truth-telling in Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE


IRVINE, Calif. (March 24, 2016) – UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts Department of Drama presents Henrik Ibsen’s classic An Enemy of the People, an examination of societal dynamics that is perhaps even more relevant today than when it was written in 1882. At the heart of this story is individual truth-telling versus popular opinion, the ulterior motives of economic interests, and the question of whether truth is ever absolute. In Ibsen’s words, spoken by the play’s idealistic Dr. Stockmann, “Truth shifts. You don’t seem to realize that over the centuries what were truths reconfigure as lies.”

Head of Directing, Professor Jane Page, agreed to direct this timely narrative in part because it is easily contextualized within the conversation around many of today’s inconvenient truths. While remaining true to Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s translation of the script, Page has set the action in the town of Ouray in southwest Colorado, where last summer the Environmental Protection Agency spilled millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River. Like the “healing waters” of the coastal town in which the play was originally set, the environment and commerce of Ouray were severely affected by the contamination, a fact of which many wished to remain in denial. While Ibsen’s work is classic and canonic, the themes explored in An Enemy of the People are indeed timeless, including the struggle of the individual to speak a known truth in the face of public scorn and institutionalized pressure.

Page is also mindful of how often there are “truths” in the public consciousness that turn out to be not absolute but “shifting,” such as the medical establishment’s regularly revised claims regarding what is or is not good for us. “Over the past century there have been numerous ‘truths’ that have cost government, industry, and individual,” Page observes. “We need look no further than the cigarette industry, which knew that cigarettes were habit-forming and contributed to cancer in the late 1950s, but denied this in full testimony in Washington.” She also cites the water quality issues in Flint, Michigan, which have long contributed to public health concerns, though the veracity of this claim (in the face of its overwhelming evidence) continues to be debated and denied. “By sewing doubt in public opinion,” Page says, “the power brokers in our society succeed in creating a kind of mass paralysis born of confusion and fear.”

An Enemy of the People is the fifth offering in UCI Drama’s season of Care | Cure | Corruption, which explores themes of somatic and mental illness, as well as other kinds of institutional dis-ease. Featured productions aim to open discussions on the causes and manifestations of personal and communal malady, and to investigate ways in which we – as individuals and as a society – may affect a cure.

Performances and Ticket Information

The Little Theatre, UC Irvine
Parking: Mesa Parking Structure, 4004 Mesa Road, Irvine 92617

Evenings: Apr. 30, May 5, 6, 7 at 8:00 pm
Evening: May 4 at 7:30 pm
Matinees: May 1*, 7, 8 at 2:00 pm

*Ticketholders: Please join us for a post-performance TalkBack with the creative team and cast.

General Admission $15 / Seniors & Groups 10+ $14 / UCI Students & Children under 17 $11

For tickets call the Box Office at (949) 824-2787 or visit www.arts.uci.edu/tickets

More on UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts: www.arts.uci.edu