Director Tom Quaintance on creating a true “Enemy of the People”

Tom Quaintance, director

Although An Enemy of the People was written by Henrik Ibsen in 1882 and adapted by Arthur Miller in the 1950s, director Tom Quaintance believes it is as relevant today as it was for those eras. With characters that grapple with corruption, the influence of money, and the power of the media to shape public opinion, Tom says this play “feels like it could have been written yesterday.”

The plot follows Dr. Stockmann, played by Michael Bryan French, who tries to alert citizens when he discovers an underwater spring feeding the successful town spa is threatened by toxic waste poisoning. His brother Peter, played by Anthony Newfield, serves as Chairman of the Board of the spa. He works against his brother, feeling it’s in the town’s best interest to conceal Dr. Stockmann’s findings.

In our current age of leaders with questionable ethics, nonstop surveillance, and unverified media sources, the story of Dr. Stockmann could not be more pertinent. Tom explains:

“It is the story of science versus politics. It is the story of a whistleblower. It is the story of how money influences everything. It is the story of how the media shapes how we view the world. In today’s increasingly divided society, where people increasingly only hear the news and the spin they want to hear, it is an important play.”

With the show holding many themes, Tom has collaborated with scenic designer McKay Coble and costume designer Patrick Holt to create a production that evokes the truth and realism Arthur Miller sought to portray when adapting the play.

McKay Coble’s scenic design model

Tom describes the costumes as extraordinary. He says Patrick’s “control of the color palette and specificity of cut and style tell each character’s story.”

McKay’s detail-oriented design complements the natural exchanges of the dialogue and allows the actors to discover their own truths within the space. Tom calls it, “both strikingly realistic and beautifully abstract.”

Although the play is set in the 1950s, the scenic design utilizes a surrounding water feature inspired by a modern treatment plant. This is purposeful, “to invite the audience to consider the contemporary relevance of the play.”

Bottom line: Tom believes An Enemy of the People is timeless and “a critical play for 2015.”

An Enemy of the People is onstage February 25-March 15. Do not miss this critical play!

Click here for more info or call our box office at 919.962.PLAY (7529).