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UT presents new translation of ‘Miss Julie’

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University of Toledo student Christina Pinciotti plays Julie, the strong-willed, rebellious, and seductive daughter of a count, in UT’s production of ‘Miss Julie.’

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A 19-century wild child comes of age in the 21st century in a new production of  Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie at the University of Toledo Friday evening.

Daniel Thobias, a University of Toledo assistant professor of theater and a native of Sweden who resided there until 1994, has given the play new life with his new translation that will premiere with this production. 

”This translation is very rich and dramatic, very rich in the development of the characters,” Cornel Gabara, UT associate professor of theater and director of Miss Julie, said in a recent interview.

About those characters -- there are three of them: Julie, the strong-willed, rebellious, and seductive daughter of a count, lives on the family estate with a staff of servants. They include Jean, the butler, who has little formal education but observes and echoes the manners of his employer, appearing to be of higher social status, and Christine, the cook, who is of the lower classes. She also is religious. 

Julie’s father, the count, is discussed but never seen; he is represented onstage by his boots and gloves. But, “his shadow is there all the time,” Gabara said.

Julie flirts, and more, with the butler, who is involved with -- perhaps, betrothed to? -- Christine,  a romantic triangle that is a 19th-century recipe for disaster.

“[Julie] wants to live the way she is, and she’s wild — she wants to break out of her cage. There is a metaphor, a bird in a cage,  onstage. The play has so many symbols,” Gabara said.

He describes the play as “an adventure between the daughter of the count, the count’s butler, and the count’s cook ... and what might happen in the kitchen.

“The balance between two forces, equally opposed and equally strong, would be from my point of view the main theme,” Gabara said. Having two equal but opposing forces creates conflict: Julie vs. Jean, male vs. female, upper vs. lower class.

The play is set during a festival on the evening of the summer solstice, which has pagan roots, so there also is conflict between those instincts and Christianity, which is represented in Miss Julie by the religious character Christine.

The play was written when naturalism and realism were developing in European theater. In  naturalism, nothing is artificial — relationships, the way the set is designed, the character’s gestures, would be natural. It is giving the impression of real life, not stylized real life, Gabra said. But this production goes beyond that to  also explore the human mind and imagination.

“Theater is alive,” Gabara said. The audience’s reaction to Miss Julie should not only be intellectual, but involve the heart, the senses, and emotion.

The new translation has a contemporary attitude, and that is a great thing, Gabara said. Thobias  keeps the flavor of the times in which the original was written, but makes the play accessible to today’s audiences.

The last English translation was probably the 1950s or earlier, Thobias said in a recent interview, but this production was designed to  reach the youth of today. He wanted to achieve a normal speaking voice for each of the characters. 

There are basically three different  levels of language in the play that illustrate the characters’ position in society.  Julie is a blue-blood, and has been schooled, Thobias said. Jean, basically a wannabe, has a higher level of language too, but he gained it by listening to his betters. Christine is basically a peasant, so her language is more colloquial.

Thobias and Gabara collaborated so that the new translation was true to both Strindberg the author, and to Gabara’s  vision of the play. “What goes on, really, behind the language?” Thobias said. 

The cast for the University of Toledo’s production of Miss Julie includes Christina Pinciotti as Julie, Ian Davis as Jean, and Madi Artz as Christine; all three are UT students. 

Performances of Miss Julie will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the University of Toledo’s Center for Performing Arts on the main campus. There will be a Talk Back session after Friday’s performance.

Additional performances will be after Thanksgiving, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5-6 and 2 p.m. Dec. 7. Tickets, $12 general admission, $10 faculty, staff, alumni, and seniors, and $7 students, are available from 419-530-2375, utoledo,edu/BoxOffice, and at the Center for Performinng Arts box office.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com.

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