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In this article Richard Hornby argues that Ibsen's plays are badly performed today, or not performed at all, because of directors' refusal to take them with appropriate seriousness. The tendency is to stage the plays' reputation as simplistic social problem plays rather than as the complex, challenging, bizarre dramas that Ibsen actually wrote. In particular, directors avoid the grotesque elements that are the true ‘quintessence of Ibsenism’, and that are often remarkably similar in style to that of avant-garde playwrights today. Richard Hornby is Emeritus Professor of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside. For the past twenty-eight years he has been theatre critic for The Hudson Review, and is author of six books and over two hundred published articles on various aspects of theatre. This essay was delivered as the keynote address at the fourteenth annual Ibsen Festival of the Commonweal Theatre Company, Lanesboro, Minnesota, in April 2011.
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