During the current time of electoral voting that places people one side or the other, the Theatre Fairfield production of “An Enemy of the People” seems appropriate because of political presence. However, there is one thing the play expressed that politics rarely does – the importance of the truth.
Theatre Fairfield is a part of the theatre program in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield. Being the production wing of the program, the Theatre Fairfield season consists of professionally directed and designed productions, performances of student-written plays, performance workshops, and much more.
The play was set up so the audience was in a “U” shape around the stage to engage the viewers at any angle. Regular furniture was placed on stage to make the appearance of a living room. But like the director Tom Schwans said in his Director’s Note, “Even our set requires you to see beyond the immediate.”
“An Enemy of the People” portrays a financial struggle within a small city that has one man trying to expose the truth of an environment issue for the sake of the people. Essentially, the battle comes down to the health of the society verses the political economics.
In Act I, the main character Dr. Thomas Stockmann discovers that there is a high amount of bacteria found in the baths within the town. However, his brother refuses to recognize the health hazard not only because of the obvious competitiveness between the siblings, but because of the economic price it would cost to fix it.
Dr. Stockmann encounters characters he thought were his friends who ended up becoming his enemies, and seems to be a man who stands on his own to deliver the truth. Out of frustration for people losing support of his cause, he proclaims at the end of the act, “the truth cannot be silenced.”
In the second act, the audience is made apart of the play through a public hearing featuring Dr. Stockmann stating his case. Actors are placed offstage to appear as the audience, who speak out continuously as the angry scene unfolds. Blending the actors directly with the public made the production seem much more realistic.
Although the crowd ended up rejecting Dr. Stockmann’s theory that the water is contaminated, he still continued to acknowledge the power of truth. The man standing alone talked about the political authorities saying, “truth to them means a pretty lie.”
The issues within the play can be compared to local town politics in Fairfield, such as the local cleanup of Mill River, according to the Producer’s Note.
This production is used as a tool to examine the compicated issues surrounding the local cleanup of the Mill River and the brownfield that now hosts the new Metro Center train station.
Theatre Fairfield has become engaged with Concerned Citizens, which is a group in Fairfield that is watching to see if town leaders appropriately manage complicated sites. Through establishing a connection with those who delivered the truth like Dr. Stockmann’s character, Theatre Fairfield themselves showed to be the help that Stockmann never received.
Junior Sam Maxfield related the production to the elections that have been going on in American politics. He found it to be a parallel to what some people feel like they are dealing with today.
“In the political arena, many people choose not to do the right thing in order to keep their power, and get scorned and quite possibly become an ‘enemy of the people’ if they can’t express their views correctly,” said Maxfield.
Junior Mary Corigliano, one of the audience actors, talked about how she wouldn’t have changed anything about the way the play was directed. She said that a strong connection was made between the audience and current topics going on.
“I heard a lot of kids saying that when they read this play in their classes, they didn’t see the connection that it can have to current events,” said Corigliano. “They said after watching Theatre Fairfield’s production, they realized the similarities it has with a lot of current topics, and that they found it much more interesting.”