Quick Chat: Kelsey Brennan

Posted August 21, 2019

Kelsy Qc

APT's Quick Chat Series is a chance to get to know the folks around APT. This week we talk to Core Company Actor Kelsey Brennan about what it's like to play the iconic Nora Helmer in A Doll's House.

APT: What has it been like taking on the role of Nora? What has been a challenge in the role? What have you enjoyed most? 
Kelsey Brennan: Playing Nora has been an exercise of endurance - physically, mentally, and otherwise. It’s a mountain of text and a journey full of emotional highs and lows. I was surprised by how long it took me to learn this role. Nora is a woman of many, MANY words and her dialogue is varied, florid, and was a bit slippery to commit to memory. The experience of the play itself has so many turns, secrets, and discoveries and it was a challenge just to stay on top of the play as it moved from scene to scene. Now that I’ve found my footing, I find it very rewarding as an actor to step into Nora’s shoes every night. I have the great fortune to be onstage in almost every moment, experiencing the story as a whole, and allowing the story to take me where it will. 

APT: A Doll’s House first premiered in the 1870s. Why do you think this play, and the character Nora in particular, resonates still today?
KB: It’s overwhelming how much of A Doll’s House seems to resonate with our social and political climate today. In particular, I think there still exists the assumption that women are wives and mothers first, and are expected to sacrifice their own growth and wellness to provide for the growth and wellness of their families. It’s a heroic cause, but certainly not one to be taken for granted.  

APT: In Keira Fromm’s Director’s Notes, she writes, “Ibsen’s curiosity about how Nora and Torvald Helmer’s unmet expectations would poison the well of their marriage has created one of the most enduring plays in modern theater.” Can you discuss the relationship between Nora and Torvald?  
KB: Nora and Torvald have a marriage based on a lot of unspoken rules and assumptions. They’re stuck in a constant performance for one another, assuming the roles of what each one thinks is expected of a wife and a husband. When it comes down to it, their belief in these established gender roles and their efforts to uphold them have kept them from discussing the bigger issues of morality, sacrifice, duty, and devotion. And then they do…

APT: Can you talk a little bit about Nora and Mrs. Linde’s relationship, why do you think Nora shares so many of her “secrets” with her after so many years of them being apart? 
KB: Nora strikes me as a very lonely woman with a healthy appetite for nostalgia. When Kristine arrives, she is given the unique and delicious opportunity to share secrets for the first time in almost a decade, to gloat about her successes as a wife and mother, and to indulge in the presence of a woman who knows her from a simpler time in her life. 

APT: This summer you’re also playing Viola aka Cesario in Twelfth Night. What do you think are some similarities between Nora and Viola? 
KB: These women are so different! And yet I think ultimately, they are two women who either have or find the capacity to embrace adventure and the painful journey towards self-acceptance. They are creatures of RESILIENCE. 

APT: If you could have dinner with three characters from any play (or musical, interpretive dance, etc.) who would you choose? 
KB: Beatrice from Much Ado, Thomasina from Arcadia, Jane Austen as herself, and the entire cast of The Office. Is that cheating?